Exploring the economic rationale for protecting geographical indicators in agriculture

15 Jun 2007

The misappropriation of the names of geographical regions such as Parma, Roquefort and Champagne is protected in the European Union by a system of Geographical Indications, and is acknowledged by the World Trade Organization as an important intellectual property right. This article addresses whether there is a case for similar protection in South Africa. The article explores the economic rationale for implementing a system of geographical indications by addressing issues such as information asymmetry and the role of reputation; formation of niche markets; monopoly formation; value added and rural development. Economic arguments present a strong justification for the introduction of geographical indications in South Africa. At the same time it will afford greater protection to indigenous resources and geographical names which could, through the collective and inclusive nature of the system, directly contribute to rural development.