Who owns the geographical indication Pisco, Peru or Chile?

by: in Law
Chile or Peru - blog Pisco ownership

With the development of international trade, local products have started to spread all around the world and become popular worldwide. Geographical indications (GIs) are meant to protect the use of the name that indicates certain characteristics and the origin of products typical for a particular region.

The trading volume of GI-protected products has become the main source of income for many countries, as indicated by Former Head of the Lisbon Registry at the WIPO, Mr. Matthijs Geuze on December 14, 2018 at Maastricht University. For example, the producers of Grana Padano (Italian Cheese protected as a protected designation of origin in the EU) made almost 3 Billion Euros profit from the sale of such cheese in 2017. This equals the annual turnover of the Italian car giant Ferrari. Considering the existence of many other examples like this, it is not very surprising that the huge profit potential of local food trade has caused an increase in the number of controversial cases where countries twist about the ownership of local products.

Conflicts between countries on ownership of local products
Hungary and Slovakia have been fighting over the origin of Tokaji Wines. Likewise, Greece faced objections by Germany and Denmark during the registration of Feta cheese as a GI in the EU, claiming that FETA is a generic name. However, the case between Chile and Peru on Pisco brandies may be the most notable one, since it opened a road to an international GI registration system.

In the cited case, Chile’s Pisco drinks were protected in the EU thanks to the bilateral agreement between Chile and the EU from 2002. When Peru, however, became a member to the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and they obtained an international registration for Pisco in 2005, the protection of the Pisco GI became also an obligation for EU member states under this agreement.

The Commission Regulation (EU) no.1065/2013 solved this conflict basically by stating that Peruvian Pisco shall be protected as a geographical indication (PGI is registered as “Pisco”). Yet, this does not hinder Chile’s use of Pisco for the products originating from Chile, since Chilean Pisco is protected as a protected designation of origin (PDO is registered as “Pisco”) within the EU due to the bilateral agreement between the EU and Chile. Despite being classified differently, both Piscos are protected equally under the EU Regulation on the Definition, Description, Presentation, Labelling and the Protection of Geographical Indications of spirit drinks. In practice, both countries can use the term Pisco and claim protection for the same.

Although the EU found a solution for the conflict between Chile and Peru, the fact that there are still similar kinds of conflict between other countries demonstrated the need for an international GI registration system and impelled Lisbon Agreement Members to create such system.

The Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement
The 28 contracting parties of the Lisbon Agreement gathered to discuss what can be done to create and adapt the GI protection system on an international basis. Besides the contracting parties, also non-member countries such as Argentina, Canada and the US attended the negotiations as observer delegations without voting rights.

Not surprisingly, there were many controversial issues regarding the international protection of GIs, since some non-member countries have different approaches to GI protection. Some of them raised objections to the draft act on the grounds that it does not allow countries that protect GIs as trade marks to join the international registration system.

After a long negotiation period, the contracting parties agreed to the Geneva Act in 2015, which establishes an international GI registration system. Notably, the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement also establishes the possibility of registering transnational GIs in its Article 5(4), by allowing member states to file a joint application for registration of a GI, provided that such product comes from a trans-border geographical area where the applicant parties are adjacent to each other.

Only for contracting states
Unfortunately, the Geneva Act only offers this option to its contracting parties; Article 5(4) allows member states to file a joint application for a GI spread on trans-border areas. This being the case, it is still not certain what happens if one of the adjacent countries is not a party to the Geneva Act and therefore cannot file a joint application pursuant to the cited article. Considering that there are a notable number of countries which find the Geneva Act inconsistent with their GI protection system and therefore are not willing to sign on, it is very likely that the Geneva Act will not bring a solution to every conflict similar to the one between Chile and Peru in the past.

  Written by Ayşe Kübra Özreisoğlu - More blogs on Law Blogs Maastricht