Expedite process of registering geographical indications after acceding to Geneva Act

geographical indications: Expedite process of registering

On November 3 2021, Ghana deposited its instrument of accession to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement for the protection of Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications (“Geneva Act”). Ghana joins 35 countries to the Geneva Act and becomes the first member state of the African Regional Intellectual Property (ARIPO) to accede to this international agreement.

The Geneva Act which was adopted in 2015 modernizes the Lisbon System by extending protection to the broader category of Geographical indications in addition to the Appellations of Origin. It allows more products to benefit from international protection under the Lisbon system than the more stringent category of Appellations of Origin. With respect to Ghana, the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications will enter into force on February 3, 2022.

The Geneva Act confirms the already effective protection of the Lisbon Agreement by prohibiting; use of the registered geographical indication on goods of the same kind when the goods do not originate in the area of origin or do not comply with other requirements; use of the registered geographical indication on goods of different kinds or services only under certain conditions; any imitation even if the true origin of the goods is indicated is translated or used with terms such as “type”, “style”, “kind”; any other misleading practice as to the true origin, provenance or nature of the goods.

The term geographical indication is a concept used in international treaties and national jurisdictions to cover different concepts like Appellations of Origin (AO), Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI).

A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.  In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. Additionally, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin.

It is a requirement that there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production. Geographical Indications serve to distinguish goods with a specific geographical origin possessing certain qualities and/or a reputation linked to that origin, from similar products on the market.

Geographical indications are powerful branding tools to market quality linked products, access to international markets, preserve cultural heritage among others. There are also spillover effects like promotion of tourism. The African Union Continental strategy identifies Geographical indications as a tool for rural development. Ghana’s accession to the “Geneva Act” presents huge opportunities to have its traditional quality linked products to be protected internationally through the Lisbon System. There are quite a number of products that can qualify for protection as geographical indications including textile (Kente and Ghana smock), handcraft (emblematic Bolga baskets), agriculture products (Dzomi red palm oil and shea butter and Ghana cocoa). Ghana’s traditional products will have easier access to international markets like the Europen Union.

The Lisbon system under the Lisbon Agreement offers a convenient procedure to have protection in more than one country through a single registration procedure, in one language and with only one set of fees in one currency. This reduces on the filing costs and difficulties that can arise when multiple registrations are made in different countries. Additionally, the international protection is directly enforceable in multiple jurisdictions against usurpation and imitation any other misleading practice as to the true origin or nature of the goods.

Now that Ghana has acceded to the “Geneva Act” and there is a “sui generis” law which protects geographical indications, the Geographical Indications Act, 2003, there is needed to expeditiously work on registering some of its potential GIs. It is a condition under the Lisbon System that international protection is subject to protection in the Contracting party of origin.

The writer is a Ugandan Lawyer and currently pursuing MPhil of Intellectual Property at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology



Leave a Reply