Blockchain and Geographical Indications: A Natural Fit?
52 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2020
Date Written: September 2, 2019
Blockchain technology has garnered an enormous amount of excitement, particularly surrounding more recently developed blockchain platforms, smart contracts, and applications outside of cryptocurrency. One of the most successful applications to date is in food supply chains, which benefit from the features of blockchain that allow greater confidence in a good’s provenance, authenticity, and quality. Blockchain technology is a natural fit for Geographical Indications (GIs), because GIs are grounded in the values of provenance, authenticity, and quality. As a result, it is worthwhile to take a critical look at how blockchain could be used in connection with GI foodstuffs, as well as the practical implications and hurdles to such an application. A broad look at the common legal requirements for protecting GIs in the United States and European Union demonstrates that blockchain would add little value to a GI seeking to establish protection initially, but has substantial potential to be beneficial in maintaining and enforcing GI rights. Combining blockchain technology with smart contracts and Internet of Things solutions will enhance those benefits. A blockchain application for GIs could also bring value for GIs by improving communication with consumers and facilitating the support of sustainability goals. There are criticisms of this type of application and challenges a successful application would face (both those stemming from blockchain generally and the nature of GI producers more specifically). To overcome these challenges, a blockchain application for GIs would need to incorporate a private, permissioned blockchain with a trusted intermediary. The trusted intermediary would serve as a central coordinating force for producers; the role could be filled by the producer groups, Monitoring Parties, or even WIPO for a broader solution.
Keywords: geographical indications, blockchain
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