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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
North Korea signed on to a global treaty on intellectual property protections this week in Geneva, according to an announcement by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The treaty, known as the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Convention, is designed to protect the identity of export products that are uniquely linked to a particular location — for example, Darjeeling tea and Scottish whiskey.
The DPRK was one of the first countries to sign on to the new section of a decades’ old WIPO agreement, which will take effect in three months if five more eligible parties join, according to the announcement.
“I’m very pleased that my country [is] one of the first to accede to this Act,” Tae Song Han, the DPRK’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said.
“We think that this Act will be beneficial to all the countries, particularly to developing countries,” he said. “So I’m hopeful and I’m sure that this Act will be coming into effect soon with other countries’ deposition.”
Product names that feature a specific place — known as “appellations of origin” and “geographical indications” — are used by countries around the world that sell their products overseas and want to market them as having local flair.
“Geographical indications are an extremely important form of intellectual property,” said Francis Gurry, the director general of the WIPO. “They protect the specificity of the products of different countries, different geographical localities.”
“They reflect all of the human factors and all of the geographical factors that have gone into making the specificity of these products,” he continued.
In North Korea’s case, Gurry cited ginseng as a local product that could potentially benefit from having the protection of this treaty.
WIPO has previously run into trouble in its dealings with North Korea.
Last year, the global organization was reprimanded by the Panel of Experts (PoE), a UN body that oversees sanctions enforcement, for allowing the North to post patents on its site that could be used for chemical weapons production.
The expanded WIPO treaty’s full name is the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration.
According to WIPO, parties that want to join must submit a single application and pay a set of fees.
The announcement said that North Korea’s official paperwork to join the treaty was turned in by WIPO’s Gurry along with Kim Chang Min, the Secretary General of the DPRK’s National Coordination Committee.
Edited by Oliver Hotham and James Fretwell
Featured image: Flickr user “(stephan)”