What is a Geographical Indication?
A GI identifies goods originating from a particular region, territory or locality where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Famous GIs include Tequila and Champagne. An example of a Samoan GI is the SROS’ Pure Samoa Virgin Avocado Oil where its origin, quality and characteristics are attributable to its geographical origin in Samoa. Unfortunately, the SROS’ Pure Samoa Virgin Avocado Oil has not been registered as a GI and is therefore not legally protected as a geographical indication for Samoa.
GIs are part of the new intellectual properties that gained protection in Samoa under the Intellectual Property Act 2011 (‘the Act’), effective from 1st October 2012. The Act provides an option for registration of GIs with MCIL, which will assist in proving the existence of a GI and control its use. Once registered, only producers making products in a certain area will be able to use the registered GI on their products. e.g. if Fagaloa Kava was registered as a GI, only kava made in Fagaloa would be able to be labelled as such.
A ‘product’ for the purposes of geographical indications is any natural or agricultural product or any product of handicraft or industry. A geographical indication can be registered or unregistered.
Who has the Right to Registration?
An application for the registration of a GI may be made by or on behalf of any of the following people:
- A producer or group of producers from the geographical area specified in the application (e.g. Savai’i coconut growers)
- A business person who uses or consumes the product to which the GI in the application is applied (e.g. processing company that makes Savai’i coconuts into coconut cream)
- An organisation established to represent or further the interests of the producers or the persons referred to above (e.g. Savai’i Coconut Growers Cooperative; Savai’i Coconut Cream Producers Association)
- Foreign geographical indications can also be registered
What Protection is Granted?
Registration does not provide any exclusive protection for the registered owner – producers in that area still have the right to use the GI for their products, as long as their product also has the quality, reputation or other characteristic of the registered GI.
What are the Benefits of Registration?
If a GI is registered, the owner does not need to prove that:
- The statement is a GI as defined in the Act.
- The product has a quality, reputation or other characteristic that can be attributed to its geographical origin. This simplifies the process of defending a GI because the owner does not have to prove a causal link between the geographical area and the quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product, which can be difficult to do.
Prohibition Against Use of Misleading GIs
The Act prohibits the use of misleading GIs. It is not permitted to use a GI that suggests that a product originates from an area where it does not come from, or that misleads the public as to its origin.
In accordance with section 84(2) of the Act, “no person shall sell any product; or import any product for sale in Samoa; or export any product for sale outside Samoa; or manufacture any product for sale, if a misleading geographical indication is applied to the product”. Any person who contravenes this provision is considered to commit an offence.
For the purpose of determining whether a GI suggests that a product originates in a particular area or misleads the public as to the area of origin of a product, regard must be given to the general understanding of consumers or users of the product concerned if it has been, is being or is intended to be sold.
How do you Apply for a Geographical Indication (GI)
An application for the registration of a GI must be filed to the Registrar, accompanied by the prescribed fee and an authorisation of the agent representing the applicant (where relevant).
The application for registration of a GI must specify the following:
- The applicant’s name, address and nationality; the capacity in which the applicant is applying for registration and the details of any agents used by the applicant for this purpose;
- the GI for which registration is sought;
- the geographical area to which the GI applies;
- the products to which the GI applies;
- the quality, reputation or other characteristic of the products which is attributable to its geographical origin; and
- such other particulars and information that the Registrar may require to be provided.
Fees and Forms
Please note that relevant fees for GIs are yet to be approved. The relevant forms will be uploaded to this page once they are finalized.
If you require further information on Geographical Indications, please contact the IP Registry at the Registries of Companies and Intellectual Property Division.