The ARISE+ IPR team delivered a series of seminars on geographical indications (GIs) in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand in November. The seminars provided advice and assistance to over 300 GI producers and GI association representatives across the region so they could better benefit from GI protection and improve the quality standards and control systems for their GIs.
Delphine Marie-Vivien, Researcher in Law, IP and GI, from the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and Denis Croze, Director of the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) Singapore Office, provided expertise on the frameworks for the protection of GIs at each of the events. Dr. Marie-Vivien delivered presentations on the role of GI associations, drafting a GI book of specifications, maintenance and control mechanisms for registered GIs, the GI protection system in the EU and how EU producers have benefitted from it. Mr. Croze presented on the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement, the GI registration system administered by WIPO and potential benefits of membership in the Agreement for ASEAN GIs.
Starting in Kuala Lumpur on 7 November, Malaysia Intellectual Property Office (MyIPO) Deputy Director General, Strategic and Technical, Zulkarnain bin Muhammad highlighted that the success of Sabah tea and Bario rice showed the benefits of supporting GI protection and commercialisation of local products. He said that there were 83 GIs registered in the country to date, including 76 local and 7 foreign.
Trade Section Attaché Alfonso Pino Maeso, EU Delegation to Malaysia, acknowledged the importance of GIs for development. “The EU supports robust protection systems for geographical indications in the ASEAN region as they help create value for local communities, both culturally and economically,” he noted.
Dr. Marie-Vivien and the other experts fielded a number of questions from GI producers and IP officials, who showed interest in the registration process for Malaysian GIs in Europe, as well as best practices for drafting a GI specification book.
The seminar in Myanmar on 13 November focused on the opportunities that a GI system could provide. EU Delegation to Myanmar Head of Cooperation Section, Johann Hesse emphasised that “GIs help to support rural development and sustain rural areas, contribute to job creation, and encourage the preservation of biodiversity.”
Deputy Director General and Head of IP Department Dr. Moe Moe Thwe provided updates on the current status of GI protection law in Myanmar that, once passed, would allow the registration of GI products. Dr. Myint Thein, Rector of Yangon Technological University, spoke on the importance of supporting local knowledge of geographical indications for agricultural producers and consumers.
GI producers attending the seminar stated that they were looking forward to the passage of the new GI law of Myanmar.
2018 has been a great year for the promotion of GIs in Indonesia, with many new GIs registered. In addition, the EU and Indonesia are in the process of negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA), which includes provisions for GIs. Head of Trade Section Rafaelle Quarto, EU Delegation to Indonesia, stated that there will be 123 EU and 47 Indonesian GIs initially covered under the FTA.
Director of Trademarks and GIs Fathlurachman of the Directorate General of Intellectual Property (DGIP) expressed the keen interest of local governments in Indonesia to promote GIs to foster commerce and employment in their localities. “Many Indonesian GIs are able to enter international markets, contributing to economic development and trade,” he noted. DGIP is in the process of streamlining the GI application process and aims to enhance the interaction between applicants and the local authority. Regular inspections to ensure reputation, quality and other characteristics are in place to maintain domestic GI registration.
Local GI producers in attendance were pleased to find out more about the role of GI associations during the seminar, as well as GI protections for non-agricultural products, such as handicrafts.
As Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) of Cambodia Director Op Rady reiterated, Cambodia acceded to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications in March 2017 to enable Cambodian GIs to be registered and protected in other countries that are members of the Agreement. DIP Deputy Director Lao Reasey added that following successful registration of the Kampot Pepper GI, Cambodia hopes to have its second GI for Kampong Speu Palm Sugar registered in the EU by the end of the year. He also outlined the domestic system for GI protection.
Trade Attaché Marta Neves Abrantes, EU Delegation to Cambodia, highlighted the opportunities for GI producers and the need for them to ensure that their GI products continue to comply with their specified characteristics so that the GIs are not usurped by non-genuine products using their reputation.
At the seminar in Vientiane on 21 November, DIP Lao PDR Director General Khanlasy Keobounphanh announced that the department has recently registered its first GI, for Khao Kay Noi sticky rice, and that accession to the Lisbon Agreement (Geneva Act) is currently under consideration. Head of Cooperation Bryan Fornari, EU Delegation to Lao PDR, congratulated the DIP on its first GI registration and offered assistance with obtaining EU registration for Lao GIs in future.
DIP Lao PDR Deputy Director of the Trademark and GI Division, Chevala Vongthongchit, outlined the Lao PDR GI protection system, noting that the Khao Kay Noi GI registration took around 18 months, which is comparable to the process in other countries in the region. He commented that there are a number of other potential GIs to be registered in the country, including for Phongsaly and Paksong tea, and Luang Prubang silk.
At the last leg of the ARISE+ IPR GI seminars in Bangkok on 23 November, DIP Thailand Deputy Director General Wanpen Nicrovanachamrus said that their hard work in promoting knowledge of GIs in regional communities significantly contributed to the increase in the number of GIs registered for local products. Promotion of GI products has continued through activities at trade fairs, supermarket displays, social media and support on overseas campaigns. Of the 99 domestic GIs registered in Thailand, around 47 are for fruit and vegetables and 10 are for rice products.
Agriculture, SPS and Environment Counsellor Laurent Lourdais, EU Delegation to Thailand, explained the key features of the GI system in the EU and highlighted the benefits of GI protection more generally, such as maintaining economic activity and employment, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, traditional culture and tourism. EU GI products command 2.23 times the price of comparable non-GI products, and account for EUR 11.5 billion in exports. Similarly, “a strong geographical indication protection system helps foster new markets for local producers across ASEAN and supports economic development in the region,” he said.
Granmonte Estate Oenologist Nikki Lohitnavy shared her experience in obtaining the recent registration for the Khao Yai Wine GI on behalf of Granmonte and the Thai Wine Association, and the anticipated benefits. “With this new development, we are well-placed to grow the reputation of Khao Yai wines by cementing stronger partnerships with our fellow producers and promoting the region’s unique climate and soil characteristics for making quality wines,” she said.
The GI seminars are the first of their kind to gather representatives from different regions across each country from both the public and private sectors and serve as a platform for knowledge, experience and networking exchange. Further support for GI producers and associations is foreseen under the ARISE+ IPR programme.