The European Union is proposing that the additional protection for geographical indications afforded to wine and spirits in section 23.1 of the TRIPS agreement be extended to include geographical indications of other agricultural products. Those opposing increased protection for geographical indications represent those countries which do not have a strong history of traditional food products and are generally considered new world countries. South Africa, as part of the new world, has as of yet failed to take a position on the matter. In light of this debate, this study sets out to investigate the relevance of geographical indications in a South African context in order to make recommendations for South Africa’s position in the debate at multi-lateral level. The topic is approached by first contextualizing the subject matter where after the economic rationale for the protection thereof is explored. A comprehensive literature study identifies the factors which contribute to a product’s potential to benefit from geographical indication protection. Based on these factors, three South African products, Rooibos, Klein Karoo ostrich and Honeybush, are analyzed and an ex ante judgment made as to their potential to benefit from geographical indication protection. It is hypothesized that geographical indications are indeed relevant in a South African context given that there are many South African products which are considered to be highly localized with a strong association between the region and the product. The Rooibos scenario is used to illustrate the need for timely protection of our national assets and sets the tone for the discussion of the two further case studies. It is found that despite widespread reputation, Klein Karoo ostrich may not ideally benefit from geographical indication protection given its lack of specificity. In contrast, it is found that Honeybush tea is a highly localised product with strong specificity and therefore stands to benefit from geographical indication protection. The study concludes that there are indeed South African products which could potentially benefit from geographical indication protection. Based on this, recommendations are made for South Africa’s position in the debate at multi-lateral level. It is recommended that the South African government take note of the potential of geographical indications to foster rural development and the need to protect our national assets from foreign appropriation. It is further recommended that this be done by firstly coming out in support of the European proposal for a mandatory system of registration for all products bearing a geographical indication and secondly, by providing for the development of an institutional framework within which to protect geographical indications domestically.
Dissertation (M.COM (Economic Sciences))--University of Pretoria, 2007.