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Piracy of brand Jamaica hurting exporters

Published:Wednesday | June 24, 2015 | 1:53 PMChristopher Serju

Piracy of the Jamaican brand continues to hit exporters hard in the pocket as overseas manufacturers trick consumers into paying higher prices for products based on the distinct flavour of crops such as Blue Mountain Coffee, ginger which is rated for its potency, and scotch bonnet pepper with its taste profile.

"We are competing against Jamaican-style sauce made in Poland, Jamaican-style hot pepper sauce coming out of Sweden... . These products that we are competing against are not being regulated as how we are, and they are showing up in practically every country," Michael Ming of the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) disclosed last week during a workshop hosted by the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture, for exporters of fresh and processed foods to the United States of America.

"I consider any product that is labelled Jamaican-style that does not originate in Jamaican as a threat, and we in Jamaica do not really understand the significance of our name and our products, and persons are trying to capitalise on that in every way that they can," the businessman continued. "Crying won't help. What we have got to do is ensure that we improve our quality and increase our production to compete with these because, fortunately for us, they have just not been able to capture the taste and compete with us quality-wise."

Meanwhile, Marjorie Kennedy, president of the JEA, confirmed that the piracy of the Jamaican brand continues to be a big problem.

Reputation is everything

"When you have a (good) name and a product or a service that uses your name and it is not what people expect, (but) rather, is below par, then your name gets sullied and you end up with a bad reputation. Jamaica's name is well respected and so we have to be very careful."

Kennedy disclosed that during a visit to Geneva, Switzerland, last year, the Jamaican delegation came up on a product from South Africa which was claiming to be Jamaican. While not being able to put a dollar figure on the value of counterfeit Jamaican products sold across the world, the JEA insisted it was very significant sum.

She said the problem was widespread but the Jamaican Intellectual Property Office was working to close the various loopholes, many of which are expected to be addressed when Jamaica becomes a signatory to the Madrid Protocol.

The protocol relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Protocol) is an international treaty that allows a trademark owner to seek registration in any of the countries that have joined the Madrid Protocol, by filing a single application, called an "international registration".