Geographical indication protection: Important to have, hard to get

06:00 | 08/12/2021 Science - Technology

(VEN) - Having protected geographical indications (GI) is beneficial to Vietnamese manufacturers seeking to export their products, but obtaining such certification is a lengthy and complex process, as is maintaining and promoting it.

Strict conditions

Geographical indications protect products against misuse or imitation of their registered name and guarantee their true origin. These rules ensure that producers in the given geographical area have collective rights over the product, and help promote and add value to the product. There are more than 10,000 geographical indications protected in the world, with an annual commercial transaction value of an estimated US$50 billion.

geographical indication protection important to have hard to get
Phu Quoc fish sauce is the first Vietnamese product and the first in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be officially protected in terms of origin in all 28 European Union (EU) countries

Phu Quoc fish sauce is the first Vietnamese product and the first in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be officially protected in terms of origin in all 28 European Union (EU) countries, and it is the first Vietnamese GI recognized and protected in the EU. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, since the EU accepted the GI protection, the volume of Phu Quoc fish sauce exported to this market has increased significantly, and the selling price has also increased 30-50 percent.

Dinh Huu Phi, Director of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Office of Intellectual Property, said GI protection in foreign markets, especially discerning ones, is important for Vietnamese businesses to protect and increase exports, ensuring a higher price and making them more attractive to buyers.

However, it takes authorities, localities, businesses and farmers a long time and a laborious process to gain a GI protection certification. For example, Binh Thuan Province’s dragon fruit was officially granted the Protected Geographical Indication certification by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAFF), on October 7, more than three years after filing for geographical indication protection in Japan. Before that, the MAFF granted GI certification to Luc Ngan lychee from Bac Giang Province almost two years after the product’s profile was submitted.

Registration of GI protection for Vietnamese products in Japan in particular and in foreign markets in general is a difficult process because of the strict requirements and standards in these markets, Phi said.

Post-certification challenges

According to Phi, the fact that Binh Thuan Province’s dragon fruit, Bac Giang Province’s Luc Ngan lychee and other Vietnamese agricultural products have been successfully registered for GI protection in foreign markets is just one of the necessary steps to make these products more competitive and expand their foreign market share.

Management of post-GI certification will be a big challenge for authorities at all levels, with the biggest difficulty being improvement of GI management, Phi said. Relevant state authorities need to work with associations of producers and sellers to ascertain that farmers follow growing and production processes strictly in order to ensure product quality and promote domestic sales and exports, he said.

Van Cong Thoi, Director of the Binh Thuan Province Department of Science and Technology, said post-GI certification management for the province’s dragon fruit is a major challenge for sectors and authorities of all levels, especially provincial ones. Dragon fruit can only be preserved for a short period, hampering sales, Thoi said.

About 85 percent of the province’s dragon fruit output is exported, and only two to three percent of the exports are sold through official trade. The remainder is sold to China through border trade and to merchants outside Binh Thuan who then directly export them, Thoi said. He said Binh Thuan currently has only five units capable of providing dragon fruit meeting export standards.

GI registration abroad is very important to protect a product’s market. It is therefore important to help localities that offer specialty products to implement intellectual property registration in both domestic and foreign markets.

Quynh Nga