The Business, Entrepreneurship & Tax Law Review


A geographical indication (GI) is a type of trademark that conveys the geographical origin and unique characteristics of a specialty product. Well-known examples of geographical indications include Champagne and Roquefort cheese. Numerous case studies from across the globe underscore the benefits that geographical indications can contribute to rural regions, such as increased job production, repopulation of rural areas, visibility, and renewed local pride. An international treaty called the Geneva Act grants intellectual property protection for geographical indications on a worldwide basis. Notably, the U.S. is not a party to this treaty and takes a hostile stance towards the use of geographical indications, especially when they are used to protect food names many Americans consider to be generic. This article disagrees with that policy position and argues that geographical indications should be leveraged in the U.S. to incentivize the creation of new and sustainable product markets and to revitalize economic development in rural areas, such as Appalachia. This article also discusses two novel ways to achieve this objective: (1) forming decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) to legally structure GI collectives; and (2) using blockchain tracing to maintain quality control of high-quality, GI-denominated products.

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