Ceremony Marks 50th anniversary of the Lisbon Agreement

Geneva, November 6, 2008
UPD/2008/307

Some 200 participants, including government representatives from fifty nations, joined World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry at a ceremony in Lisbon on October 31, 2008 marking the 50th anniversary of the adoption of an international agreement that facilitates the international protection of appellations of origin. 

Mr. Gurry noted the importance of geographical indications as a means of differentiating products within an increasingly globalized and ever-more standardized market place. He further underlined the enormous potential that geographical indications offer, in particular to developing countries, in terms of allowing them to reap the benefits of added value based on unique characteristics of certain products originating in these countries, including products derived from traditional knowledge. Mr. Gurry urged member states to demonstrate the same pioneering spirit and determination as that of the great Portuguese explorers in advancing the future development of the Lisbon system.
 
The Lisbon Agreement on the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration, adopted in Lisbon on October 31, 1958, provides an international legal framework with a large degree of flexibility for its implementation by member states without impinging on the effectiveness of protection accorded to geographical indications registered internationally.
 
The ceremony followed the conclusion of a two-day Forum on Geographical Indications and Appellations of Origin from October 30 and 31, 2008, co-hosted by WIPO and the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) of Portugal. The Forum addressed a range of themes including possible improvements to the Lisbon system; the challenges confronting the Lisbon system; and issues relating specifically to the protection and international registration of geographical indications and appellations originating in developing countries. 
 
The Forum served to promote a better understanding of the Lisbon system, ahead of more formal international discussions scheduled for early next year within the context of a Working Group established in September 2008 by the Assembly of the Lisbon Union. The Working Group will explore possible improvements to the procedures under the Lisbon Agreement.
 
On the sidelines of the ceremony, Mr. Gurry also held a series of bilateral meetings with senior Portuguese officials including Mr. João Tiago Silveira, Secretary of State for Justice of Portugal, Mr. Manuel Heitor, Secretary of State for Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal and Mr. António Campinos, President, National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) of Portugal.
 

Background

An appellation of origin is a special kind of geographical indication which generally consists of a geographical name or a traditional designation used on products which have a specific quality or characteristics that are essentially due to the geographical environment in which they are produced. Notable examples of appellations of origin registered under the Lisbon system include Porto (Portugal), Habana (Cuba), Champagne (France), Tokay (Hungary), Prosciutto di Parma (Italy), Tequila (Mexico), Bohemia Crystal (Czech Republic) or Borjomi mineral water (Georgia). The concept of a geographical indication encompasses appellations of origin.
 
Geographical indications are understood by consumers to denote the origin and the quality of products. Many of them have acquired valuable reputations which, if not adequately protected, may be misrepresented by commercial operators. False use of geographical indications by unauthorized parties is detrimental to consumers and legitimate producers; consumers are deceived into believing that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities or characteristics, and legitimate producers are deprived of valuable business and suffer damage to the established reputation of their products.
 
Although many geographical indications and appellations of origin concern agricultural products, other products with a unique identity deriving from a specific region can also benefit from this form of intellectual property. In an increasingly global and competitive market place, they offer a valuable marketing tool for product differentiation, which is of growing importance as a means of attracting customers. Along with trademarks, geographical indications play a vital role in conveying to the consumer the specific or unique value or quality of a product by highlighting the special features or characteristics that distinguish it from other competing goods.
For further information, please contact the Media Relations Section at WIPO:
  • Tel: (+41 22) 338 81 61 / 338 72 24
  • Fax: (+41 22) 338 81 40
  • E-mail