Reinventing Lisbon: The Case for a Protocol to the Lisbon Agreement (Geographical Indications)

By Gervais, Daniel J. | Chicago Journal of International Law, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Reinventing Lisbon: The Case for a Protocol to the Lisbon Agreement (Geographical Indications)


Gervais, Daniel J., Chicago Journal of International Law


Abstract

The Doha Development Agenda (Doha Round) of multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) may fail unless a solution to the establishment of a multilateral register for geographical indications on wines and spirits (GIs) foreseen in the TRIPS Agreement is found. Failure of the Doha Round would entail serious intended and unintended consequences for the world trading system. Europe's insistence on a Doha deal on GIs is now accompanied by demands from several developing countries for an extension of GI protection to products other than wines and spirits. Those demanders consider the current emphasis on alcoholic beverages to be both culturally discriminatory and a commercial impediment to the ability to collect the potential additional rents associated with GIs on various products (coffee, tea, cocoa, textiles, etc.). They argue that international GI protection would support their rural and traditional products, which in turn would lead to "development from within," a development strategy that prioritizes local autonomy and broad, community-wide development goals. The GI issue has direct implications for future global food consumption patterns. As such, GIs have environmental significance and form an increasingly relevant part of global agricultural and food policy discussions.

In spite of their importance in the Doha Round, negotiations on the establishment of a GI register and its possible extension beyond wines and spirits at the WTO have been at an impasse for several years. This Article is an attempt to move the discussions, and the Doha Round, forward. My focus is on the establishment of the TRIPS GI register and its relationship with the 1958 Lisbon Agreement and its register for "appellations of origin." My suggestion is that the Lisbon register offers the best substrate to establish the TRIPS register, with or without an extension to products other than wines and spirits. Real or perceived Lisbon deficiencies could be handled appropriately by adopting a protocol to the Lisbon Agreement. After an examination of differences between the Lisbon and TRIPS Agreements, and the compatibility of a GI register with US trade practices, the Article provides a detailed strategy to achieve a protocol to the Lisbon system functioning as the TRIPS register.

I. INTRODUCTION

For the past nine years, the 153 members of World Trade Organization (WTO) have tried to bring to a close a multilateral trade negotiation round, known as the Doha Development Agenda (Doha Round), the first since the estabUshment of the WTO in 1995.1 Like previous negotiation rounds concerning the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Doha Round began with a Ministerial Declaration, which constitutes the roadmap for the Round.2 One of only diree topics mentioned in the Doha Declaration in the area of inteUectual property is the estabUshment of a register for geographical indications (GIs).3

The issue is critical for the US due to the possible impacts of a failure of the Doha Round generally.4 However, the potential impact of GI protection on US food and wine production and consumption patterns makes the issue endogenously relevant as well.5

Clearly, the issue is on the Obama Administration's radar and a number of US companies with an interest in the outcome of the negotiations acknowledged that the multilateral GI register foreseen in TRIPS is an essential component of a future successful Doha Round package.6 Yet the issue has not generated sufficient attention in the public policy discourse. The first aim of this Article is thus to illuminate the importance of the GI issue for the US. The Article also suggests a viable way forward for the US on the TRIPS GI register issue in the Doha Round. Specifically, it suggests that an existing international register not for GIs but for "appellations of origin," established at one of the twentieth century's major international intellectual property conferences - the 1958 Lisbon Conference - should serve as the canvass to weave the Doha solution on GIs. …

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