Geographical Indication

Every region on the planet earth has different natural geographical conditions (soil, climate, topography, etc.), these conditions influence all components of crop production, and this includes types of crops, cropping area (area planted or harvested) and cropping intensity (number of crops grown within a year). The types of soil and available moisture determine the species of plants that can be cultivated. These conditions equally affect both ‘flora and fauna.’

Every geographical area or region in the world has its claim to fame. English breeders imported Arabian horses to sire Derby winners. China silk, Darjeeling tea, Dhaka muslin, Venetian glass, etc. all were many sought-after treasures. Every treasure (reputation) was carefully built up and painstakingly maintained by the experts of that region, combining the best of nature and human, traditionally passed on from one generation to the next for centuries. Parma Ham, Roquefort, Cognac, Porto are not only product names. They reflect and evoke qualities and reputation strictly linked to their geographical origin. Gradually, the period a specific link between the products and place of production evolved, resulting in the growth of geographical indications.

What is a Geographical Indication?

A geographical indication or GI is a designation used on goods or products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation due to that location. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. Additionally, the qualities, characteristics, or reputation of the product should be essential due to the place of origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original production place.

Such a unique “link” between the quality and/or reputation of a product and its geographical origin might have a considerable market value, and its protection, as a geographical indication, consequently constitutes a crucial step for producers to gain the related competitive advantage.

Undoubtedly, consumers are often prepared to pay more for the products with specific characteristics linked to their place of origin. Geographical indications may, therefore, play an essential commercial role in trade and for enterprises may present an exciting marketing potential in terms of product branding.

These characteristics and qualities may result from natural geographical conditions (soil, climate, topography, etc.), indigenous raw materials, particular human know-how or manufacturing developed at the place of origin, or a combination of these elements. These geographical names deserve protection and have been protected for a very long time.

Indeed, certain geographical areas create an expectation in consumers regarding not only the geographical source but also particular characteristics, qualities, and/or reputation for specific products (for instance, “Champagne” or “Bordeaux” for wine).

Geographical Indications and types of products protected.

GIs in force relating to “wines and spirits” accounted for 51.1% of the 2018 total, followed by agricultural products and foodstuffs (29.9%) (figure 5.3). Handicrafts accounted for 2.7% of the total. China, Hungary, India, and Vietnam each had more than 100 GIs for handicrafts in force within their jurisdictions in 2018. Indications relating to services amounted to 34 GIs in 2018, mainly reported by the United States of America (U.S.) (17 GIs) and Viet Nam (12 GIs).

Wines and spirits accounted for 51.1% of GIs in force


WIPO Statistics Database, August 2019.

Obtaining GI Protection

Protection for a GI is usually obtained by acquiring a right over the sign that constitutes the indication. GIs can be protected through a variety of legal means (e.g., sui generis systems, trademark laws, international agreements, other national legal means, etc.), That right can be a specific right designed for GIs, which may be called, for instance, a protected GI, a denomination of origin or an appellation of origin. The right acquired can also be a collective or certification mark.  Besides, the protection of GIs at a national level is often shared among several agencies.

A GI right enables those with the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. For example, in the jurisdictions in which the Darjeeling GI is protected, producers of Darjeeling tea can exclude the use of the term “Darjeeling” for tea not grown in the tea gardens of Darjeeling or not produced according to the standards set out in the code of practice for the Darjeeling GI. However, a protected GI does not enable the holder to prevent someone from making a product using the same techniques set out in the GI standards

Geographical Indications in force worldwide

China had more than 7,200 GIs in force in 2018


WIPO Statistics Database, August 2019.

Data received from the 92 national/regional authorities that shared their 2018 data with WIPO reveals that 65,900 protected GIs is in existence.

China had more GIs enforced than any other country (7,247), Hungary (6,683), Czech Republic (6,285), Bulgaria (6,038), Italy (6,015) and Portugal (5,998). There are several middle-income countries with a large number of GIs in force within their respective jurisdictions; for example, in 2018, 4,732 were in force in the Republic of Moldova, 4,499 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 4,426 GIs in force in Georgia. In contrast, India (330) and Brazil (68) – two of the larger middle-income countries – had considerably fewer GIs in force.




Geographical indication, GI, geographical origin, geographical conditions, IPR