Given the recent changes in EU trademark regulation, which introduced the possibility of opposing trademark applications based on earlier geographical indication rights, as well the growing awareness of the importance of their protection, geographical indications are a hot topic.

With a population of around 8 million, Serbia has 68 registered geographical indications, mostly owned by domestic entities. These geographical indications cover a variety of processed meat products, cheeses, wine, honey and other mostly agricultural products, with two non-agricultural products: Sirogojno knitwear and Pirot rugs.

On October 25 2016 a seminar entitled "Geographical Indications in Practice" was held in Belgrade. The speaker was Zoran Dragojevic, head of the designs and geographical indications sector at the IP Office. He presented on four themes:

  • The legal framework for geographical indication protection – Dragojevic took the participants on a 'tour' of the evolution of geographical indication laws in Serbia (formerly Yugoslavia). Starting with a description of the concept of geographical indications, Dragojevic spoke of their historical context in Serbia and of strong French examples and tradition in this area, citing the role played by the wines from the Negotin area of East Serbia in the French phylloxera wine crisis in 1897. With a chronological description of each successive law, Dragojevic explained which geographical indications were protected under that law. The terms 'appellation of origin' and 'geographical designation' in the Law on Protection of Geographical Indications approximately correspond to the terms 'protected designation of origin' and 'protected geographical indication' in the relevant EU law. The law is now undergoing amendment in order to harmonise it with EU legislation on the protection of agricultural products and foodstuffs, which will allow Serbian entities to apply to protect their agricultural geographical indications in the European Union.
  • The importance of protecting geographical indications – Dragojevic discussed the potential for using geographical indications for economic development, promoting tourism and numerous other business opportunities which require a strong state strategy. In fact, geographical indications are among the first things that come to mind in connection with a country: Mexico and tequila; Italy and Parma ham; Switzerland and gruyère. So why not Serbia and Arilje raspberry, or Serbia and Kacer honey?
  • The procedure for protection of a geographical indication – Dragojevic discussed the process of fomulating a good specification of a geographical indication and all the elements that it should include, as well as the need for good coordination with consumer associations. In this respect, municipalities can do more to promote the importance of geographical indication protection and educate producers.
  • Finally, Dragojevic described the differences between trademark and geographical indication protection, and specifically cited examples of when to file a certification mark, when a collective mark should be chosen and when to opt for a geographical indication.

Informative seminars organised with the participation of the IP Office help to educate both producers and IP agents in respect of geographical indications. It is hoped that in the future there will be more seminars like this one, with the greater participation of all interested parties and feedback from producers and certification authorities on the specific difficulties that they face in terms of geographical indication protection and potential solutions to overcome them.

Marijana Kozakijevic

This article first appeared in IAM. For further information please visit www.iam-media.com.