Jamaica's international renown for its reggae music, the legendary music icon Bob Marley, and track and field athletes is undeniable. So too is the fact that the island's brilliant sun, deep blue sea and white sand beaches continue to attract tourists from across the world to its shores.
Indeed, according to the Country Brand Index Jamaica ranks in the top seven brands for its beaches, sports and outdoor activities, and in the top three for rest and relaxation. But quite apart from Jamaica's obvious international visibility in music, tourism and sports, there are other areas in which Jamaica has received international acclaim – Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum (reportedly the leading imported rum in Canada and Mexico, it was awarded the Grand Gold Medal for 2007 by the Monde Selection International Institute for Quality Selections of Spirits and Liqueurs), Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee (one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world), and a host of spices and seasonings that add unique flavour to any cuisine. These indigenous items all represent valuable elements of Jamaica's nation brand, which Jamaicans have been seeking to leverage in the global market.
As the recognition by Jamaicans of the country's brand value increases, so too has the realization that much has been and continues to be lost to genericism, piracy and infringement. The proliferation of Jamaican-style food products of non-Jamaican origin in foreign markets has been a cause for great concern by local producers and exporters who have found cans of Jamaican Ginger Ale from New Mexico, All Natural Jamaican Jerk Sauce from Massachusetts and The Jamaican Choice Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce from Costa Rica in stores across North America.
Jamaican policy-makers in the post-TRIPs era have attempted to grapple with this issue by placing greater emphasis on the protection of geographical indications (GIs) in order to claw-back some indigenous Jamaican products and protect the Jamaica brand. Local producers, not confident that GI protection alone will solve all their issues, are beginning to strategically use the trade mark system more intensively in an attempt to recover ground lost to impostors. As a consequence the IP rights of authentic Jamaican products are being consolidated to increase their visibility and legal protection globally.
The newly concluded EU-Cariforum Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – an Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Community, its member states and Cariforum, concluded on December 16 2007 – with its TRIPs-plus provisions on GIs offers a beacon of hope for multilateral protection of Jamaican products. However, with the slate of increased intellectual...