For well over a century, the notion of a distinctive link between regional products and their places of origin has been articulated in the language of terroir. This type of causal relationship – where the physical geography factors within a region leave their distinctive traces upon the end product – is reflected in the definition of a geographical indication (GI) found in Article 22.1 of TRIPS. However this chapter focuses on the underdeveloped, yet increasingly utilised possibility of a link between product and place resting on a ‘reputation… that is essentially attributable to its geographic origin’.
As GI subject matter expands beyond wines, spirits and agricultural products to encompass confectionaries, charcuterie, cheese and crafts, a deterministic ‘physical geography’ explanation loses traction. This chapter proposes that historical evidence can complement that of geography, allowing us to more meaningfully answer the question of when a product’s reputation can be said to be essentially attributable to its geographical origin.His 'Genericide: The Death of a Geographical Indication?' in Gangjee (ed) Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Geographical Indications (Edward Elgar, 2016) 508 provides
a legal framework for deciding when a geographical indication (GI) has crossed over the line into generic usage, as the common name for a type of product (such as cheddar cheese). Genericide is a process and one that is highly controversial. While Art 24.6 of TRIPS has emerged as the international reference point, it is remarkably underdeveloped. The question of whether a designation has become the ‘common name’ for a type of product requires an empirically informed answer. However, when setting out the test for genericide, there are opportunities for normative inflections to be introduced.
Section 2 sets out the history of this controversial area and the commercial stakes which influence legal determinations. Section 3 identifies the four main structural issues to be addressed (which regime to opt for; who bears the burden of proof; what is the threshold or tipping point for genericide; and how the factors should interact). Section 4 proceeds to analyse the categories of evidence, drawing on comparative experiences with such categories in operation. Here the perception of the target audience (consumers or the general public, as informed by trade and expert opinion) must be gauged against the contextual backdrop of market conditions, legislative or bureaucratic classifications of the term and the actions of the rights holder. Section 5 concludes with a review of the options for preventing generic use in sui generis GI regimes, while also suggesting the avenues for reviving terms that were formerly GIs but have been declared generic. The comparative analysis is offered as a practical resource for decision makers, while also serving as a reminder that the overarching enquiry should remain focused on the public perception of the term, as opposed to the competing commercial interests at stake.