Protection of Geographical Indications: The Importance of Maintaining the Reputation, Quality and Characteristics of Goods/Products

Introduction

A product produced by a certain region often serves as a reminder of that region, for example coffee, may remind you of several regions such as Aceh, Medan, Bali, or Toraja. Conversely, on the other hand, when discussing a region, you will remember the products produced. For example, when we talk about Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara, you will remember its products such as Honey or Horse Milk that are only produced in that region.

These products become a signature for a region in Indonesia because they have their own characteristics that are only found in certain regions, in which each region certainly has characteristics that are different from each other. This is a Geographical Indication (“GI“) as set out in Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 20 of 2016 on Marks and Geographical Indications (“Law 20/2016“).

Discussion

  • GI Protection

Under Article 1 Number 6 of Law 20/2016, GI is defined as:

an indication that identifies the area of origin of goods and/or products which due to geographical environmental factors including natural factors, human factors or a combination of those two factors gives certain reputation, quality, and characteristics to the produced goods and/or products

Referring to this definition, there are several elements that must be fulfilled for a product to be categorized as GI, namely (i) and indication or name of the goods/products; (ii) the place or region of origin of the goods/products; (iii) the influence of environmental factors on the goods/products; and (iv) having reputation, quality, and characteristics.

Based on this definition, one of the most important elements that must be fulfilled is that the goods/products have reputation, quality, and characteristics. This element must be fulfilled so that the goods/products that will be registered as GI have differentiating power from the products/goods from another region. Apart from having a differentiating power from another regional products, the elements of reputation, quality and characteristics are determining factors in the protection of registered GIs as stated in Article 61 paragraph (1) of Law 20/2016 which stipulates that a GI is protected as long as its reputation, quality and characteristics are maintained which become the basis for granting GI protection to goods.

Referring to these provisions, the protection period for a registered GI is determined by the reputation, quality, and characteristics of the product so that there is no fixed period for a registered GI. As long as the reputation, quality and characteristics of a registered GI are maintained, the registered GI continues to be protected; however, when a registered GI has different reputation, quality and characteristics, compared to when it was submitted for registration, the GI will be deleted so that it is no longer protected.

Furthermore, in the definition of GI as in Article 1 Number 6 of Law 20/2016, the object protected by GI is the products/goods produced in a certain region. These goods/products are in the form of Natural Resources, Handicrafts, or Industrial Products. Other objects that are not included in the product/goods category as stated in the definition cannot be registered as GI.

  • Process of Application for GI Registration

The GI registration process begins by submitting a registration application to the Minister through the Directorate of Trademarks and Geographical Indications, the Directorate General of Intellectual Property (“DGIP“). As stated in Article 53 paragraph (3) of Law 20/2016, the parties who can apply for GI registration are only limited to (i) an Institution that represents to a community in a certain geographical area that operates the goods/products, such as the Geographical Indication Protection Society (MPIG), or (ii) Provincial or District/City regional governments.

The application for GI registration cannot be submitted by an individual because GI cannot be controlled by an individual but rather belongs to the community of the region in which GI is produced or cultivated.

After the application is submitted, DGIP will first conduct a formality check regarding the completeness and suitability of the documents for registration. This formality check is conducted by DGIP no later than 30 days after the application is submitted.

After going through the formality check and being declared complete, the application for GI registration continues with the publication of the applied GI. This publication stage is carried out for 2 (two) months, starting no later than 10 (ten) days after the application is received (the acceptance date is determined when the application is declared complete). 

During the publication period, a third party may submit an objection to the application for GI registration by submitting a written objection to the DGIP accompanied with sufficient reasons and items of evidence that the GI for which the registration being applied cannot be registered.

In the event that there is an objection from a third party, the DGIP is obliged to inform the applicant and give them the opportunity to submit a challenge to the objection within a maximum period of 2 (two) months since the objection is filed.

After passing the publication period, the application for GI registration will continue with a substantive examination process with a maximum period of 150 (one hundred and fifty) days. If there is no proposal for rejection, the GI application will be registered, and a GI certificate is issued. At this substantive examination stage, the examiner will conduct an inspection in the region of the GI origin to ensure that the contents of Description Document conform to the facts, particularly regarding the reputation, quality, and characteristics of the products/goods to be registered as GI.

  • The GI Description Document is the Most Important Document in GI Registration

When applying for GI registration, the GI applicant is required to attach a GI Description Document. Referring to Article 1 Number 11 of Law 20/2016, a GI Description Document is defined as: 

a document containing information, including the reputation, quality and characteristics of goods and/or products related to geographical factors of the goods and/or products for which Geographical Indication is applied.”

Referring to this definition, it is known that the GI Description Document is the most important document in the GI registration process because the document contains a description of the reputation, quality and characteristics of the products/goods that will be registered as GI.

Apart from containing information regarding reputation, quality and characteristics, the GI Description Document also contains information regarding the GI Applicant, the name of the GI and the type of products/goods, the region and boundaries of the GI, the production process, the processing and manufacture of goods/products, and the GI label that will be used.

In the GI Description Document, the description of characteristics and quality at least contains the specific features, characteristics, and excellence of the products/goods for which the GI registration is applied. If possible, the goods/products have received an Indonesian National Standard (SNI) certificate to strengthen the description of characteristics and quality.

Furthermore, related to reputation, a description of the reputation of the products/goods for which the GI registration is applied is at least related to the history of the products/goods in a region, its origin, and traditions for maintaining and safeguarding the products/goods, which is supported by documentation regarding the history use by the local community or the awards received by the local organization/community.

As stated previously, in conducting a substantive examination, the examiner will check the conformity between the contents of the GI Description Document and the actual conditions in the field, particularly regarding the description of the reputation, quality and characteristics of the goods/products for which the GI registration is applied. If there are differences, the application for GI registration will be rejected.

Closing 

In the application process for GI registration and protection, the most important elements that must be met and maintained are the reputation, quality, and characteristics of the GI. This is because a GI can be registered and will continue to be protected as long as the reputation, quality and characteristics are maintained and do not differ or change, compared to the description in the GI Description Document and the facts in the region in which the GI originates.

If the description of reputation, quality and characteristics in the GI Description Document and the facts differ or change, the GI application will be rejected. If it has been registered, the GI will be removed from the GI list and will no longer be protected.

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Picture of Christophorus Wisnoe Rurupadang
Christophorus Wisnoe Rurupadang
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