What is the Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication

  • Setindiabiz Team
  • July 19, 2023
What is the Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication
Geographical Indications and Trademarks are both legally protected symbols used to uniquely identify products. However, the two are vastly different in terms of their legal framework, origin, and most importantly the nature of products they identify. Here, in this blog, we will explore the key points of differences between Geographical Indications and Trademarks, and discuss their importance in their respective domains of use.
Trademarks and geographical indications are two terms frequently encountered in the realm of intellectual property, and their similarity in usage can often lead to confusion among the general public. So, it is crucial to recognize the difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication, especially in terms of their scope of use and objectives. While trademarks distinguish products using specific symbols like names, logos, and labels, geographical indications or GI Tags distinguish products based on their places of origin.
Coming to their objectives, trademarks primarily focus on establishing brand identity and consumer loyalty, whereas geographical indications emphasize the link between a product’s characteristics and its geographic origin. The potential for misunderstanding arises from the fact that both concepts involve the identification of goods or services, but their underlying principles and legal frameworks differ significantly. Let’s explore the major points of difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication for a clearer understanding.

How are Trademarks and Geographical Indications Different in Meanings?

Trademarks and Geographical Indications are two distinct concepts within the realm of intellectual property rights. While they share certain similarities, such as their association with product identification, they have different meanings and implications. Let’s understand what each of the two terms mean one by one.

What is Trademark?

A trademark is a distinctive symbol, name, logo, or phrase used to identify and differentiate the goods or services of one business from those of others. It serves as a means of brand identification, enabling consumers to associate specific qualities, reputation, and source of origin with the products or services of a brand. A trademark is crucial for establishing consumer trust and loyalty towards a brand, with the primary purpose of protecting its reputation and goodwill in the markets.
Trademarks protect their associated products by providing exclusive rights of ownership and use to their registered proprietors. Registered proprietors can prevent others from using a similar mark for the same category of products, as it may lead to confusion among consumers. This enables them to build and maintain brand recognition, establish a distinct identity in the marketplace, and protect the reputation and goodwill of their products or services. Infringement of a registered trademark can lead to legal action, allowing the trademark owner to enforce their rights and seek legal remedies against unauthorized use.
Example of Trademarks:
  • BMW: BMW is a trademark associated with a renowned German automobile manufacturer known for producing luxury vehicles.
  • Coca-Cola: Coca-Cola is a trademark representing a famous beverage brand recognized worldwide for its carbonated soft drinks.
  • Nike: Nike is a trademark associated with a prominent sportswear and footwear company known for its athletic apparel and shoes.

What is Geographical Indication?

On the other hand, geographical indications (GIs) are signs or tags used to identify products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that origin. Unlike trademarks which focus on the brand value of a product, GIs focus on the link between their geographic origin and unique qualities. GIs reflect the geographical heritage, traditional knowledge, and historical expertise associated with a particular product, in order to promote its acquired distinctiveness and reputation from its origin. A wide range of goods, including agricultural, natural, or manufactured products which often carry cultural and traditional significance can be registered for Geographical Indications in India.
Geographical indications protect their associated products by safeguarding the reputation, qualities, and characteristics that are intrinsically linked to a specific geographical origin. The protection granted by a Geographical Indication prevents unauthorized use of the GI Tag on products that do not originate from the designated region. This ensures that consumers can trust the authenticity and unique qualities associated with the products of particular geographic locations. Moreover, producers within the protected region can collectively use the geographical indication to promote and differentiate their products in the market, providing them with a competitive advantage among competitors.
Examples of Geographical Indications:
  • Champagne: Originating from the Champagne region in France, Champagne is a sparkling wine known for its specific production methods and characteristics.
  • Darjeeling Tea: Hailing from the Darjeeling district in India, Darjeeling Tea is a unique black tea renowned for its delicate flavor and distinct aroma.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: Originating from the Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and parts of Bologna and Mantua regions in Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a high-quality, hard cheese with a granular texture and rich flavor.

Key Points of Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication

Understanding the key points of difference between trademark and geographical indication is essential for navigating the world of intellectual property rights. These distinctions encompass various aspects, including the legal framework, protection scope, and protection objectives. Let’s delve a little deeper into these differences, to gain a comprehensive understanding of how trademarks and geographical indications differ in terms of their definitions, registration processes, ownership rights, applicable legislation, enforcement actions, and the overarching goals they serve.

Legal Framework

The legal framework sets the foundation for understanding the differences between trademarks and geographical indications. It encompasses the definitions provided by the respective acts governing these intellectual property rights. The Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, and the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, outline the legal definitions and provisions for trademarks and geographical indications, respectively. Let’s see how these two laws differentiate between trademarks and Geographical Indications.
  1. Definition: According to Section 2(i)(zb) of the Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, a trademark is defined as “a mark capable of being represented graphically and capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others.” It includes various elements such as words, logos, devices, symbols, names, signatures, colors, combinations of colors, and even sounds or smells that can be graphically represented. As per Section 2(1)(e) of the Geographical Indication Act, 1999, a geographical indication is defined as “an indication that identifies goods as originating, or manufactured, in the territory of a country, or a region or locality within that territory, where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.”
  2. Registration Process: Trademarks can be registered by individuals or companies through the respective trademark offices in a country. Geographical indications are registered collectively by a group or association of producers from a specific geographic region.
  3. Ownership Rights: Trademark rights are individually held by the owner of the mark who exercises exclusive control over its use in relation to specific goods or services. Geographical indication rights are collective rights held by a community or association of producers from a designated region.
  4. Applicable Legislation: Trademarks are governed by trademark laws, such as the Indian Trademarks Act, 1999. Geographical indications are regulated by specific laws, such as the Geographical Indication Act, 1999.
  5. Enforcement Actions: In case of trademark infringement, the trademark owner can take legal action and seek remedies such as temporary or permanent injunctions, damages, and the seizure of infringing goods. Legal proceedings can be initiated to enforce trademark rights and protect against unauthorized use. Infringement of geographical indications can result in legal action as well, including temporary and permanent injunctions to prevent unauthorized use. However, the enforcement actions for geographical indications may vary based on the specific laws and regulations governing them, and the remedies sought may differ from those in trademark infringement cases.

Protection Scope

The protection scope of trademarks and geographical indications in IPR highlights the specific subject matter and associations covered by these intellectual property rights. Trademarks focus on protecting distinctive signs associated with goods or services, including brand names, logos, slogans, and other identifiable elements. Geographical indications, on the other hand, safeguard products originating from specific geographic regions, emphasizing the qualities, reputation, or characteristics associated with those regions. Here are the basic points of difference regarding their scope of protection.
  1. Subject Matter: Trademarks protect brands, logos, slogans, and other distinctive signs associated with goods or services. Geographical indications protect products originating from a specific geographic region, where specific qualities, reputation, or characteristics are attributed to that origin.
  2. Geographical Association: Trademarks are not inherently linked to a specific geographic region. However, they might be deliberately linked to certain regions just to enhance brand value and recognition. Geographical indications are intrinsically tied to a particular geographic origin.
  3. Usage Rights: Trademark rights allow exclusive use of the mark by the owner, preventing others from using similar marks that may cause confusion. Geographical indications can be used by any producer or manufacturer within the protected geographic region, as long as they meet the defined criteria.

Protection Objective

The protection objective of trademarks and geographical indications reflects their distinct purposes and goals. Trademarks aim to differentiate one entity’s goods or services from others, establishing brand recognition, and fostering consumer loyalty. Geographical indications, however, focus on promoting and protecting products with unique qualities or characteristics attributed to their specific geographic origin. Let’s see how the two are different in their objectives.
  1. Brand Differentiation: Trademarks primarily focus on distinguishing one entity’s goods or services from others, establishing brand recognition and consumer loyalty. Geographical indications aim to promote and protect products that possess unique qualities or characteristics due to their specific geographic origin.
  2. Consumer Trust: Trademarks build consumer trust with a particular brand, signaling consistent quality and source identification. Geographical indications create a connection between the product’s qualities and the reputation of the geographic region, ensuring consumers trust the origin-based attributes of the products.

Trademarks and geographical indications in IPR serve distinct purposes in protecting brands and promoting region-specific products. Understanding their differences in legal framework, protection scope, and objectives is essential for businesses and consumers. Moving forward, strategic utilization of these intellectual property rights, raising consumer awareness, and refining the legal framework will foster a marketplace that respects brand identity, celebrates geographic diversity, and builds consumer trust.



Q1: Can a trademark and a geographical indication coexist for the same product?

Yes, it is possible for a product to have both a trademark and a geographical indication. The trademark would focus on brand identification, while the geographical indication would highlight the specific geographic origin and associated qualities of the product.

Q2: Can individuals register geographical indications in IPR?

No, geographical indications in IPR are registered collectively by a group or association of producers from a specific geographic region. It represents the shared heritage and unique attributes of products originating from that region.

Q3: What happens if someone infringes a trademark or geographical indication?

In the case of trademark infringement, the trademark owner can take legal action to protect their rights, seeking remedies such as injunctions, damages, and the seizure of infringing goods. Similarly, infringement of a geographical indication can result in legal action, including injunctions to prevent unauthorized use and other remedies as per applicable laws.

Q4: How long does trademark protection last?

Trademark protection can last indefinitely, as long as the mark is actively used, renewed, and does not become generic. In India, trademarks can be renewed periodically, typically every 10 years, to maintain their protection.

Q5: Can a geographical indication be used by anyone within the designated region?

Yes, a geographical indication can be used by any producer or manufacturer within the protected geographic region, as long as they meet the defined criteria and adhere to the specific qualities or characteristics associated with the geographic origin of the product.

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