Geographical Indications

What is a geographical indication?

A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place.

In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.

A geographical indication right enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. For example, in the jurisdictions in which the Darjeeling geographical indication is protected, producers of Darjeeling tea can exclude use of the term “Darjeeling” for tea not grown in their tea gardens or not produced according to the standards set out in the code of practice for the geographical indication.

However, a protected geographical indication does not enable the holder to prevent someone from making a product using the same techniques as those set out in the standards for that indication. Protection for a geographical indication is usually obtained by acquiring a right over the sign that constitutes the indication.

Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products.

There are four main ways to protect a geographical indication:

  • so-called sui generis systems (i.e. special regimes of protection);
  • using collective or certification marks;
  • methods focusing on business practices, including administrative product approval schemes; and
  • through unfair competition laws.

These approaches involve differences with respect to important questions, such as the conditions for protection or the scope of protection. On the other hand, two of the modes of protection — namely sui generis systems and collective or certification mark systems — share some common features, such as the fact that they set up rights for collective use by those who comply with defined standards.

Broadly speaking geographical indications are protected in different countries and regional systems through a wide variety of approaches and often using a combination of two or more of the approaches outlined above. These approaches have been developed in accordance with different legal traditions and within a framework of individual historical and economic conditions.

The term “geographical indications”, in its broad sense, includes a variety of concepts used in international treaties and national/regional jurisdictions, such as: appellation of origin (AO), protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI). For instance,

  • “Geographical indication” is defined in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and in the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications.
  • “Appellation of origin” is defined in the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration and in the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications.
  • “Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)” and “Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)” are terms used within the European Union.

Read the full list of geographical indication FAQs.

Virtual Exhibition on geographical indications displayed on mobile phone

Virtual Exhibition on Geographical Indications (archived)

The online exhibition, was held from September 6, 2021 to July 31, 2022, and offered visitors the option to discover products from around the world – 39 member states and two intergovernmental organizations - whose quality and reputation are due to their geographic origin.

Archived version

Geographical indications around the world

Visit our virtual exhibition to discover products from around the world whose quality and reputation are due to their geographic origin. Amongst the products from 39 member states and two intergovernmental organizations, you will find:

Vineyard with volcano in the background
(Photo: © Ministry of Agriculture and Environment of Cabo Verde)

Cha das Calderas – Cabo Verde

The vineyards are located at an elevation of more than 1,500 meters. The wine’s unique characteristics are also due to the island’s volcanic soil and the dry climate with extreme temperatures.

Watchmaker at work
(Photo: © Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH)

Watches – Switzerland

A watch can only bear the indication "Swiss made" if its movement is Swiss, and if its technical development, assembly and final checks take place in Switzerland.

Honey in a container
(Photo: © Centre of Agricultural Analysis, Russian Ministry of Agriculture)

Bashkir Honey – Russian Federation

Bashkir honey is highly valued given the unique nature of Bashkortostan which has become well-known due to its flora, comprising about 400 species of honey-bearing plants.

Plate of cheese with bread and fruit
(Photo: © SAKPATENTI)

Tushetian Guda – Georgia

Tushetian Guda cheese is made of 3 types of whole, fresh milk: sheep, cow and a combination sheep and cow milk. The cheese is ripened in a guda – a sack made from sheep or veal skin, where the shortly cut hair is in direct contact with the cheese.

Learn more about geographical indications

From Switzerland’s Gruyère cheese to Mexico’s Tequila, geographical indications and appellations of origin are a common feature of everyday life. They not only provide a way for business to leverage the value of their geographically unique products, but also inform and attract consumers.

Read the publication entitled "Geographical Indications - An Introduction" to find out more about all the specificities of GIs.

Explainer video on Geographical Indications and the Lisbon system.

Explainer video: Geographical indications and WIPO’s Lisbon System

Laws and treaties covering geographical indications

A number of international treaties deal partly or entirely with the protection of geographical indications or appellations of origin. Below are links to relevant treaties administered by WIPO, as well as to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

WIPO Lex database

WIPO Lex is a global database that provides free of charge access to legal information on intellectual property (IP), including IP laws and regulations, WIPO-administered and IP related treaties, and leading judicial decisions on IP.

Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications

The Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) is the forum where WIPO's member states discuss policy and legal issues relating to the international development of law and standards for geographical indications and appellations of origin.

Meetings and documents for the SCT

Delegates at a meeting of the SCT
Delegates at a meeting of the SCT. (Photo: WIPO)
More SCT photos on Flickr.

Registering and searching appellations of origin

The Lisbon System

The Lisbon System provides a means of obtaining protection for appellations of origin in several countries. This can be done by filing one application with the International Bureau of WIPO, in one language, with one set of fees in one currency.

Diplomatic Conference 2015

A Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a new Act of the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration will take place from May 11 to 21, 2015.

The Lisbon Express database

The Lisbon Express database is the first step in appellation of origin searches. The database can provide a general overview of international appellations of origin registered with WIPO.

Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications

The biennial Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications brings together government representatives with producers of GI-registered products, legal and other specialists, for an open exchange of views on various issues related to geographical indications.

It contributes to the ongoing debate at the national and international level. Speakers' presentations on the practical use of GIs and appellations of origin in different countries contain a wealth of information.