Hastings Law Journal


Justin Hughes


Geographical Indications (GIs) are terms for foodstuffs that are associated with certain geographical areas. The law of GIs is currently in a state of flux. Legal protection for GIs mandated in the TRIPS Agreement is implemented through appellations law in France and through certification mark systems in the United States and Canada. This Article first examines the state of GIs throughout the world. The author then turns to the continuing debate between the European Union and other industrialized economies over this unique form of intellectual property. The European Union claims that increasing GI protection would aid developing countries, but, in fact, the increased protection proposed would instead secure larger monopoly rents to European farmers.

This Article reviews the three bases for the use of geographic terms: (I) to describe the geographic origin of a product; (2) to describe product characteristics (e.g., "Chicago Style Pizza"); and (3) to create evocative value as trademarks. The author argues that GI protection which is too strict may reduce consumer welfare by threatening (I) and (2) described above. For this reason, and because the prospective benefits to developing nations are illusory, any additional protection of GIs is simply unwarranted.

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