The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) on Thursday (November 5) hosted the first of four workshops on the administration of a proposed Jamaican Geographical Indication (GI) system.
The workshops, which are being held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, sensitise stakeholders, who will be directly involved in formulating the system, about some of the legal processes, technical procedures and other aspects of preparing the structure.
Thursday’s workshop was geared specifically to employees of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), who work closely with agricultural producers, and would be the first point of contact for individuals interested in registering their agricultural products as Geographical Indications.
A Geographical Indication is a sign used on a product to indicate its specific geographical origin, and is a symbol of the product’s high quality and reputation. The quality and standard of the goods are therefore attributable to their places of origin.
Executive Director of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), Carol Simpson (left), discussing with the Manager of the Trade Marks and Geographical Indication (GI) Directorate at JIPO, Kai-Saran Davis, during a workshop jointly hosted by JIPO and the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) on the administrative aspects of a proposed Jamaican Geographical Indication (GI) system, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston on Thursday (November 5).
The workshops form part of a 2-year joint technical project, the Geographical Indications Project Jamaica-Switzerland (GIJA), between JIPO and the IPI, launched in May, last year. The IPI is providing technical assistance to agricultural and non-agricultural producers, to assist in enhancing the protection of the quality of Jamaican goods.
According to a JIPO pamphlet, GIs help consumers around the world to identify the origin, quality and reputation of products.
“If these products are not adequately protected, they can be misrepresented by dishonest merchants. Such commercial operators deceive customers and lead them into believing that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities and characteristics from a particular geographical region, when they are in fact getting an imitation,” the document read.
Director of Industry in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Beverly Rose-Forbes, who represented Permanent Secretary, Reginald Budhan, pointed out that Geographical Indications can be powerful tools and can result in many benefits.
Director of Industry in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Beverly Rose-Forbes (second right), engaging in a light moment with, from left: Project Manager for the Geographical Indications Project Jamaica-Switzerland (GIJA), Sara-Ruth Allen; Head of the Observatory on agricultural and food chains for Agridea Lausanne in Switzerland, Dr. Sophie Reviron; and Manager of the Trade Marks and Geographical Indication Directorate at the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), Kai-Saran Davis. The occasion was a workshop to discuss administrative aspects of a proposed Jamaican Geographical Indication (GI) system, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Thursday (November 5).
Advantages include: marketing of products identified as quality goods, based on their Jamaican origin; exclusion of unlawful users, thereby entitling communities and businesses in designated areas to the exclusive users of the GI; and an advantage of premium, with the right of exclusion often attaching a correlating premium value to legitimate products.
The Director said she is of the view that there are opportunities for Jamaica in the marketing of GIs, noting that already there is coffee, jerk sauces and unique aspects of the Jamaican culture that have the potential to qualify as GIs.
“There is no doubt that marketing based on geographical indications can bring higher incomes to our farmers and our producers, particularly in our export markets. But, for this to work effectively, adequate legal protection is absolutely necessary,” Mrs. Rose-Forbes said.
It is for this reason that the Protection of Geographical Indications Act was passed in 2004, and that in addition to meeting obligations under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, administrated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a conscious decision was taken that GIs were an important issue to be addressed, she said.
She also warned that it cannot be taken for granted that, because the country has products that are distinctly Jamaican, more research needs not be done in establishing the link between the products and place and in defining the products and their distinctiveness.
“Our goal is not only to strengthen legal protection of GIs, but also to raise awareness and produce a favourable environment for successful GI-based marketing,” she said.
Mrs. Rose-Forbes further opined that GI products from countries, such as Jamaica, have the ability to obtain price premiums at the consumer level in Europe and the United States, because of their perceived uniqueness.
“I am confident, therefore, of the potential long term value of GIs in terms of jobs, greater income, and in terms of the recognition of our country and our culture,” she added. Other products being considered for registration as GIs include ginger, yam, scotch bonnet pepper, peppermint and rum. Non agricultural products include craft items.
The other workshops will be held Friday (November 6); Monday (November 9); and Tuesday, (November 10). They will be target coffee, rum and jerk stakeholders.