The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialized UN agency established to encourage creative activity and promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world. WIPO Legal Head Marie-Paule Rizo visited GRTU offices this week to discuss possible applications of Geographical Indications in the case of Maltese products.
Geographical Indications are signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Some well-known examples of such names are for example Roquefort, Cognac, Basmati rice. However this is not limited to food and agricultural products but may also be related non-food products. For instance, Swisswatches represent a quality indication that is reflected through their design, manufacturing and relationship with Switzerland. Therefore high quality watches can be produced all over the world but cannot be labelled Swissif it does not fulfil specific criteria and is manufactured in Switzerland.
This therefore implies that geographical indications are not mere names or symbols and if not protected, it could be used without restriction and its value diminished and eventually lost. Protecting a GI enables those who have the right to use the indication to take measures against others who use it without permission and benefit from (and perhaps tarnish) its reputation free-of-charge.
GRTU representatives gave feedback to WIPO on the current situation regarding various products, both of agricultural and food nature as well as those which are non-food products, such as specific crafts. GRTU explained various challenges being faced by businesses who manufacture or deal with such products and discussed measures which could support and protect their uniqueness through positive measures such as promotion. WIPO will be producing a report upon its fact-finding mission also built on the input provided by GRTU which reflects what such businesses face on the ground. GRTU shall continue following the subject with WIPO in a bid to improve the situation also perhaps on a legislative level if necessary, whilst GRTU welcomes any feedback from its members.