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Journal Article

Geographical Indications and Their Relationship with Trade Marks in EU Law


Knaak,  Roland
MPI for Innovation and Competition, Max Planck Society;

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Knaak, R. (2015). Geographical Indications and Their Relationship with Trade Marks in EU Law. IIC - international review of intellectual property and competition law, 46(7), 843-867. doi:10.1007/s40319-015-0393-1.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002A-0677-5
Geographical indications (GIs) are, just like trade marks, signs used for the purpose of distinguishing goods. Unlike trade marks, GIs do not identify the commercial origin of a product from a particular undertaking, but its geographical origin from a specific place or region and, connected therewith, in most cases a given quality or other characteristic of the product. In contrast to trade marks, GIs are not individual rights but indications that belong to all local producers of the relevant region. The right to use a GI is a right of all local producers which, in principle, cannot be withdrawn. Exercising this right is, however, subject to the condition of fair competition. The use of a GI by local producers must be fair. With regard to conflicts between GIs and trade marks, Union law guarantees the right to use a GI in the Trade Mark Directive (TMD) and the Community Trade Mark Regulation (CTMR). Article 6 TMD and Art. 12 CTMR provide for a limitation of trade mark protection in favour of use of a GI. According to these provisions the rights conferred by trade marks do not entitle their proprietors to prohibit third parties from using GIs provided the use is “in accordance with honest practices in industrial or commercial matters”. These general principles governing the function and use of GIs in competition apply to the EU system for a sui generis protection of GIs in a modified manner. This article outlines the basic features of this sui generis system for GI protection and its relationship to trade mark protection.