WTO backs geographic indicators reform for wines and spirits


A number of World Trade Organization (WTO) members, including the United States, have proposed a voluntary notification system to enhance existing protections for geographic indicators of origin (GIs) for wines and spirits. The proposal will benefit wine producers from areas such as California's Napa Valley by helping to prevent unauthorized use of GIs.

In a similar way to trademarks, unauthorized use of GIs is prohibited. The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights provides for two types of GIs - one for wines and spirits, and one for all other products. The Doha Development Agenda (a series of multilateral trade discussions) requires negotiations on a notification system for wine and spirit GIs to be completed by September 2003.

The proposal provides a notification system for wine and spirit GIs that are recognized in the national system of individual WTO members. Under the proposal, members would provide notification of their respective GIs to the WTO, which in turn would provide all other WTO members with a complete list of GIs. The burden of enforcement would remain on the holder of the right, not on governments. The proposal does not require WTO members to change their domestic systems for protection of GIs.

In separate discussions concerning GIs for all other products, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Guatemala, the United States and other countries have concluded that current trade rules provide adequate rights and effective protections for producers.

Michael Grow, Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn PLLC, Washington DC

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