Quarantine Administration Issues Regulation on Geographical Indications

August 3, 2005

The State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ) recently promulgated a regulation (in Chinese) that protects products that register a specific geographical indication (GI). The term "GI" describes the legal protection provided to a product distinctive because it is made completely from materials of a particular place or created in a way distinctive to that place.

In the regulation, AQSIQ requires that the county, city, or provincial government for the place that will have its name incorporated into a GI authorize a local organization, firm, or individual to apply to AQSIQ for protection. Unless the provision requiring local government approval also applies to local governments in foreign countries, however, foreign local organizations, firms, or individuals will be unable to register GIs from their home countries. Without clarification, foreign local governments may not know whether or not they qualify as local governments under the regulation. Permitting foreign local governments to certify GIs would meet the WTO requirement to provide national treatment for all intellectual property protections contained in Article 3 of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPs Agreement).

The WTO provides a useful summary and explanation of the TRIPs Agreement's requirements for protecting GIs.