information about the protection of regional product names

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GeographicIndications.com is a resource for those seeking information about the use of names that point to a specific geographic place on agricultural and other products. In general, geographical indications are intended to designate product quality, highlight brand identity, and preserve cultural traditions. Examples of well-known geographical indications include Champagne, Florida Oranges, Prosciutto di Parma, and New Zealand Lamb. While most often used on food products, geographical indications can be used to identify any product (e.g., Czech crystal, Swiss watches, Indian carpets) that may be associated with a specific geographic place.

AOC logo The use of geographical indications allows producers to obtain market recognition and often a premium price. With the increased internationalization of food and product markets, geographical indications have become a key source of niche marketing. Geographical indications are also often associated with non-monetary benefits such as the protection of knowledge and community rights.

Controversy arises when names that are protected in one region have a common usage in another. For example, products such as Dijon mustard, Feta cheese, or Basmati rice may be viewed as having obtained a generic status in the marketplace. Thus, some may claim that these names should not belong exclusively to a specific group of producers in a specific geographic location as consumers expect these names to identify a class of product that can be produced in one of many locations. On the other hand, others argue that the products associated with the name have a certain quality that derives from the geographic region and specific production process used. Thus, the protection of the name helps prevent the development of a generic association thereby preserving the ability of the product to be made in the traditional manner.

Geographically based products may be found in all parts of the world, both old and new. While the arguments about the value and necessity of legal protection for their names may be disputed, it is clear that there are foods that do contain qualities that derive from their geographical origin. The resources and links on this web site have been complied by the founder of GeographicIndications.com who has been actively following this issue since 1998. This site will be evolving with new sources of information. Contributions from those interested in the issue are welcomed and may be sent to the site.

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