This article was written by Dragomir Kojić, Partner ⃰, and Tamara Bubalo, Associate ⃰, and was originally published in Issue 5.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. To see the original article, please follow this link.
Geographical indication of origin, this very peculiar form of industrial property protection, has undergone a revival phase over the past few years, thus becoming more omnipresent not only within the circles of interest, but also amongst the Serbian public at large. Although, up to this day, there are only a few dozen geographical indications of origin registered before the Serbian Intellectual Property office, for a country of little over 7 million spread over 80.000 square kilometers of land, these numbers are remarkable and represent something to be proud of. Through goods and services offered thereunder, they are painting a picture of a different Serbia.
Generally used for the marking of natural, artisanal or industrially produced food, goods and produce, this legally coined term has come to reflect something much greater; the traditional and folkloric expressions of this country, its socio-cultural identity and its historical heritage. Through dozens of well curated picks of what each autochthone region has to offer as its best, once stemming from the ancient past only to be passed down to its modern day successors, these traditional expressions nowadays include, textiles, knits, cheeses, wines, and even health services.
The surge in interest surrounding geographical indications of origin is nowadays largely due to the country's policy of promoting and subsidizing small and medium sized enterprises which focus on craftsmanship, artisanal work and localized types of services which, in a way, help revive and ultimately preserve some of the traditional craft.
Geographical indications, similarly to trademarks, transmit certain messages, aiming at informing a potential consumer on the origins of a given product, and its specific properties only to be found in that unique place of origin. They are therefore very useful tools when it comes to highlighting those specific or unique properties of each and every product or service offered under its umbrella. This can for instance be reflected through a particular climate, manufacturing or a traditional approach to creating a product, all depending on the given region.
Thus impacting the perception of both domestic and international consumers and promoting the country at large has proven to be a large success. Valjevski Duvan Čvarci, Pirot Kilims, Sirogojno Knits, and Bermet sweet desert Wine, just to name a few, come to serve as excellent examples of products which, due to their (i) defined geographical area, (ii) specific, territorially defined manufacturing methods, and (iii) localized product quality, have become recognized tools of promotion not only in Serbia but also beyond its borders.
By solidifying its bases through a plethora of now internationally recognized goods, Serbia has very recently even gone a step further by registering its very first geographical indication for services offered in Zlatibor, a mountainous region in western Serbia known for its „Golden Pines".
Stepping out from theory into practice, Serbia has become the very first country to actually register a service under the category of geographical indication of origin, thus far only foreseen on paper by the local legislation.
The geographical indication of origin in question refers to the provision of health-tourism services provided exclusively in the Zlatibor region, and more particularly on the territory of the municipality of Čajetina. Registered under the indication Čigota, a mountain pass in Zlatibor, this specific service epitomizes a well-balanced mixture of natural and human factors such as, on the one hand, clean air with low humidity, specific light ion concentrations, an absence of allergens, and high pH levels in water, and on the other, a highly skilled medical and diagnostics staff.
Čigota is indeed that perfect example that allows us to shift our perception when it comes to geographical indications of origin, as it tears down the barriers of the traditional use of this legal tool and allows us to open up towards new possibilities stemming from more innovative concepts.
⃰ Independent attorneys at law in cooperation with Karanović & Nikolić.