The Economics of Geographical Indications: Making Culture Tangible

Author: Nicola Searle (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Governments and producers promote Geographical Indications (GI) as a policy measure to provide protection from imitations and bolster rural development. However, the emotive and anecdotal evidence to support these arguments is poorly evidenced. This paper seeks to rebalance these arguments and explore the negative and positive externalities GIs create. It does so in two parts: a critical examination of the economic arguments and literature, and a case study of the Persian carpet industry. Based on semi-structured interviews conducted in Iran, the case study presents an analysis of the use of intellectual property in a non-agricultural GI (NAGI) setting. In an era where IP is constructed as an incentive to innovate, and when the EU may expand NAGI, this paper questions the fundamental economic proposition of GIs.

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