Symposium Promotes Better Understanding of GIs as Tool for Wealth Creation

Geneva, July 2, 2007

The International Symposium on Geographical Indications (GIs), jointly organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing from June 26 to 28, 2007, concluded with a better understanding of how to maximize the use of geographical indications (GIs) to add value to agricultural products. The Symposium brought together over 300 participants, representing national administrations, producers of GI products and specialists in the field of GIs in order to exchange information and experiences and to discuss some of the most salient issues in this area.
China’s Vice Prime Minister, Ms. Wu Yi, addressed the opening of the Symposium, and highlighted the importance attached by her Government to using GIs within China’s national trademark system to add value to the country’s agricultural products and boost the rural economy. The Special Envoy of WIPO Director General Dr. Kamil Idris to the Symposium, Mr. Ernesto Rubio, at the opening of the meeting, thanked the Government for hosting this important event and said “The holding of this Symposium is very timely, particularly in view of the growing importance of the protection of geographical indications at the international level and in the context of national policies aimed at promoting economic and social development.” 
Mr. Rubio said “In an increasingly global and competitive market, product differentiation is of growing importance as a means to attract customers. In this connection, along with trademarks, geographical indications have a vital role to play in conveying to the consumer the specific value of a product. They highlight the special features or characteristics that make a given product more attractive among competing products on the market.”
During the course of the three day program, 24 speakers from 14 countries around the world, as well as experts from WIPO and the World Trade Organization (WTO) offered detailed insights into the complexities of the subject, and contributed constructively to the ongoing debate on GIs at the national and international levels.  
In his concluding remarks to the Symposium Mr. Rubio, noted the views that had been expressed regarding the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to protecting GIs. He added, however, that “we have seen a clear agreement that GIs are becoming increasingly important; and that they can offer a very effective intellectual property tool for promoting wealth creation and social advancement.”
As part of the Symposium, participants visited the Pinggu district, which is near Beijing and is reputed for its large, sweet peaches due to its particular combination of climate, soil, and geographical location. This was one example to demonstrate the success of the Chinese government’s GI strategy. Since Pinggu Peach was registered as a GI, it is estimated that the market value of the fruit has risen from 1.5 to 4 yuan per kilo, thereby significantly increasing the farmers’ income. 

Background information:          

A GI is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that place of origin. Most commonly, a GI consists of the name of the place of origin of the goods. Agricultural products typically have qualities that derive from their place of production and are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil. Whether a sign functions as a GI is a matter of national law and consumer perception. GIs may be used for a wide variety of agricultural products, such as, for example, "Tuscany" for olive oil produced in a specific area of Italy (protected, for example, in Italy by Law No. 169 of February 5, 1992), or "Roquefort" for cheese produced in France (protected, for example, in the European Union under Regulation (EC) No. 2081/92 and in the United States under US Certification Registration Mark No. 571.798).  
GIs are protected through various different approaches in different countries, ranging from unfair competition laws, to collective or certification trademarks, to registration under special, sui generis GI protection systems. WIPO supports it member states in their chosen national approaches, within the applicable international legal framework.
The Lisbon System for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and the Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks, both administered by WIPO, offer a means of registering GIs as appellations of origin or collective marks respectively.
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