KINGSTON — The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) is moving to provide Geographical Indications (GIs) protection for authentic Jamaican brands such as Blue Mountain Coffee, Jamaica Jerk, and Jamaica Rum.
Executive Director, JIPO, Carol Simpson, said the move would pave the way for registration of these products in other parts of the world, such as within the European Union.
She was addressing a meeting on September 21 at the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) headquarters in New Kingston, to inform local producers about GIs as a strategy to protect their products against international “copycats”.
Miss Simpson said the reason for starting with those three products was based on the fact that they had already developed an international reputation as quality Jamaican products and were already being exported all over the world. “It’s not difficult to identify those three products with Jamaica,’ she stated.
“It doesn’t mean that we have limited ourselves. The idea is that we hope to extend the work that we have done with other products as well, such as our pimento, ginger, scotch bonnet pepper, Jamaica peppermint, thyme and scallion,” she added.
The JIPO Head noted that Jamaica was currently in the process of negotiating a bilateral agreement with the Swiss Government in an effort to get Jamaica’s GIs recognised in that region. “What this means is that we have agreed with Switzerland that we will protect their GIs products in Jamaica, as they will protect our products in their markets.
A geographical indicator is a sign used on goods that connotes a specific geographical origin and is indicative of the product’s high quality and reputation. The quality and standard of the good is attributable to its place of origin. Examples of well-known GIs products include Basmati Rice from India, Champagne from France, and Havana Cigars from Cuba.
Miss Simpson noted that over the years, unscrupulous entities have been exploiting the name Jamaica and brand Jamaica products. As such, she said these infringements must seriously be addressed as they deprive Jamaican producers of earnings from their genuine products and damage Jamaica’s reputation.
She said this practice discourages Jamaican producers and creates confusion in the minds of consumers, who are unable to distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit products. She noted that over the years, the exploitation of brand Jamaica products has occurred “with little or no recourse to our people and country as a whole”.
“GIs will allow genuine authentic Jamaican products to be more easily identified locally and internationally. The introduction of GIs is a major step forward for Jamaica as we seek to protect our reputation and to identify new markets for our niche` products,” Miss Simpson remarked.
Recently, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, noted that the government was making the necessary steps towards ensuring that Jamaica becomes a signatory to the Madrid Protocol, which would enable the country to protect its authentic brands from international exploitation.
“The agreement will give our intellectual capacity protection on a wide scale, globally, and will do so at a less expensive cost than is being done now,” he informed.
“This country has a problem with the extent to which we loosely display, showcase and trade what we have put together through creative thinking, work and effort and in doing so we are underselling ourselves. We are exposing ourselves to exploitation and it happens so frequently,” he stated.
Dr. Tufton said the government is moving to ensure that specific legislation is in place to provide adequate and specific protection to authentic Jamaican brands and products from such mistreatment.
By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter