Harnessing Geographical Indications for national growth

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, in cooperation with the concerned authorities, wants to discuss intellectual property policies for the protection of Geographical Indications (GI), traditional knowledge, protection of marine and animal products and everything which helps in advancing the national economy. Part of the goal is to increase social awareness about the importance of GI as well as need to register them under names which suit their characteristics, whether they are natural or industrial, national or international registration, as stipulated in the concluded international agreements.
Fatima bint Khalfan al Balushi (pictured), a biotechnology patent specialist at the Intellectual Property Department of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion said: “The term geographical data is the one which is included in the patent law as a geographical indication of a commodity which originated in a geographical area and had quality, features and identity of that region through its connection and attachment to that region. This is why it attributed to that place in which it grew naturally or was produced.
Fatimah al Balushi added: The Omani Industrial Property Law 67/2008 gives legal rights to the applicant for protection of the geographical indication. Article 48 of the Industrial Property Rights Law on Geographical Indications stipulates the protection of products as a geographical indication according to the definition contained in the article, whether it is natural, agricultural, or any handicraft or industrial craft product.
Article 48 allows producers, who were engaged in activities in a geographical area with a geographical indication, to prevent others from using and producing those goods which have a geographical indication. The right granted by geographical indications is limited only to preventing competitors outside the geographical area from using of the products such as for manufacturing or as a trade name symbolising the product which has obtained protection. It does not need any renewal other than patents and trademarks which require renewal according to the specified period for each of them.
The Ministry is holding discussions with the concerned authorities to protect products which deserve protection as geographical indications for fear of being attributed to other countries or manufactured by hands other than the hands of their real owners who are distinguished by skill and experience in manufacturing, which may result in misleading the consumer thus loses its identity. She said that the consumer looked for the quality of products which reflect their original environment from where they came, whether they are foodstuffs whose owners are same since long and are still with the same features and quality or handicrafts preserved by the hands of the ancestors from extinction and globalisation or natural products of a particular climate and soil of the land on which it grew, so it took on the characteristics of the land and the climate.
She also emphasised that there are protected products and unprotected in the Sultanate of Oman needed to be designated as per origin such as Omani frankincense, Omani mountain thyme plant with different characteristics, lemon which is famous for its cultivation in some Wilayats in the governorates of the Sultanate due to the quality of its climate suitable for these trees and also for trees of different taste, shape and size such as pomegranates of Al Jabal Al Akhdhar in addition to Al Safailah which is considered one of the animal wealth for which Omani seas are known and is different from anywhere in the world.
The forefathers excelled in weaving the Saidi turban, of which Omani origins have not been reduced since ancient times, and which acquired the heritage character of sobriety and spinning in a way which makes it distinct. Then there is the Omani dishdasha, Omani sweets, mixtures and the method of making Omani barbecue and other artisanal and traditional products.