A geographical indication is usually a place name giving the origin of the
goods to which it is applied. These goods usually have a quality which can
only be obtained if they are produced in the specified place, for example,
because of the climate, or local soil conditions, or quality of the water.
Geographical indications are mostly used in relation to agricultural
products, but may also be applied to other products which rely on human or
This is a fairly recent form of intellectual property protection, which was
introduced to protect the public from deception, whether deliberate or
otherwise. It means, for example, that if you buy Scotch whisky, you know
that it is made in Scotland, and it not a product made in the same way as
Scotch whisky, but elsewhere (eg in Japan).
In order to have a name recognized as a geographical indication, the place
needs to have acquired a reputation for a particular type of product and a
quality or qualities associated with it. A geographical indication therefore
helps to protect and enhance that reputation.
A geographical indication is not generally owned by one particular trader
and so does not function in the same way as a trade mark (i.e. to
distinguish the goods or services of one trader from those of others). It
can be used by anyone who meets the set criteria.
Geographical indications are protected by International Treaties, and
signatories of these treaties then incorporate protection into their own
national laws, either by amendment of existing laws, or the creation of new
ones. Geographical indications are therefore ultimately enforced under
Some place names have, however, become synonymous with particular styles of
product, regardless of where they are produced, for example Dijon for
mustard, and Cheddar for cheese, and so are not protected as Geographical