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Jamaica Jerk Producers seeks GI protection

03 August 2014

According to Jamaican press reports, “a collection of sauce makers, Jamaica Jerk Producers Association Limited (JJPA), has applied for registration of the ‘Jamaica Jerk’ as a geographical indication mark.”

Well known to the many tourists to the island, Jamaican jerk is “a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice… Jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items: allspice (called "pimento" in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet peppers. Other ingredients include cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, and salt.”

The move to register Jamaica Jerk as a GI forms part of wider efforts to reposition Jamaican products and services in order to “generate significant revenue earnings through the implementation of an intellectual property Geographical Indications (GI) framework”, according to a government information service report. While the policy framework has been under formation since 2008, the JJPA application of May 2014 is the first actual application for GI protection in Jamaica (see Agritrade article ‘ Focus on greater use of GIs in Caribbean’, 11 October 2013). The expectation is that the GI will be registered by 2015. At present, “jerk products made locally for the retail shelf include glazes, sauces, marinades and seasonings,” which are used in a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes.

According to a government statement, GI protection provides:

  • “exclusive right to use the products in the course of trade”;
  • “better legal protection for the registered products”; and
  • contributes to local employment creation and rural development.

A Jamaican Jerk Code of Practice has been drawn up, and any member of the JJPA can use the GI designation ‘Jamaica Jerk’, provided they comply with the provisions of the Code of Practice.

Don Wehby, CEO of GraceKennedy Ltd (GK), a manufacturer of jerk products, hopes that GI registration will provide “a bigger bang for the buck through collective marketing, [intellectual property] protection for authentic Jamaican jerk products, and the opportunity to develop a niche market for such products”. Mr Wehby thinks that members of the JJPA are likely to see an increase in their revenues, as “owners of non-genuine Jamaican jerk products will have to remove their products from markets where the GI for Jamaica Jerk is registered.” This is seen as offering particular opportunities for revenue enhancement in overseas markets. The Jamaica Jerk GI is to be registered in the EU and will be automatically recognised and protected in Switzerland. However, once a GI is registered, it still remains for the applicant association to “police the mark, and enforce their rights against illicit users”.

Other products on which the costs and benefits of GI protection are being explored include Blue Mountain Coffee, and Jamaica Rum. To date, Blue Mountain Coffee has largely been protected through trademark registration and brand promotion. 

Editorial comment

The issue of cost–benefit is important in determining whether to seek GI registration. Applying for GI registration can be a costly process, and still involves costs associated with enforcement, but the revenue gains can be substantial (see Agritrade article ‘ French company seeks trademark rights for rooibos tea, as EU use of GIs...’, 12 May 2013).

The experience of the JJPA of revenue enhancement through GI protection will make an important contribution to understanding better the relative costs and benefits which arise through using GI protection to enhance the value of local speciality products on both domestic and international markets.

As such, this experience will potentially carry important implications across the ACP in terms of understanding the relative costs and benefits of using GI protection as a means of increasing the net value of local producers of speciality products. The experience, combined with other experiences of GI registration elsewhere in the ACP, will assist ACP countries in evaluating the value of GI registration, compared to other product differentiation strategies (such as product branding and use of trademarks). It could also help to identify of the support policies required to effectively make use of GI protection in enhancing net revenues.

At the end of May 2014, a training course was organised in Grenada by the World Intellectual Property Organization, CTA and the Caribbean Export Development Agency. The course looked at how origin-linked products (such as Jamaica Jerk, Bahamas Cascarilla bark, Grenadan nutmeg, Trinidad and Tobago cocoa and Antiguan black pineapple) could make use of various intellectual property tools to enhance their market value. The initiative sought to assist the concerned producer associations in developing their capacity to:

  • consolidate their associations to enhance product value;
  • explore the various branding strategy options available;
  • ascertain which IP tool was most appropriate to their needs;
  • identify the obstacles and challenges faced in making use of different intellectual property tools.


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