Geographical Indications, Culture and the WTO

in Benedetta Ubertazzi and Esther Muniz Espada (eds), Le Indicazioni di Qualita Degli Alimenti (Giuffre, 2009) 300-311

13 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2015

See all articles by Tania Voon

Tania Voon

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: 2009


I. Within the legal framework of the World Trade Organization (‘WTO’), geographical indications (‘GIs’) are defined as ‘indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin'. The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (‘TRIPS Agreement’) already protects GIs, most extensively in connection with wines and spirits, although several aspects of the relevant provisions remain contested, and Members are continuing negotiations on this issue. Cultural preservation provides one possible justification for protecting GIs such as Champagne, Tequila and Roquefort in the TRIPS Agreement, to the extent that culture is encompassed in such things as traditional production methods for food and wine and the historical and physical connection between particular locations and particular products. This chapter addresses the question whether GIs create a valid and effective form of cultural preservation and promotion or whether, as Tomer Broude contends, they are merely ‘legal tools for granting commercial advantages to certain products, sectors and regions’. The chapter begins with an introduction to the relationship between international trade and the values of culture and cultural diversity in general, before turning to an assessment of the cultural justification for protecting GIs in particular. Although GIs do have cultural links, the chapter highlights the difficulty of distinguishing legitimate cultural policy concerns from mercantilist impulses to protect local industry, and the danger of championing GIs as a means of preventing cultural change. Accordingly, cultural considerations are relevant in evaluating the existing protection of GIs in the TRIPS Agreement as well as the future direction of this protection, but they cannot provide the foundation for negotiation.

Keywords: World Trade Organization, geographic indications, TRIPS

Suggested Citation

Voon, Tania, Geographical Indications, Culture and the WTO (2009). in Benedetta Ubertazzi and Esther Muniz Espada (eds), Le Indicazioni di Qualita Degli Alimenti (Giuffre, 2009) 300-311. Available at SSRN:

Tania Voon (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

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