Hats off to Montecristi as it becomes first denomination of origin


In recent years, pursuant to Title XII of Andean Community Decision 486 on a Common Industrial Property Regime and Chapter IX of the Ecuadorian Law on Intellectual Property, the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI) has recognized several geographical indications from other countries, such as Pisco and Café de Colombia. The IEPI has now recognized the name Montecristi as the first Ecuadorian denomination of origin for toquilla palm hats made in the Montecristi region of Ecuador (Resolution 000988698, March 20 2007).

Archeological findings have shown that toquilla palm hats have been hand-woven in Ecuador for more than 1,000 years. During the California gold rush, and then during the French and later US construction of the Panama Canal, transient gold-seekers and canal workers sought out these toquilla palm hats, which were made in Ecuador but sold in Panama. This led to such hats becoming known as Panama hats.

The finest hand-woven Panama hats are made from toquilla palm fibre grown, processed and woven within the historical boundaries of Ecuador's Montecristi Canton. The hats made in Montecristo are known by aficionados of fine hats around the world as Montecristi's. In recent years, some foreign competitors have attempted to cash in on the fame of the hats from Montecristi and have placed MONTECRISTI labels on their own lower-quality straw or cellulose fibre hats. The official recognition of Montecristi as a denomination of origin is the first step in the legal protection of authentic Panama hats from Montecristi.

Bruce Horowitz, Paz Horowitz Abogados, Quito

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