Negotiators Open Diplomatic Conference on Lisbon System

Geneva, May 11, 2015

High-level negotiations opened on a proposed adjustment to an international registration system providing international protection for names that identify the geographic origin of products such as coffee, tea, fruits, wine, pottery, glass and cloth.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry welcomed some 400 negotiators to the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a New Act of the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration. The Diplomatic Conference is taking place at WIPO headquarters in Geneva between May 11 and 21, 2015.

The Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration was originally concluded in 1958 and has 28 members.

Mr. Gurry underlined shifts in technology and international commerce since the Lisbon Agreement’s establishment, saying that brands and identifiers play an indispensable role for contemporary consumers in a globalized economy.

He called the talks the “most-significant normative development this year” at WIPO and referred to the “heavy burden that rests on the shoulders of the negotiators.”

The Diplomatic Conference elected as President Ambassador Luis Enrique Chávez Basagoitia, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva.

Mr. Chávez encouraged participation by WIPO’s full membership in the discussions of the Diplomatic Conference, stressing the need to search for common understanding with the goal of expanding the membership of the Lisbon Agreement.

The basic negotiation text for the Diplomatic Conference was developed between 2008 and 2014 by a Lisbon System working group with the goal of attracting a wider membership to the System, while preserving its principles and objectives.

The draft text seeks to further develop the legal framework of the Lisbon System, extending its scope to include geographical indications in addition to appellations of origin, which help promote many globally marketed products such as, for example, Scotch whisky, Darjeeling tea and Café de Colombia. The text also seeks to create the possibility of accession by certain intergovernmental organizations.

Issues that are considered still pending include fee provisions, scope of protection, protection against becoming generic, safeguards in respect of prior trademark rights, phasing out periods for prior use (if any) and where prior use was not raised as a ground for refusal.


Broadly speaking, a geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin. An appellation of origin is a similar type of sign, but often with more stringent criteria for usage.

Appellations of origin and geographical indications both require a qualitative link between the product to which they refer and its place of origin. Both inform consumers about a product’s geographical origin and a quality, characteristic or reputation (for geographical indications) of the product linked to its place of origin. The basic difference between the two terms is that the link with the place of origin is stronger in the case of an appellation of origin.

The quality or characteristics of a product protected as an appellation of origin must result exclusively or essentially from its geographical origin. This generally means that the raw materials should be sourced in the place of origin and that the processing of the product should also happen there.

In the case of geographical indications, a single criterion attributable to geographical origin is sufficient for the geographical indication to qualify as such, which may also be the specific reputation of the product. Moreover, the production of the raw materials and the development or processing of a geographical indication product do not necessarily have to take place entirely in the defined geographical area.

Additional examples of appellations of origin and geographical indications are Gouda Holland, Argan Oil, Swiss watches and Tequila.

What is a Diplomatic Conference?

The traditional method for concluding or revising treaties has been the holding of a diplomatic conference of plenipotentiaries specifically convened for that purpose. Diplomatic conferences continue to be held, from time to time, to negotiate and adopt or revise multilateral treaties of particular significance to the international community.

The Diplomatic Conference is constituted by the conference meeting in plenary and a number of committees. When all committees finalize their work, the treaty is sent to the plenary for adoption. It is then open for signature. Signing the treaty at the end of a diplomatic conference does not necessarily bind a country to its provisions. It is however a strong indication of intent by the signatory to join the treaty. The final act – a record that the conference took place – also opens for signature after adoption.

About WIPO

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