Tools for the Protection of Biodiversity

Businessmen have recognized and adjusted to today’s attraction towards natural products, and in their eagerness to respond to consumers’ needs, have turned their eyes towards the biological diversity that exists in our country. They have found that the combination factors of distinction-origin-quality, followed by suitable marketing strategies, are key to capturing and assuring the preferences of consumers, both inside and outside our borders.

Nonetheless, protection is also required. If the name that identifies and characterizes a product from a specific zone could be used by any producer, even by those who cultivate the product in different areas, the geographic origin-quality association would tend to vanish and, in the end, the name would lose its prestige.

Therefore the need arises to assure that only products with corresponding special characteristics can publicize themselves as such. An interesting answer, that can also be economically profitable when properly handled, is the use of intellectual property, and particularly, two specific factors: identification of origin and collective brands.

Appellations of Origin

Unlike a mere indication of geographic origin, in the case of appellation of origin (AO) a narrow connection is verified between the product (plant, animal, and others) and the geographic place of production or extraction. This connection is given by the fact that product characteristics are essentially based on the place of production or extraction and, at the same time, the name of the corresponding geographic place is used to identify the product.

A recognized AO has exclusive rights in order to prevent that brand names are being used by products that do not have the characteristics that the AO identifies. Therefore the AO does not become a generic brand.

In Peru, the State is the holder of the national AO. Producers and associations of producers that wish to use the protected AO in the market will have to ask for the corresponding authorization from the Office of Distinctive Brands of Indecopi. While this may not be attractive for some producers, it offers the advantage of having the State as an ally in the promotion and positioning of the AO in domestic and international markets.

The second recognized Peruvian AO, "Cusco Giant White Corn", constitutes an example of how the AO factor can be used to protect products of our biological diversity. The participation of Cusco’s Producers’ Association played an important role in this recognition.

Collective Brand

On the other hand, the collective brand serves to distinguish the geographic origin, or other common product characteristics defined by members of an association, from products or services of third parties.

In this case, the holder of the registry is an association in charge of administering the brand and authorizing its use to the members of that association. Thus, through the collective brand, different people can independently use the same brand name that identifies them as members of a producers’ group. They let consumers know that products of a specific brand have similar characteristics, even though they come from different manufacturers, since all of them belong to the same association.

The adoption of a collective brand presents multiple advantages, including its contribution to hit the market under a common strategy, and cost sharing to achieve the brand’s positioning. Also, adopting a collective brand obliges the use of certain quality standards, which gives the product additional value and facilitates its acceptance in the market.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that using a collective brand does not prevent the use of individual brands, so that each association member can distinguish himself from other members.

The collective brand is an interesting alternative for those business or producers’ associations whose members, when considered individually, do not have the economic resources or the administrative infrastructure necessary to register its own brand.

This is what people of the Santo Toribio de Cumbe district understood when choosing to use the concept of the collective brand, and to register it in the name of the town for the purpose of guaranteeing that only people of their community could use the name CUMBE for their products. Another clear example is the Peruvian Pima brand, which is registered by the Peruvian Cotton Institute.

Both concepts – appellations of origin and collective brands – offer the possibility to successfully exploit and promote certain natural products as well as their derivatives. This is particularly attractive in a country rich in biological diversity such as Peru. The legal tools are available and waiting to be taken advantage of.

What is an appellation of origin?

Current legislation defines it this way: “It is a geographic indication constituted by the name of a country, region or a particular place, or constituted by a name that, without being a country, a region or a certain place, refers to a certain geographic zone, used to designate an original product of theirs and whose quality, reputation or other characteristics are due exclusively or essentially to the geographic area in which it is produced, including natural and human factors.” (Article 201 of Decision 486)

What is a collective brand?

Current legislation definition: “… all brand names that serve to distinguish the origin or any other common characteristic of products or services pertaining to different companies, and use it under the control of a title holder.” (Article 180 of Decision 486)