Saturday 23 May 2015

New world for appellations of origin: Lisbon renaissance in Geneva

The Diplomatic Conference convened to adopt a new Act of the Lisbon Agreement met at the headquarters of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on 11 to 21 May 2015 and reached agreement to adopt the Geneva Act.
In preparation for the Diplomatic Conference, the ad hoc Working Group met 10 times from 2009 to 2014 to discuss and draw up the draft text that has yielded this new Act and the Regulations under the new Act.

One of the primary objectives of the new Act is to make the existing Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and their International Registration, which currently has only 28 Contracting Parties, more attractive for accession by new members.

Some of the main changes will permit accession to the Act by intergovernmental organizations and the international registration of both appellations of origin and geographical indications (up to now the Agreement provided only for the registration of appellations of origin) under a system that is of course in conformity with the TRIPS Agreement while also grounded in many respects in regulations concerning these modalities adopted by the European Union. The Geneva Act also includes Articles dealing with the (broad) scope of protection for geographical indications and appellations of origin in the Contracting Parties and with the subject of official fees (rather unusual in European Union regulations in this area).

Two intergovernmental organizations evinced particular interest over the course of the drafting process for the new Act, namely, the European Union (with the OHIM also present as a separate observer in its own right) and, to a lesser extent, the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI). As the efforts of the Working Group earned credibility with the drafting of proposed full wordings for the texts, it sparked the interest of more and more countries, and the delegations of certain world powers (the U.S., Russia, China), which initially either did not take part or were essentially passive participants, became more active, greatly enriching the deliberations, raising very interesting issues and proposals from a variety of legal, economic, and cultural perspectives.

Like the current Lisbon Agreement, registration is not limited to certain goods. Rather, appellations of origin and geographical indications can be registered for all types of goods (agricultural and non-agricultural), provided they comply with requirements.

The Geneva Act will enter into force three months after five Contracting Parties have deposited their instruments of ratification or accession.

It would be remiss to fail to mention the important role played by the delegations of organizations accorded observer status in the Working Group and at the Diplomatic Conference, chief among them CEIPI, for its rigorous academic contributions, MARQUES, oriGIn, and INTA, representing the interests of their members and the general interest of the community at large in achieving a text with the clearest possible wording so as to avert instances of legal uncertainty.

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