Trademarks and Geographical Indications Contrasted

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The main difference between a trademark and a geographical indication is that, while the former is a sign that a business concern (whether physical or moral person) uses to distinguish its own goods or services from those of competitors, the latter is an indicator that certain products have a regional origin which is certain. All the producers in that region are allowed to use the geographical indication. For instance, “Mountain” can be used by all honey farmers in the Cameroon Mountain area but if any of the producers has registered the trademark “XTRA” for its honey, only that producer can call its produce “XTRA” Mountain Honey.

Secondly, while only one undertaking can use a trademark registered in its name and address, every undertaking in the same region are allowed to use the same geographical indication.

Thirdly, while a trademark can be a letter, a word, numerals or simply a number, or a combination of letter(s) and numbers, an abbreviation, a name, a device or figurative element, a hologram, a sound or a smell, a geographical indication can only be a politico-geographical name (a place).

Fourthly, while a trademark can claim its colour features, a geographical indication would not claim any such thing.

Fifthly and finally, while a deceptive geographical indication can be incorporated in a trademark and render the trademark deceptive, the reverse is not practical in that a deceptive trademark cannot implicate a geographical indication in the same way if the geographical indication is not in itself deceptive.