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Prof. Dr. Yavuz Tekelioğlu: ‘GI’ is the name of a place that indicates a product

Florida orange, Roquefort cheese, New Zealand lamb or Gaziantep baklavası, Ezine cheese, Malatya apricot…
These all are geographical indications…
Recently, geographical indications have been on Turkey’s agenda more than it has ever been. The speech of the President of the Republic of Turkey at the Turkish Patent Awards Ceremonies of 2015-2016 and the Industrial Property Law enacted in January 2017 have been the initiator of this development. Geographical Indication(s) (GI) are distinctive, Official quality signs ensuring the origin of production and production methods of the products recognised and renowned by consumers. The GI, which has a very long history, was used to indicate the origins of the durable bricks and stones used in the construction of pyramids in ancient Egypt, while it was used in ancient Greek as a quality sign of Thasos Island wines. The use of GI, just like Parmigiano Reggiano and Comté, goes back to the 13th century. Roquefort cheese, whose ”name of origin” is protected by French laws and production is meticulously controlled, has been preserved in France since 1070.

GI, which have long been regarded as merely a European phenomenon, has ceased to be a “quality guarantee sign” with the development of global trade and has become the subject of property rights. GI is now a global phenomenon. It is considered as an intellectual property right that describes a product whose quality, fame or other characteristic features originate from a particular geographical background.

Geographical Indications (GI) has been taken under legal protection in all of the signatory countries, including Turkey, by The World Trade Organisation (WTO) established in 1995 and with Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights’ (TRIPs) Agreement signed within that framework. According to the data of the ”WTO Trade Center, there are still 10,000 legally protected GIs in the world. Approximately, one-third of them (3214) rank in the European Union (EU) and 10% in developing countries.

WHAT IS A GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION?

“A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin”

With a short description, GI is the name of a place that indicates a product. The product is known by this place name, it is identified and called with it. This place is usually a locality (terroir). According to the French National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO); the terroir is a system in which there
are agricultural production, the physical environment and a set of human factors. The terroir whose borders form a certain geographical area contains a unique eco-system (soil, climate) with a characteristic human community inside. The Eco-system allows the production of a product that can not be obtained elsewhere (Aydın fig, Florida orange, Antigua coffee) and the human community allows the production of an original product (Çorum leblebisi, Antep baklavası, Mersin cezeryesi) thanks to the tradition, knowledge, skill and craftsmanship developed during the historical process. Coming out of from these interactions, these products whose origin, name and reputation belong to the region where they are produced are called “local products” and local products, each of which is a geographical indication, have very strong ties with the region they are produced in. Their common characteristics are that they are typical, of high quality and unique products. Also, they have a certain triteness and reputation. For this reason, they are protected by legal regulations in many countries. The instrument of protection is Geographical Indication Registration. The organization responsible for this work in Turkey is The Turkish Patent and Trademark Office.

GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION PROTECTION TYPES

There are three types of protection in Turkish laws:

Protected Designation of Origin, PDO: All production processes related to the product that are carried out within their geographical boundaries, and products that cannot be produced elsewhere are protected with the Protected Designation of Origin” sign. These
are mostly agricultural products. Such as Malatya apricot, Finike orange, Bayramiç ”beyazı” -a kind of peach-.

Protected Geographical Indication, (PGI): Products produced in their geographic area but whose raw material comes from another place are protected with “Protected Geographical Indication” sign. These are mostly food products requiring hand skills and mastery. Such as Çorum leblebisi and Mersin cezeryesi. They are produced in Çorum and Mersin but chickpeas and carrots used in their productions come from another geographical area.

Traditional Speciality Guaranteed,(TSG): These products do not fall under the Protected Designation of Origin or Protected Geographical Indication and they are the names that identifying the products which are originating from a traditional production method (making recipe) or traditional composition or products manufactured from traditional raw materials or supplies. The specific feature and the quality of the product are registered here. Traditional Speciality Guaranteed is not a GI. It’s not the origin put under protection; it is the tradition. Traditional means that the product has a long history in the market and is a product that shows the transition between generations. This period is 30 years in the EU and Turkey.

BENEFITS OF GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS

GI creates added-value and employment and enables manufacturers to market their products at a premium price. Also, the price of the product increases with GI registration. The price of Pinggu peach, which received China’s GI registration from the European Union on May 11, 2011, increased from 1.5 yuan to 4 yuan right after the registration and the income of the farmers in the region increased significantly.

In Italy, Tuscany olive oil prices increased by 20% after the registration on 21 March 1998. According to reports from the EU Commission, EU registreted GI are sold at 1.8 times higher prices for meat-based products, 1.79 times nd 1.29 times higher for fruits and vegetables.
In France, registered cheeses find buyers by a 55% higher rate than the others, in Italy by 74% and Spain by 36%. The price of the famous Bresse chicken raised in France, the world’s only registered chicken, is 3-4 times higher than its counterparts. Also, GI, which prevents rural migration by keeping the rural population in place by creating job opportunities, is a very important source of employment. As a matter of fact, in France, where this practice is most developed, 126,000 enterprises generate products with GI registration. According to INAO data, the turnover of these products reached €27.2 billion in 2017.

GI PROTECTS PRODUCERS AND CONSUMERS AGAINST UNFAIR COMPETITION

Consumers perceive GI as an element that indicates the origin and quality of products. If these signs with the well-deserved reputation are not protected, various malicious commercial practices may be encountered. Counterfeit utilizations have a devastating impact on consumers and honest manufacturers. The most common example of this is Antigua coffee and Darjeeling tea. The production amount of the famous Antigua coffee produced in Antigua region of Guetamala is only three thousand tons while the amount of coffee sold under this name all over the world reaches 25 thousand tons.

Even though famous Darjeeling tea, which is produced in the Himalayan mountains of India at an altitude of 2-3 thousand meters and called as Champagne of Teas, has an annual production amount of 10 thousand tons, the amount of tea sold under the same name reaches 40 thousand tons in the world. False use of GI are widespread also in our country. For instance, although 140-150 thousand tons of Finike oranges are produced annually, the amount of oranges entering Istanbul under the name of Finike oranges reaches 400-450 thousand tons. Finike orange producers and consumers who are deceived are the ones who suffer from this case. Ezine cheese, Erzincan Tulum cheese and Ayvalık olive oil are at the top of the other GI, about which unfair competition is intense in our country.

By Prof. Dr. Yavuz Tekelioğlu

Chairman of Turkey Research Network On Local Products and Geographical Indications (YUCİTA)

Authors

About İsmail Uğural

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