For the first time in over 13 years of talks, WTO intellectual property negotiators have started work on producing a single draft text for setting up a multilateral geographical indications register for wines and spirits. A draft on notification — the first of six broad topics of the system to be discussed — was circulated by chairperson Darlington Mwape at an informal meeting of the full membership on 13 January 2011. The draft was developed in two days of consultations among representatives of the three groups that have submitted proposals in these negotiations. The 13 January meeting was an opportunity for the full membership to look at it. The draft on notification deals with definitions, descriptions and the legal basis of the terms that members would notify and other possible information.

Geographical indications are place names — or words associated with a place — used to identify products having a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic because they come from that place. Negotiations on the proposed multilateral register for wines and spirits began in 1997 and were included in the Doha Round when it was launched in 2001.

The six main areas to be covered are:

  • notification — e.g., how a term would be notified and which member would do it (also related to “participation”)
  • registration — e.g., how the system would be run and the WTO Secretariat’s role
  • legal effects/consequences of registration, in particular any commitments or obligations on members arising from a term’s registration (also related to “participation”)
  • fees and costs — including who would bear these burdens
  • special treatment for developing countries (officially, “special and differential treatment”)
  • participation — whether the system is entirely voluntary, or whether a term’s registration would have some implications for all WTO members

The present tight schedule is based on the call from the Trade Negotiations Committee, which oversees the Doha Round talks, for texts to be developed in all negotiating areas by the end of the first quarter of 2011.