CETA and the Future of Geographical Indications Protection in Canada

CIGI Paper No. 131

May 25, 2017

In recent years, preferential trade agreements have had a major impact on the direction of rules in the domestic intellectual property (IP) landscape. Contestation over the legal recognition of geographical indications (GIs) has been at the centre of discussion among global IP players in the past few years. A GI is a sign that indicates a product is from a specific geographic area, which may be a country, a region or a locality, and that the product has distinct qualities, a reputation or characteristics that are directly traceable to its geographic origin. This paper provides a brief history of the international legal recognition of GIs, discusses the rationale for the protection of GIs and critically analyzes the treatment of GIs in two significant preferential trade agreements involving Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the now-halted Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which may constitute the foundations of a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement. The paper argues that although GIs are soon to be protected in Canada under proposed amendments to the Trade-marks Act (Bill C-30), there are still gaps in the legislation that may affect the ability of foreign and domestic GI rights holders to register their products. The proposed changes to the Trade-marks Act will enact CETA’s provisions on GIs and trademarks into domestic law. However, much of the agreement favours European-based GIs and provides fewer benefits for domestic rights holders.

About the Authors

Bassem Awad is a senior fellow and was previously the deputy director of International Intellectual Property Law and Innovation at CIGI.

Marsha Simone Cadogan is a CIGI senior fellow specializing in intellectual property, trade and technology law.