A geographical indication (GI) is a sign that identifies a product as originating from a particular location which gives that product a special quality or reputation or other characteristic. Well-known examples of GIs include Bordeaux (wine), Darjeeling (tea) and Tuscany (olive oil).
Protection for a GI
Under the Geographical Indications Act, it is not necessary to file an application to protect the GI.
In Singapore, a GI can be protected under the Geographical Indications Act (Cap. 117B). It may also be eligible for registration as a trade mark under the Trade Marks Act (Cap. 332).
A GI is distinct from a trade mark. A GI informs consumers that a product comes from a certain place and has special qualities due to that place of origin, while a trade mark is used to distinguish a business’ goods or services from those of its competitors. A GI may be used by all producers or traders whose products originate from that place and which share typical characteristics, while a trade mark gives its owners the right to prevent others from using the trade mark.
In Singapore, the law protects only the GIs of a country which is a member of the World Trade Organization, a party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, or a country designated by the Singapore Government as a qualifying country from which GIs of that country can be protected. In addition, the GI must be protected in its country of origin. The producer, trader or association of such producers or traders of any such GI enjoy automatic protection.
GIs that are not protected
It is important to note the following instances where a GI will not be protected:
Rights and remedies
In Singapore, a producer, trader or an association of producers or traders can sue for false use of a GI by an unauthorised party when the GI is used in a situation where it is misleading, unfair or dishonest, or where the GI used identifies a wine or spirit that does not originate from the place as indicated by the GI.
A producer, trader or an association can exercise his rights under the Geographical Indications Act by taking legal action against the infringing party.