Geographical Indications, Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge: Obligations and Opportunities for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

law articles for llm phd students

This article examines the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s legal obligations in one area of intel-lectual property law, namely, geographical indications (GI). It considers the opportunities for improving the existing legal framework from both a domestic and an international perspective. After an introduction, Section 2 presents a survey of the existing domestic and international laws pertaining to the protection of GIs. Section 3 outlines the relationship between GIs, biodiversity and traditional knowledge. Section 4 summarizes some of the latest developments and points of debate regarding increased protection of GIs. Finally, Section 5 puts forward several recommendations for improving the protection of GIs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The last of those listed, i.e., trademark law, protects the goodwill in marketing information such as logos, names, letters, symbols, emblems, colours, and any combination of those things. Trademarks are well known amongst the public: they serve to distinguish the products of one company from those of another. When a consumer sees the word, image and colours associated with, say, ‘Coca-Cola’, they expect to imbibe a particular prod- uct from a particular company with a particular flavour. e symbols of the Coca-Cola Company have created in the minds of consumers an expectation of a certain quality of product. For that reason, no other com- pany is allowed to use Coca-Cola’s words, symbols, devices and slogans. ere is a need to both protect the consumer (to make sure that they receive what they think they are purchasing and not a sub-standard imita- tion) and also to protect the brand (against cheap imitations which might not be as good as the original and which might ultimately lead the public to think less of the brand—and perhaps buy less of it).

Thus, when consumers buy a product with a familiar trademark, those consumers can be assured of the true commercial origin (and, therefore, the quality) of the product. Yet trademarks can be used to identify not just a company of origin but also a geographical region of origin. For example, if a consumer purchases ‘Gorgonzola cheese’, ‘Champagne’, ‘Bordeaux wine’, a ‘Mowbray pie’ or ‘Demerara sugar’, the consumer assumes that the product originates from the specific region which is associated with the name of the product.4 When a product name has a geographical aspect to it, it is known as a ‘geographical indication’ (GI). According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a ‘geographical indication’ is a sign used on goods that have a specific origin and possess qualities, repu- tation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin.

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