Geographic indications and farmer-owned brands: why do the US and EU disagree?

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Series Details Volume 4, Number 2, Pages 28-35
Publication Date 2005
ISSN 1478-0917
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Geographic Indications (GIs) identify the geographic origin of products whose quality, reputation or other characteristic can be attributed to the geographic origin. We focus on a subcategory of GIs, Farmer Owned Brands. Like GIs in general, FOBs require governmental assistance to protect the property rights of the brand owners. GIs are receiving increased attention because many countries and producer groups realize the importance of property right protection for GIs, and are negotiating such rights in international forums like the World Trade Organization.

Here we explore possible reasons for US opposition to EU policies conferring special property right protection to GIs. We conclude that the most plausible explanation for the US position is the lack of a domestic constituency advocating greater GI protection, which means that the US position represents the interests only of those who stand to lose from such protection. It will take a change in US property right regulations and a widespread understanding and adoption of the concept among producer groups before the political pendulum changes within the US. This process will take several years and until then we will have the unusual situation of the US opposing the only marketā€based solution to the US rural development problem that we are aware of.

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