In Territorio Veritas? Bringing Geographical Coherence into the Ambiguous Definition of Geographical Indications of Origin

Irene CALBOLI, Singapore Management University


In this article, I criticize what I call “ambiguous geographical origin” in the concept of geographical indications of origin (GIs) and note that the current definition of GIs in Art. 22(1) of TRIPS essentially misuses, or at least misinterprets, of the terms “geographical origin.” More specifically, I expose the partial inconsistency between the legal definition under TRIPs and the dictionary definition of the terms “geographical” and “origin”. In this respect, I point out that, from a strictly linguistic standpoint, the term “geographical”, in its variation as “geographic”, is defined as “of or relating to geography” and as “belonging to or characteristic of a particular region”. Likewise, the word “origin” is defined as “the point at which something begins or rises or from which it derives”. Based on these definitions, I note that Art. 22(1) of TRIPs likely misuses, or at least misinterprets, the notion of the terms “geographical” and “origin” and expands the scope of GI protection beyond the meaning of these terms. This departure from a literal interpretation contributes to granting exclusive rights to GIs beyond the original rationale for protection, which remains protecting GIs for the information they convey to the public about products’ geographical origin and as incentives for investment in local economies.