Labelling and guarantees for consumers

As for other types of specific quality schemes, such as those connected with organic farming or fair trade, consumers must be able to recognize the specific nature of the product through labelling and to have guarantees on its specifications conformity.

Among labels referring to quality linked to geographical origin, geographical indication and appellation of origin benefit from an international definition and legal protection under intellectual property rights.

Geographical indication and appellation of origin

Geographical indications (GIs) are place or country names that identify the origin, quality, reputation or other characteristics of products, as defined by Art. 22.1 of the Agreements on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)of the World Trade Organization (WTO). For further information please refer this WIPO document.

An appellation of origin (AO) is defined in the Lisbon agreement and is a particular kind of GI used to identify products whose quality or characteristics are due exclusively or essentially to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors.

Protection of geographical indications

Because of their reputation and value, geographical idnications can be subject to counterfeiting and consumers deception. The TRIPS Agreement requires that WTO members provide legal means of preventing the misleading use of GIs, including cases where the origin indicated on a product is other than its true place of origin, or where the use of a GI in some way constitutes an act of unfair competition. Countries can meet these obligations either through existing legislation on intellectual property (collective or certification trademarks if appropriate), consumer protection or competition, or by enacting legislation dedicated to the specific protection of GIs and AOs.

Guarantee systems and certification

In order to guarantee the product meets specifications, different systems may be considered:

  • self-monitoring by a local group of stakeholders (producers, local authorities, traders etc.);
  • monitoring by national authorities of all mentions, avoiding possible conflicts of interest;
  • participatory guarantee systems based on the principle of social control and trust of producers;
  • a fully fledged independent certification system, with certification bodies accredited by national authorities. This third party certification is necessary for export markets.

In all cases, a minimum internal control system by the group of producers is important in order to facilitate external monitoring.