Awakening the Phl’s sleeping geographical indications

The narrative of Cambodia and its Kampot Pepper is the same narrative of triumph we hope our farmers, weavers, and artisans achieve with their products

The World Intellectual Property Organization estimates that there were 63,600 geographical indications or GIs in force in 2021. GIs are distinctive product designations that indicate a qualitative link between a product and its place of origin.

China (9,052) had the most GIs in force within its territory during the year, followed by Hungary (7,743), the Czech Republic (6,272), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (6,087).

One would easily notice that these economies are either of upper-middle-income or high-income status, giving the impression that GIs are for those seated higher in the income ladder. But many lower-income countries have protected their own authentic products as GIs and brought them for the world’s delight. These countries, like Cambodia which I will delve into later, are not only shooting down economic-related misconceptions but are also proving they are indeed rich as a country, gifted with a diverse culture and vast resources from nature.

The green gold as inspiration

Kampot Pepper, a spice grown in the southwest of Cambodia and a beloved secret among internationally acclaimed chefs, made headlines in 2021 when it joined the International Register of Appellations of Origin and GIs under the Geneva Act. It was a milestone for Cambodia and for the whole world as it marked the first time a GI was registered under said act and no less from a developing country like the Philippines.

Touted as the green gold of the spice world, Kampot Pepper was registered domestically as a GI in 2010. Nearly a decade later, the value of Kampot Pepper production amounted to more than $1 million compared with the $70,000 production value in 2009, according to the Department of Intellectual Property of the Ministry of Commerce of Cambodia.

The narrative of Cambodia and its Kampot Pepper is the same narrative of triumph we hope our farmers, weavers, and artisans achieve with their products.

GIs after all benefit both owners and consumers. To owners, GIs are marketing tools to highlight the authentic origins and quality that set their products apart from other similar goods. To consumers, they certify that a product follows a set of standards across its supply chain, ultimately ensuring the quality that consumers were guaranteed.

A GI regime in the Philippines

At the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, particularly our Bureau of Trademarks, there has been intensive work to help the Philippines transition to the more robust sui generis GI regime.

In November 2022, we launched our Rules and Regulations on GIs, which seek to enhance GI protection and promote respect and the effective use of the IP system in building the competitive advantage of the country’s cultural and indigenous products.

Today, at the ongoing 2nd National GI Forum from 22 to 24 May, we are taking a deeper and more holistic dive into how this new policy can deliver on its promises. Held in collaboration with the IP Key Southeast Asia, the GI forum gathers government officials, international GI experts, local producers, weavers, and artisans to discuss how GI can bring inclusive economic growth to the country.

No less than Senate President Pro Tempore Loren B. Legarda and Pangasinan Fourth District Representative Christopher “Toff” V.P. de Venecia, both staunch advocates of promoting and protecting the pride of Philippine culture, graced the event to hammer at the importance of a GI system.

We have international GI experts coming from France, Switzerland, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia to provide expert analysis on GI trends and best practices. Local producers will also share their experiences in GI development.

With the event also showcasing 24 potential GIs identified by the BOT, we hope to share with the world the richness of the Philippine culture, from our rare gastronomic delights to ancient weaving and carving techniques. We hope to raise awareness of these products and foster a culture of patronage for what is proudly a product of Filipino ingenuity.

IPOPHL’s recent activities and collaboration are just the first steps in awakening the country’s sleeping GI products, which could be the sleeping giants that may lift our culture and economy higher for the world to see and celebrate.

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