A Cincinnati bakery plans to sell little cakes called “Polly’s of Paris Petit Fours.” A small establishment in South Carolina markets a meat product with the brand name “Buenos Aires Brand Beef.” A rancher near Lincoln, Nebraska, sells his farm-raised lamb as “Aussie Chops.” Can these companies lawfully use geographic marks that conjure up far-off places as names for their local food products?

Under recent international agreements — namely, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) [FOOTNOTE 1]– the answer is a resounding “no.” These treaties have strengthened the protection extended by member countries to geographic marks — that is, marks that identify a product or service as originating in a specific geographic area.

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