Recent developments expanding the scope of geographical indications of product origin will result in increased protections for producers of artisanal products.

A geographical indication (“GI”) is a name or sign which identifies a good as originating from a particular territory or region and, as such, as possessing a particular quality, reputation or characteristic attributable to that territory or region. Currently, GIs can be applied to foodstuffs, wine and spirits. Examples of GIs include Champagne, Armagnac and Roquefort.

Recent developments in relation to GIs include:

  • the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations have targeted increased co-operation between the US and EU relating to the recognition of GI protected products;
  • a new Geneva Act has expanded the scope of the 1958 Treaty of Lisbon, strengthening national GI protections; 
  • France has introduced legislation affording a similar designation to artisanal products;  and
  • the European Commission has published a consultation paper regarding the expansion of GI protections.

A GI operates in a similar way to a trade mark insofar as it acts a badge of origin for a specific product and indicates that the goods are produced to a certain standard. The development of GI protected products within the EU has provided for increased consumer protection, while shielding suppliers against imitation and misuse of their products.

GIs can significantly increase brand value. In 2012, the European Commission reported that the total value of GIs to the Irish economy was approximately €600M per annum. Despite this, Ireland has a low number of GIs when compared with other jurisdictions. There are a total number 1500 registered GIs, with only 8 of these registered to Ireland. Examples of Irish GIs include Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitín and Irish Cream.

Many Irish products are capable of being registered as GIs and producers should be aware of the process in order to increase their brand value. Further, should Ireland decide to follow the approach taken by France, many traditional Irish products will be afforded increased protection in the marketplace.