Garfene Grandison, Gleaner Writer
THE MINISTRY of Agriculture, in collaboration with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), is taking steps to protect brand Jamaica in the areas of rum and spirits, coffee, and jerk products.
This is to be done through geographical indication (GI) registration. A GI is a name, or sign, used on certain products, which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin. The use of a GI may act as certification that the product possesses certain qualities and is made according to traditional methods, or boasts a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.
"We have had some support from the government of the Netherlands and we are now registering jerk, coffee, and our rum," Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, said during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the company's North Street offices last Thursday.
He added: "We have to do it in as many countries as possible. It's hard to enforce, but we just have to make an example out of a few people, and then the rest will learn, but we are on the right track," he stated.
Within the Jamaican context, this designation will protect the integrity of Jamaican rums, coffee, and jerk products in an effort to discourage piracy and product counterfeiting, and in general, enhance the competitiveness of the product.
Restaurateur Jacqui Tyson recounted an experience abroad where she noticed products were labelled brand Jamaica, but were not authentically Jamaican. "What we need to do is to own our brand. Every fancy restaurant across the world has jerk on the menu, but what the ministry needs to do is to point out what is authentic jerk," she said.
Measures put in place
According to Joan Webley, manager of copyrights and related rights at JIPO, there are measures that are being put in place to protect brand Jamaica.
"Although brand Jamaica isn't covered by JIPO, we offer trademark registration services. We now offer local registration, and when Jamaica becomes a signatory to the Madrid Protocol, then we can protect our brand in different countries around the world. Right now, it can be done for Jamaica and not internationally, but we are hoping that by year end, it will be signed," Webley said.
She added: "Another way that JIPO is trying to protect brand Jamaica is through the geographical indication registration, which gives protection to food and products that are derived from Jamaica."
She used France and Mexico as examples as to what the GI would achieve. "France was able to get that geographical indication on champagne so that the only thing that can be called champagne has to come from France. They also did the same with cognac, and Mexico the same with tequila," she stated.
Webley said the process of getting the GI is not very easy.
"We have started working with the Jamaica Jerk Association and the coffee manufacturers, as well as with the Jamaica Rums and Spirits, but we have reached the furthest with the Jamaica Jerk Association."
"It is the association that needs to decide on what needs to be adhered to for the product to be deemed acceptable. It is up to them to set the standards so that the geographical indicator can be passed," she said.