Senate passes geographical indications law


The Senate has approved the Department of Intellectual Property's Geographical Indications Bill. The new law will considerably improve the protection of Thai geographical indications (GIs) and help fulfill the country's obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs).

The association of products with a certain geographical area often adds value and prestige. These GIs help to identify goods and can be used as an indicator of their quality, reputation and origin. Many famous products originate from specific geographical areas of Thailand or from the country as a whole (eg, Thai silk, Thai jasmine rice and Thai rubies) and would benefit from the protection provided by GIs.

In addition, Thailand is a member state of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has an obligation to protect GIs under the terms of TRIPs. Although the new law incorporates the principles set out in Articles 22 to 24 of TRIPs on protecting GIs, it has been widely criticized for not going far enough to protect famous Thai goods and services. Critics suggest that the Thai government should lobby the WTO to raise the protection of goods linked to national identity to the higher threshold granted to wines and spirits under Article 23 of TRIPs. They also argue that protection of GIs should not be limited to goods, but should also be applied to services, such as Thai massage. It is believed that the Thai government will bring these issues up at the next round of talks between WTO member states.

Anurag Ramanat and Wanchai Raksirivorakul, Johnson Stokes & Master, Bangkok

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