A geographical indicator is a form of an intellectual property protection ensuring that a specific indicator can only be used on products originating from a given geographical region, hence signalling reliable information for the customers about the nature and quality of the product.
A brief history of geographical indicators
The origins of geographical indicators can be traced to the beginning of the 20th century, with France being one of the front runners in introducing this system of protection, named Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. A more common use of geographical indicators is tied to the international support gained as part of the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). At the present moment, there are over 120 countries recognising this form of legal protection.
Examples of geographical indicators
Champagne is certainly one of the key examples of geographical indicators that have gained international recognition. This form of intellectual property protection ensures that the term champagne can be used only on the sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. Similar examples can be made of Parma Ham, Aomori Cassis and Kobe Beef, all tying the products to their origins, signalling this connection to the end customers.
The acceptance of geographical indicators is subject to change depending on the political agreements between individual countries. A recent controversial case can be found in the aforementioned use of the geographical indicator for champagne. In July 2021, Russia introduced a new legislation that challenges the previous international agreements, effectively claiming the ownership of “shampanskoye” (champagne). This legislation stipulates that only products made in Russia can be labelled as “shampanskoye”, preventing the renown producers of champagne to label their products in Russia as champagne. Instead, Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Laurent-Perrier and others now need to use the more generic term “sparkling wine”.