Home News Intellectual Property of Quality: Designations of Origin and Geographical Indications  

Intellectual Property of Quality: Designations of Origin and Geographical Indications  

July 3, 2024

As consumers, who among us has not been absorbed, paralyzed in the supermarket aisle – list and cart in hand – trying to choose the best product among the immense variety offered by globalization? It is often difficult to know which products are authentic and of high quality, fortunately, we have allies to help us in our choice.  

Symbols are one of these accomplices, they help us to identify and differentiate those products with a specific geographical origin, which gives them certain qualities and a reputation linked to that origin.  

Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) are intellectual property rights that protect and promote the quality of agricultural and food products linked to a specific geographical region.    

As signs of quality, they are a guarantee of product authenticity, benefiting both producers, by supporting local economies and recognizing the added value of their products, and consumers, by assuring them of the purchase of products that meet the characteristics, specifications and controls that make them eligible to bear the corresponding PDO or PGI label.  

The difference between a PDO and a PGI is minimal. Both identify products originating from a specific place so that there is a link between the specific characteristics of the product and the geographical area. However, in the PDO all stages of production are carried out in this defined geographical area, whereas in the PGI only one of the stages needs to be carried out in this area. In short, in a PDO product the link with the geographical area is stronger insofar as its characteristics are fundamentally or exclusively due to that geographical area.   

Like other intellectual property rights, appellations of origin and geographical indications have a territorial dimension and their legal protection is limited to the jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which the right in question has been granted.   

Applications for registration must be filed by the groups working with the products whose name is to be protected with the PDO or PGI.  

Depending on the geographical area to be protected, the application for protection must be filed with different bodies: if it covers only one Autonomous Community, it will be filed with the competent body of the respective Autonomous Community; if it extends to more Autonomous Communities, it will be filed with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Directorate General for the Food Industry.  

There is also the registration of PDOs or PGIs in the European Union. This registration grants protection against any use, usurpation, imitation or even evocation of the protected name by comparable products, but not covered by the registration and, more generally, against any parasitic practice that may mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product or that seeks to take advantage of the reputation of such Designation or Geographical Indication.  

Products entitled to use the PDO or PGI name and sign must comply with the applicable specifications and are subject to an official control system to ensure compliance with the European Union regulations governing these quality schemes.   

At the European level, the growing importance and relevance of these quality figures is reflected in the legislator’s efforts to update and adapt their regulatory protection to the current reality.1

Internationally, the diversity of national and regional legal systems can complicate and increase the cost of recognition and protection of DOs and GIs in other countries. 

A good, efficient and economical option for this extension to other countries is the Lisbon System, which facilitates the international protection of appellations of origin and geographical indications in 73 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, all with a single registration procedure before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), thus simplifying procedures and costs.  

To benefit from this system, appellations and indications must be protected in their country of origin. WIPO reviews applications and notifies member countries of the new registration, which have one year to decide whether to accept or reject protection in their territory. In the countries where they have been registered, these appellations can no longer be converted into generic terms. The protection granted is unlimited in time, as long as protection is maintained in the country of origin, without the need to renew the registration or pay additional fees.  

In conclusion, after these brief comments on these signs of quality and returning to our supermarket aisle, when we have doubts in our choice, let us look for products bearing the PDO and PGI symbols. With their purchase, we will not only be guaranteed that we are getting a top quality product, but we will also be supporting sustainability, as well as supporting producers and the local economy, promoting the protection of cultural heritage.  

  1. Regulation (EU) 2024/1143 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 April 2024 on geographical indications for wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products as well as traditional specialities guaranteed and optional quality terms for agricultural products, amending Regulations (EU) No 1308/2013, (EU) 2019/787 and (EU) 2019/1753, and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012.
    Regulation (EU) 2023/2411 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 October 2023 on the protection of geographical indications of artisanal and industrial products and amending Regulations (EU) 2017/1001 and (EU) 2019/1753, which introduced for the first time a GI protection scheme for these products at EU level.

Articule by: Cristina Margalef.

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