Geographical indications

Geographical indications (GIs) are indications that identify a good as originating in the territory of a country, or from a region or locality within that territory, where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin. Examples of GIs from the United States include "Florida" for oranges, "Idaho" for potatoes, "Vidalia" for onions, and "Washington State" for apples.

GIs are valuable to producers for the same reason that trademarks are valuable. They serve the same functions as trademarks because, like trademarks, they are source identifiers—that is, they identify the geographic source of the goods or services, they can be guarantees of quality if the owner controls use of the mark and requires authorized users of the GI to conform with the production standards, and can be valuable business assets.

Member countries of the World Trade Organization and their nationals are increasingly recognizing that GIs are valuable as marketing tools in the global economy. Furthermore, intellectual property (IP) owners are finding that protecting IP is no longer just a domestic concern. To that end, IP owners must be armed with information about domestic and foreign systems of GI protection in order to fully leverage the value added by GIs to their goods and services, both at home and abroad.

For more information about U.S. protection for GIs, as well as foreign systems of protection, contact the USPTO’s Office of Policy and International Affairs at (571) 272-9300.

 

Protection of geographical indications in the United States

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Like trademarks, geographical indications (GIs) are a form of intellectual property. As a member of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), the United States is required to protect GIs. TRIPS lists GIs as a separate category of intellectual property, which is defined, in Article 22, as “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.” In other words, the mention of a GI triggers in the mind of the consumer a specific product. You say Idaho, I say potato.

Orange tree icon encircled by words: A product of the Florida sunshine tree

Domestic GIs include IDAHO (potatoes), WASHINGTON (apples) and FLORIDA (citrus). Foreign GIs include PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO (cheese), BORDEAUX (wine) and PARMA (ham). GIs are not limited to place names; they can include anything that is protectable as an indication of source–such as designs, slogans, colors, and non-traditional marks. The Florida Sunshine Tree logo on the right is one example of a certification mark indicating regional origin for citrus from a defined region in Florida. Other examples can be found in the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure.

 

DISCLAIMER: References to particular trademarks, service marks, certification marks, products, services, companies, or organizations appearing on this page are for illustrative and educational purposes only and do not constitute or imply endorsement by the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or any other federal agency.