INTERVIEW: Roner Guerra Fabris
Roner Fabris, attorney, and member of the ABPI Council, is one of Brazil’s foremost Geographical Indications (GIs) experts. These distinctive signs registered as indications of origin or geographical denominations with the BPTO (Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office) to identify the quality and reputation of a product or service based on its geographical origin often bear Roner Fabris’s mark. In addition to others, he has worked on GIs from the Serra Gaúcha region, particularly the Vale dos Vinhedos, recognized as one of the country’s pioneering wine GIs. Roner Fabris has recently received the Officier de l’Ordre National du Mérite honor from the Consulate General of France — a title established by General Charles de Gaulle and granted to those who, based on merit, served in a public, military, or private capacity for at least ten years — discusses GIs in this interview.
What lies ahead in the legal framework revision for Geographical Indications, currently under discussion within the Interministerial Group on Intellectual Property (GIPI)?
Roner Guerra Fabris: WIPO has worked extensively to revitalize the Lisbon Agreement for GIs protection. Studies are being conducted to weigh the benefits of joining the agreement. I believe we are ready to adhere to it. Many of the points that could cause doubts have been or are being addressed through the bilateral Europe-Mercosur agreement.
Are GIs in Brazil effectively promoting regional development and adding value to products as intended?
RGF: In many cases, yes, but it must be said: having the GI alone is not enough to generate wealth. To achieve it is necessary to add value to the product, differentiate it, and bring it to the market with marketing and commercial strategy.
Does this depend on the producer?
RGF: Not only on the producer but also on organized civil society. It requires management capacity, self-organization within the community, local entrepreneurs, and representative entities. A GI is far more than a recognition seal; it is a collective action.
Where is this happening in this manner?
RGF: Internally, in Brazil, the Vale dos Vinhedos is the first GI to structure and promote businesses around its product – wine, and effectively develop the region. There, they have managed to transform the area and products into valuable assets. For example, there is an offer for land with young vineyards in the region at R$1.3 million per hectare. In other words, the designation of origin can indeed add value when there is mobilization from society, producers, and traders.
Producers and all those involved in the region are grateful.
RGF: Yes, but the success in the Vale dos Vinhedos has also brought challenges that need to be addressed, and the main one is real estate speculation. We filed a lawsuit jointly with the Brazilian Public Ministry and successfully blocked two large-scale developments in the vicinity, each with approximately 70,000 square meters of built area. This kind of thing would compromise the designation.
What is the solution to avoid this type of distortion?
RGF: In our case, we successfully coordinated the collaboration of the mayors from Garibaldi, Bento Gonçalves, and Monte Belo do Sul — municipalities that comprise the Vale dos Vinhedos region. Together, we have embarked on an endeavor to develop a comprehensive master plan for the area. The funding for this study is being provided by the three municipalities and a Fund for the Recovery of Damaged Assets and supported by the State Public Ministry. This initiative is unprecedented not only in Brazil but also, I believe, in all of South America.