Geographically speaking

We all know that branding is important for a business. Brands set commodities and services apart, giving the edge businesses need to stay on top of the game. And we spend immeasurable resources building our brands by ensuring quality, developing logos, advertising campaigns, and establishing good customer relations, among others. Brand creation is value creation. Branding can also be found somewhere…literally, as in, a geographical location (GI). You might or might not have heard of geographical indication, but for sure you know what products Champagne and Roquefort are.

Champagne is actually a wine producing region in France and Roquefort, the cheese with blue molds, is a place in the south of France. Sparkling wine can be from anywhere, but Champagne, the regarded and highly-requested celebratory drink can only come from the Champagne region in France. These well-loved products are perfect examples of what we call a geographical indication.

So what is a geographical indication? Can anywhere be a geographical indication? Do we have potential geographical indications in the Philippines? Is geographical indication protected in all economies? What can geographical indication bring in terms of creating more leverage and value for your products?


Places around the world do have distinctive and inherent characteristics to them. It may be the environment, culture, or even the reputation of a certain location.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), “It is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Where a product grows or the skills and know-how used to develop a product from a certain origin can most definitely count as a geographical indication.

So does a geographical indication work like a trademark? Again WIPO says, “Geographical indications identify a good as originating from a particular place. By contrast, a trademark identifies a good or service as originating from a particular company.” And it is not just merely by putting the origin of the product that a GI is created. The WIPO also identified a special kind of GI called appellation of origin. Simply put, the product must have a characteristic that can only be found from the geographical indication-the materials used and processing.

Geographical indication does not only say where a product came from, in this case, the quality of the product is spoken for, too.

Creating value

It is established that a GI helps products develop a certain premium by way of its origin, but how does it really affect in building the value of the product?

According to a study, products considered as GIs are sold in an average of 2.23 times higher than other products that are not tagged as geographical indications. While produced in various places in the world, coffee for example, have some variety that are considered and sold as premium. The Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, according to WIPO has an average price of around US$ 43 per pound compared to average coffee retail price of US$3.17 per pound!

In the European Union, it was highlighted that sales value of EU geographical indication was posited at some 54 billion euros. EU geographical indication exports was valued at 11 billion euros which accounted for 15 percent of EU food and drinks exports.

Protection in the world

Article 22 in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) highlights a standard level of protection for geographical indication.

Major economies in the world, such as the European Union, had always been at the forefront in the furtherance of geographical indication. Many agricultural products from Europe are considered as geographical indication and are protected in many EU territories through Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

The United States, also protects geographical indications by using administrative trademark structures. The US protects geographical indications via collective marks, certification marks, and trademarks.

Appellation of origin may also be registered internationally via Lisbon Agreement administered by WIPO.

Philippines setting

The question is, do we have potential geographical indication in the Philippines? You may recall that a product called Manila hemp, no?

Sometime ago, the Department of Trade and industry released a list of potential geographical indication such as Batangas Barako coffee and Bicol Pili nut, among many other locally grown and produced products. Identifying and developing a GI may greatly help our local producers to level-up in the chain and create additional value for these products.

In our laws, geographical indication is included as one of “intellectual property rights,” alongside other IP such as copyright, trademark, industrial design, and patents in the IP Code.

However, there seems to be no separate system dedicated in the Philippines. But the registration of a product that can be considered as a geographical indication has already taken place through collective marks. The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) in 2017, has granted Certification of Registration of the Collective Mark to the Province of Guimaras and the Guimaras Mango Growers and Producers Development Cooperative in 2017 to protect the qualities of these coveted mangoes.

Vital for value

Hence, geographical indication, like any other intellectual property, is vital, not only in securing value for one’s business, but is also integral in advocating for the respect for innovation and knowledge. Elevating the discussion on geographical indication in the Philippines can also help business owners.

Identifying the pros and cons of developing a dedicated geographical indication system in the country must be looked into. Perhaps, the debates should start.

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