Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications
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Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications

Edited by Dev S. Gangjee

Provenance matters like never before. Legal regimes regulating the use of Geographical Indications (GIs) protect commercially valuable signs on products – such as Darjeeling and Champagne – which signal the link to their regions of origin. Such regimes have been controversial for over a century. A rich, interdisciplinary work of scholarship, this Research Handbook explores the reasons for and consequences of GIs existing as a distinct category within intellectual property (IP) law. Historians, geographers, sociologists, economists and anthropologists join IP specialists to explore the distinguishing feature of GIs, that certain products are distinctively linked or anchored to specific places.
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Chapter 18: Genericide: the death of a Geographical Indication?

Dev S. Gangjee


Viewed in historical perspective, the determination of generic status has been the most controversial aspect of international Geographical Indications (GIs) protection for well over a century. As signs which are used by more than one producer to begin with, GIs contain the potential seeds of their own destruction. The greater the success that a regional product achieves on the marketplace, the greater the risk that its designation will be treated as the general term for that type of product. Cheddar cheese and dijon mustard exemplify this. Generic terms can no longer communicate a specific geographical origin; they merely indicate the familial features for a product category. Generic status is therefore the antithesis of protected GI status. When this geographical link is severed, semantic vitality – the G in a GI – ebbs away. It is therefore surprising that this topic has remained relatively neglected2 and the final chapter of this volume addresses this gap. Adopting a comparative perspective, this chapter identifies a menu of options for implementing the abstract test contained in Art 24.6 of the TRIPS Agreement, which merely states that there is no obligation to protect a GI where ‘the relevant indication is identical with the term customary in common language as the common name for such goods or services in the territory of that Member’.

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