Geographical indication of origin, this very peculiar form of industrial property protection, has undergone a revival phase over the past few years, becoming omnipresent not only within natural circles of interest, but also amongst the Serbian public at large.
Although at the moment there have been only a few dozen geographical indications of origin registered with the Serbian Intellectual Property office, for a country of a little over seven million, spread over 80,000 square kilometers of land, these numbers are remarkable – and something to be proud of. Through the goods and services they represent, they paint a picture of a different Serbia.
Generally used for the marking of natural, artisanal, or industrially produced food, goods, and produce, this legal term has come to reflect something much greater; the traditional and folkloric expressions of a country, its socio-cultural identity, and its historical heritage. Through dozens of well-curated picks of what each autochthone region has to offer as its best, once stemming from the ancient past only to be passed down to its modern day successors, these traditional expressions nowadays include textiles, knits, cheeses, wines, and even health services.
The surge in interest surrounding geographical indications of origin is now largely due to a country’s policy of promoting and subsidizing small and medium sized enterprises which focus on craftsmanship, artisanal work, and localized types of services which, in a way, help revive and ultimately preserve some of the traditional craft.
Geographical indications, similarly to trademarks, transmit certain messages aimed at informing a potential consumer on the origins of a given product and the specific properties found only in that unique place of origin. They are therefore very useful tools when it comes to highlighting those specific or unique properties of each and every product or service offered under its umbrella. This can, for instance, be reflected through a particular climate, manufacturing, or a traditional approach to creating a product, all depending on the given region.
Thus, as the concept impacts the perception of both domestic and international consumers and promotes the country at large, the protection of geographical indications of origin has proven to be a large success. In Serbia, Valjevski Duvan Cvarci, Pirot Kilims, Sirogojno Knits, and Bermet sweet dessert wine, to name just a few, have come to serve as excellent examples of products which, due to their (i) defined geographical area, (ii) specific, territorially defined manufacturing methods, and (iii) localized product quality, have become recognized tools of promotion both within the country and beyond its borders.
By solidifying its bases through a plethora of now internationally recognized goods, Serbia has very recently gone a step further by registering its very first geographical indication for services offered in Zlatibor, a mountainous region in western Serbia known for its Golden Pine trees.
Stepping out from theory into practice, Serbia has become the very first country to actually register a service – the provision of health-tourism services provided exclusively in the Zlatibor region, and more particularly on the territory of the municipality of Cajetina – under the category of geographical indication of origin, thus far only foreseen on paper by local legislation. Registered under the indication Cigota, a mountain pass in Zlatibor, this specific service epitomizes a well-balanced mixture of natural and human factors such as, on the one hand, clean air with low humidity, specific light ion concentrations, an absence of allergens, and high pH levels in water, and on the other, a highly skilled medical and diagnostics staff.
Cigota is indeed that perfect example that allows us to shift our perception when it comes to geographical indications of origin, as it tears down the barriers of the traditional use of this legal tool and allows us to consider new possibilities stemming from more innovative concepts.
By Tamara Bubalo, Associate, and Dragomir Kojic, Partner and Attorney at Law in cooperation with Karanovic & Nikolic
This Article was originally published in Issue 5.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.