What is the Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication

  • Setindiabiz Team
  • June 21, 2024
What is the Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication
What is the Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication

Geographical Indications (GI) and Trademarks are both legally protected symbols that are unique identifiers of products. However, there are several differences between them especially in terms of their legal framework, origin, and above all, the nature of products they identify.

In this blog, we will discuss the key points of differences between Geographical Indications and Trademarks, along with their importance in their respective verticals. Trademarks and geographical indications are two different terms which you have already come across in the landscape of intellectual property.

Due to their core similar nature, they often create confusion among general public and therefore, it is important to be aware of the difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication, especially in terms of their applicability scope and objectives. While trademarks distinguish products with the help of specific symbols like names, logos, and labels, Geographical indications or GI Tags distinguish products as per their places of origin.

As far as objective is concerned, trademarks mainly focus on establishing brand identity and consumer loyalty, on the other hand geographical indications prioritize link between a product’s characteristics and its geographic origin.

The origin of misunderstanding is that both concepts involve identification of goods or services, but their underlying principles and legal frameworks differ significantly.

Let’s discuss the major points of difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication for a better understanding.

How are Trademarks and Geographical Indications Different in Meanings?

Trademarks and Geographical Indications are two different concepts that come under intellectual property rights. Though they have some similarities, mainly their association with product identification, they have different meanings and implications. Let’s take a closer look at these two terms of IPR!

What is Trademark?

A trademark is a distinctive or unique symbol, sign, mark, name, logo, or slogan that helps the general public or customers to identify and differentiate the goods or services of one business from the others in the same sector. In fact, it serves as a means of brand identification that allows customers to easily recognize qualities, reputation and source of origin of products/services offered by a brand. Trademark Registration helps in establishing consumer trust and loyalty towards a brand, with the core purpose to protect its reputation and goodwill in the markets. Trademarks protect registered symbols or names associated with any product/brand by providing exclusive rights of ownership and use to their registered proprietors.

The proprietors whose trademarks are registered can prevent others from using the same or a similar mark from the same category of products as it may cause confusion among consumers. It helps them build and maintain brand recognition, establish a distinct identity in the market, and safeguard the reputation and goodwill of their products/services and even brand.

In case of infringement of a registered trademark, the proprietor can take legal action against the individual, party or organization involved in the same. Trademark laws enforce their legal rights and seek legal remedies against misuse or unauthorized use of their registered trademarks.

Example of Trademarks

  • BMW: It is a trademark of a renowned German Automobile manufacturer, Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH that is famous for manufacturing a luxurious range of vehicles.
  • Coca-Cola: We all are familiar with this beverage name Coca-Cola, a trademark representing a famous beverage brand recognized worldwide for its carbonated soft drinks.
  • Nike: It is a trademark of a leading International sportswear and footwear company known for its athletic apparel and shoes.

What is Geographical Indication?

Geographical Indications (GIs) are signs or tags used to identify products that have originated from a specific geographical location or point and possess qualities or characteristics that are primarily linked to the same place. Unlike trademarks which focus on the brand value of a product, GIs focus on the link between their geographic origin and unique qualities of the products. GIs reflect the geographical heritage, traditional knowledge, and historical expertise linked with a specific 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 of their origin 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 given 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. Additionally, 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 that is well-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 & relieving aroma.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: Originating from the Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and parts of Bologna and Mantua regions in Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a top-notch, hard cheese with a granular texture and rich flavor.

Key Points of Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication

Knowing about key points of difference between trademark and geographical indication is necessary for exploring the world of intellectual property rights. These points of differences consist of various aspects, including the legal framework, protection scope, and protection objectives. Let’s take a closer look into the key differences, to understand how trademarks and geographical indications differ in terms of definitions, registration processes, ownership rights, applicable legislation, enforcement actions, and the overarching goals they serve.

Legal Framework

The legal framework is the core factor for understanding the differences between trademarks and geographical indications. It encompasses the definitions provided by the respective acts regulating these intellectual property rights. The Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, and the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, outlines the legal definitions and provisions for trademarks and geographical indications, respectively. Let’s understand how these two laws differ from each other.

  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 the 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 authorized 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. While, the Geographical indication rights are collective rights held by a community or association of producers from a specific 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 the situation of trademark infringement, the trademark owner has the right to take legal action and seek remedies such as temporary or permanent injunctions, damages, and the seizure of infringing goods. Legal proceedings can be taken into use 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 GIs may vary as per 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, which may 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 places/regions. The basic points of difference regarding their scope of protection.

  1. Subject Matter: Trademarks protect brands, logos, slogans, and other unique 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 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, main goal is to promote and protect products with unique qualities or characteristics of a specific place or location. Let’s see how the two are different in their objectives.

  1. Brand Differentiation: Trademarks mainly focus on distinguishing one entity’s goods or services from others, thus helping in establishing brand recognition and consumer loyalty. Geographical indication’s primary aim is to promote and protect products that encompass unique qualities or characteristics due to their specific geographic origin.
  2. Consumer Trust: Trademarks build consumer trust with a particular brand, demonstrating 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.

Under IPR, Trademarks and Geographical indications serve different purposes in protecting brands and promoting products linked to a specific region. Gaining insights into their differences on various aspects such as legal framework, protecting scope, and objectives is essential for businesses and consumers. The strategic use of these IPRs can be quite helpful in raising consumer awareness and establishing brand recognition in the market. IPR is refining the legal framework that will create a marketplace that respects brand identity, celebrates geographic specialty and thereby building customers' trust.



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

Yes, a product can have both a trademark and a geographical indication. The trademark will focus on brand identification, while the geographical indication highlights the specific place (origin) and associated qualities of the products.

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. He can seek remedies such as injunctions, damages, and even 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 (GI) can be used by any producer/manufacturer within a protected region as long as they fulfill the set criteria and also adhere to the specific qualities or characteristics linked with the geographic origin of the product.

3 thoughts on “What is the Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication”

  1. I really like how this blog breaks down trademarks and geographical indications with clear examples. It’s easy to understand.

  2. You did a great job explaining the differences between a geographical indicator and a trademark. I will definitely let my friends access such an informational blog.

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