Geographical Indications and Property Rights: Protecting Value-Added Agricultural Products

Bruce A. Babcock, Roxanne Clemens
May 2004  [04-MBP 7]

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Babcock, B.A. and R. Clemens. 2004. "Geographical Indications and Property Rights: Protecting Value-Added Agricultural Products." MATRIC briefing paper 04-MBP 7. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Since 1992, the European Union has protected high-quality agricultural products based on geographical origin using designations of geographical indications (GIs). U.S. producers and processors can obtain a type of trademark called a certification mark, which provides similar protections to that of GIs but protects products only within the United States. In the current round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, the European Union and other countries are seeking to expand protection through GIs. If they achieve the full range of protection they are seeking, many U.S. producers and processors could no longer use many product names currently treated as generic (e.g., feta cheese). This article describes and contrasts three systems of protecting property rights for agricultural products (certification mark, E.U.-wide GI, and WTO GI) and discusses some of the benefits and problems of each system and the effects of each system on helping to differentiate and protect high-value U.S. agricultural products.

Keywords: certification marks, geographical indication, high-value agricultural products, niche markets, price premiums, product differentiation, property rights protection, Protection of Designations of Origin, Protection of Geographical Indication, trademarks.