Relocating Geographical Indications

Cambridge Intellectual Property and Information Law Series, Forthcoming

20 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2011 Last revised: 25 Jun 2011

See all articles by Dev Saif Gangjee

Dev Saif Gangjee

Faculty of Law, University of Oxford

Date Written: 2011


This contains the Table of Contents and Introduction for a book retracing the origins of Geographical Indications (GI) protection and the process by which they have emerged as a distinct category of subject matter within international Intellectual Property (IP) law. It sets out to locate GIs within the ‘webs of significance’ spun across the legal discourse of a century, by pursuing two interrelated questions.

(1) Under what circumstances were signs which indicate the geographical origin of products incorporated within international IP law?

(2) What can this usefully tell us about the present international regime governing their use and misuse?

These questions are important because the law in this area is a mess. In fact, it has been conceptually messy for over a century. While wines from Champagne, Colombian coffee, Darjeeling tea and other such regional products remain popular, the nature, scope and institutional forms of legal protection vary considerably. Notwithstanding a century of harmonisation efforts, a consensual basis for granting rights to a particular group to use such signs and the extent to which third parties should be excluded continues to prove elusive. This state of affairs is undesirable, since an ever expanding range of stakeholders – producers, consumers and policy makers – have an interest in the regulation of these signs. The debates grind on, generating abundant heat but far less light. The TRIPs Agreement has emerged as the site where these arguments coalesce, during attempts to clarify its existing provisions or reform its architecture. Here a central puzzle relates to the differential treatment for GIs under TRIPs. These geographical signs appear functionally analogous to trade marks. Yet despite the apparent similarities advocates of GI protection seek enhanced international standards, which proscribe a broader range of uses by third parties. The epistemic basis for this differential treatment rests upon the claim that a distinctive or unique link exists between a certain category of products and their regions of origin. The most influential articulation of this link is encapsulated in terroir, an expression associated with the French wine industry, while the international reference point is found in Art 22.1 of TRIPs. The process by which this link was initially recognised and then legitimated by legal doctrine has not been examined. To address this gap, the significance of wine as an archetype is explored in detail. It is only by first locating the historical basis of GI protection that we can meaningfully evaluate contemporary attempts to relocate GI protection, since epistemic paradigms otherwise overlap and generate ambiguity.

Accordingly, the archival research directly addresses the following questions: (1) Why is there such an abundance of terminology as well as overlapping regimes of protection in this area? (2) How did the notion of a link between product and place arise (and to what extent does it recognise the human contribution)? (3) Why does the European GI registration system have two distinct definitions but only one level of protection? (4) Why does the TRIPs definition refer to qualities, characteristics or reputation as three alternative means to link product to place? (5) Is there an explanation for the two distinct levels of protection in Arts 22 and 23 of TRIPs? (6) How should we determine generic status? (7) More generally, to what extent is GI protection distinct from the goals of trade mark law?

Since GIs have been insufficiently problematized till date, this book sets out to provide a history of international GI protection as well as proposes frameworks for thinking about this area.

Keywords: geographical indications, intellectual property, trade mark, trademark, legal history, wine, terroir

JEL Classification: K00, K11, K13, K23, K33, O34

Suggested Citation

Gangjee, Dev S., Relocating Geographical Indications (2011). Cambridge Intellectual Property and Information Law Series, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Dev S. Gangjee (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, University of Oxford ( email )

Cowley Place
Oxford, OX4 1DY
United Kingdom

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