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In the evolving landscape of branding, a new trend is emerging where brands are embracing more than names, logos and packaging to differentiate their products. Imagine products having their own passports, which share stories about their origins and what makes them truly distinctive. These passports exist and they are known as Geographical Indications or simply GIs.
What is a Geographical Indication?
A Geographical Indication (GI) is a unique Intellectual Property (IP) right that highlights the distinct qualities or characteristics tied to a product’s origin. To be registered as a GI product, it must originate from a specific geographic location. There must also be a history and tradition associated with production in that area. For instance, Champagne produced anywhere other than the Champagne region of France, would simply be sparkling wine. Similarly, Tequila, which is made with a plant that grows in Mexico, can only originate from Mexico. These GIs not only protect the identity of the product but also ensure that consumers receive genuine, quality goods.
Until 2021, GI’s in the UK were protected under EU law. Post-Brexit, the UK introduced its own GI schemes for various products including agri-food items, spirit drinks, wines and aromatised wines. These schemes are pivotal in ensuring that genuine products are protected from counterfeits. In the vast expanse of online marketplaces where product origins can blur, a GI offers clarity and assurance.
Champagne Region of France
New UK Geographical Indication Products
The UK IPO’s recent acceptance of the first UK GI for a spirit, Single Malt Welsh Whisky, emphasises the UK Government’s commitment to preserving and promoting its unique products. Other GIs accepted under the new scheme include Welsh Leeks and Gower Salt Marsh Lamb. They join the ranks of products given automatic protection, having previously been protected under the EU scheme, such as Jersey Royal Potatoes and the iconic Scotch Whisky. This move not only safeguards the heritage of these products, but also boosts their market value and consumer trust.
Gower Salt Marsh Lamb
The Value Proposition of GIs/ Should you consider GIs?
A Geographical Indications serves as a hallmark of authenticity and quality. When consumers see a GI, they are not just seeing a label; they recognise a promise. They know that the Darjeeling tea they are sipping is sourced from the foothills of the Himalayas and that the Roquefort cheese they are enjoying has been aged in the Combalou caves of southern France. Similarly, the Parma Ham GI ensures that the ham is produced and processed within the Parma region of Italy, with a distinctive flavour from production adhering to strict traditional methods.
For all of these products, GIs play a significant role in their global appeal. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the UK IPO work in collaboration to ensure that the interplay between GIs and trade marks is seamless.
Darjeeling Tea Plantation
Trade Marks and GIs: Different or a Balance?
Trade marks and Geographical Indications are cornerstones of Intellectual Property, each serving distinct roles. Trade marks, be they words, symbols or designs, act as brand identifiers, signalling a company’s reputation and quality-assurance. GIs, on the other hand vouch for a product’s authenticity, highlighting its origin and the inherent qualities from that specific region.
Challenges arise when trade marks tread close to established GIs. For instance, a beverage name resembling “Champagne” could face resistance due to the protected status of the famed French wine. The recent dispute over “Nosecco,” a non-alcoholic sparkling wine, highlights this challenge. The UK IPO sided with the consortium responsible for the Prosecco Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) finding that “Nosecco” is a misuse of the PDO and could deceive consumers. Despite the argument that “Nosecco” was a playful take on the term, the appeal was unsuccessful.
The post-transition landscape offers a plethora of opportunities for brands to leverage Geographical Indications. If your product is rooted in local traditions or unique production methods, considering a GI might be your next strategic move. Our expert Trade Mark Team is here to guide you through the GI application process and navigate the complexities of trade mark and GI interactions. For those already benefiting from a GI, ensure you adopt the new UK GI Logos by 1 January 2024. Your brand’s story deserves to be told; let a GI be its voice.
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