A "geographic indication" is a sign used on a product
that indicates a specific geographical origin and that the product
possesses qualities or a reputation or other features that are
associated with that place of origin. That is, the sign represents
the geographical origin of the goods in a certain territory or area
or region within the territory. The specific quality, reputation or
other features of the goods are primarily related to the place of
origin. Even if goods fall within the same category, they share a
different quality and reputation due to the natural or cultural
factors of different geographical origins.
The geographic indication is considered one of the most
important symbols that distinguishes between goods of different
origins. The protection of geographic indications can prompt
economic development in a specific area or a country, and can also
protect the legal interest of the manufacturer and consumers of the
goods marked with the geographic indications. As such, the
protection of geographic indications needs to be consolidated.
In China, geographic indications are primarily protected under
the Trademark Law, the Provisions on the Protection of
Geographical Indication Products and the Measures for
Administration of Geographical Indications of Agricultural
Products. The administrative authorities over geographic
indications under these laws and regulations are the Trademark
Office (TMO), the State Administration of Quality Supervision,
Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) and the Ministry of Agriculture
of China (MOA), respectively. Under the Trademark Law, geographic
indications can be protected as collective marks or certification
marks. Applicant nationalities are not prerequisites to protection
of geographic indications under the Trademark Law. However, the
other two regulations are only applicable to domestic applicants in
most cases. The specific regulations do not address the protection
of foreign geographical indications. Currently, the MOA has yet to
receive any application for foreign geographical indications and
they would need to arrange a meeting if such an application is
submitted. The AQSIQ may grant protection for a foreign geographic
indication if the country of origin provides similar protection as
the AQSIQ does or the country of origin and the Chinese government
have reached a consensus by signing a treaty regarding such an
issue. If the geographic indication can be protected as a trademark
only in the country of origin, such request to the AQSIQ may not be
accepted. It appears that up to the end of 2010, only "Scotch
whisky" and "French cognac" were granted protection
as geographic indications by the AQSIQ. Therefore, there is some
difficulty in obtaining protection of foreign geographic
indications in accordance with the above-mentioned two regulations
in China. However, we anticipate that this may change in the future
since the three administrative authorities are seeking uniform
administration over the protection of geographical indications.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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