Geographical Indications in WTO on Developing Countries

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One of the most important developments in the millenium that had far reaching implications in the world economic systems is the formation and functioning of the WTO. To say the least, the economic history of the human kind can conveniently be divided into pre WTO era and post WTO era. While the WTO regime is compelling every country in the world to readjust, reformat, redesign their economic system to synchronise with WTO regime. Those countries are also doing considerable amount of research for developing propositions, positions and formulations to develop appropriate strategies to meet the challenges of WTO regime and to assure fair share of benefits arising out of the new international economic order. The recent developments at the WTO, in other international fora, and in many bilateral and multilateral free trade agreement negotiations have been gaining importance not only for the developed countries but also for the developing countries as well. The TRIPS Agreement under WTO, which came into force on 1 January 1995, is the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property. It covers the main categories of intellectual property rights, establishes standards of protection as well as rules on enforcement, and provides for the application of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism for the resolution of disputes between WTO Members. The intellectual property areas covered by the TRIPS Agreement are: copyrights and related rights; trademarks; geographical indications; industrial designs; patents; the lay-out design of integrated circuits; and undisclosed information (including trade secrets). Every region has its claim to fame. Christopher Columbus sailed from Europe to seize the wealth of rich Indian spices. English breeders imported Arabian horses to create Derby winners. China silk, Dhaka Muslin, Venetian Glass all were much sought after priceless treasures. The reputation of every product was carefully built up and painstakingly maintained by the masters of that particular region, combining the best of Nature and Man, traditionally handed over from one generation to the next for centuries. Slowly, a significant link between the goods and place of production evolved resulting in growth of geographical indications. Geographical indications (GI), are defined at Article 22(1) of WTO's TRIPs Agreement, as "indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of a product is essentially attributable to its geographical region."

TRIPS Provisions

The TRIPs negotiation has been now and then referred to as the conflict between North and South or the Developing and Developed Countries. Prior to TRIPS Agreement some international treaties such as the Paris Convention, the Madrid Convention & the Lisbon Agreement contained provisions on the protection of indication of source and appellations of origin. For the first time all Member countries agreed on definitions of GIs and on international dispute settlement mechanism in 1994. Negotiations on the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ("TRIPS") were concluded this year. Governments of all WTO member countries (148 countries as of September 2003) had agreed to set certain basic standards for the protection of GIs in all member countries. There are, in effect, articles relating to GIs in the TRIPS agreement: 1.Article 22 of the TRIPS Agreement says that all governments must provide legal opportunities in their own laws for the owner of a GI registered in that country to prevent the use of marks that mislead the public as to the geographical origin of the good 2.Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement says that all governments must provide the owners of GI the right, under their laws, to prevent the use of a geographical indication identifying wines not originating in the place indicated by the...
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