a) Overview

A geographical indication refers to a sign which identifies a product as originating from a particular territory which has given the product its special quality or reputation. 

A geographical indication usually consists of the place of origin of the product. More well-known GIs include: 

Wine

Type: Wine
Origin: Champagne

Spirit

Type: Spirit
Origin: Tequila

Cheese

Type: Cheese
Origin: Roquefort

Tea

Type: Tea
Origin: Darjeeling

Pepper

Type: Pepper
Origin: Kampot

Rice

Type: Rice
Origin: Hom Mali

Each of these products exhibit a specific quality or reputation which is attributable to the territory which the product originates from.

b) Relationship between geographical indications and trade marks

Geographical indications are distinct from trade marks.

Geographical Indications
  • The characteristics of the product are attributable to place of origin
  • Can be used by all producers or traders whose products originate from that place and share typical characteristics
  • A sign which identifies a product as originating from a particular territory which gives the product its special quality or reputation
Trade Marks
  • The characteristics of the product have no connection to the place of origin
  • Can only be used by the owner of the trade mark, or with his permission
  • A sign which identifies the product has originating from one trade and no other
c) Protection of Geographical Indications in Singapore

The law protecting geographical indications in Singapore is the Geographical Indications Act (Cap. 117B). 

In Singapore, there is no need to file for registration to obtain protection of geographical indications under the Geographical Indications Act. 

Instead, a producer, trader or association of such producers or traders of any geographical indication will enjoy automatic protection as long as:

  • The geographical indication is from 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 geographical indications of that country can be protected;
  • The geographical indication must be protected in its country of origin; and
  • The geographical indication does not fall under any of these categories:
    • It is immoral or against public order;
    • It is no longer in use or no longer protected in the country of origin;
    • It has become the common name in Singapore for the goods or services which it identifies;
    • [for wines and spirits] it has been used continuously for at least 10 years preceding 15 April 1994 or in good faith preceding that date;
    • It is confusingly similar to a trade mark for which rights had been acquired before the geographical indication is protected in its country of origin; or
    • It is the name of a person or a predecessor in a particular business.

Even though a producer, trader or association of such producers or traders of a geographical indication cannot file for registration of the geographical indication in Singapore, he can still opt to register the geographical indication as a certification or collective mark under the Trade Marks Act (Cap. 332).

d) Enforcement of Geographical Indications in Singapore

In Singapore, a producer, trader or an association of producers or traders can sue an unauthorised party for the following infringing uses:

Use of a geographical indication in relation to any goods which misleads the public as to the geographical origin of the goods
Use of a geographical indication which is unfair or dishonest
Use of a geographical indication which identifies a wine or spirit in relation to any wine or spirit even if the public is not misled as to the true geographical origin of the goods

A producer, trader or an association can exercise his rights under the Geographical Indications Act by taking legal action against the infringing party.