Ambassador Gonzalo Gutierrez Reinel
Photograph: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Why is there only one pisco? Why is it wrong to say "Peruvian pisco"?
There is only one pisco, simply because only one product in the world meets the requirements of the appellation of origin for this type of goods. According to the definition given by the Lisbon Agreement of the World Intellectual Property Organization, to be granted an appellation of origin, a product must be prepared in a distinctive way through particular production methods and interaction between men and their land. In addition, the product takes up the name of the place where it is manufactured. Such is the case of pisco: in the world, there is only one place called Pisco where this fine liquor is prepared, and where specific climate characteristics and a precise production method converge. And this place is in Peru.
Many people have pointed out that in 1931 a city called Pisco-Elqui was created in Chile, thus legitimizing the use of the appellation of origin. However, the creation of this city followed a change of name, as the site was previously called "La Union", and this occurred five years after Chile supposedly protected the liquor’s designation. This is proof that Pisco-Elqui was only an administrative alternative to legitimize a previously defined regulation. On the contrary, the Peruvian city of Pisco exists since pre-Colonial times, and it was known as such well before the arrival of Spaniards. It is therefore redundant to say “Peruvian pisco”, as pisco is, indeed, Peruvian.
What is the current situation of the pisco appellation of origin in the world?
There are several types of recognition given to the pisco appellation of origin. Currently, Peru has obtained exclusive recognition by a number of Andean countries, some Central American countries, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In addition, we have adhered to the Lisbon Agreement, which has over 20 members. Some European adherents to this Agreement have partially recognized the appellation to the benefit or Peru because they had previously recognized Chile's appellation. Recently, we have achieved exclusive recognition in Laos, Thailand, Israel, Vietnam and also in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica ratified its recognition in 1999. It had accepted Peru’s exclusive pisco appellation of origin, but a free trade agreement was signed with Chile and its provisions demanded a similar recognition of appellation of origin. This situation gave rise to a legal process finally settled through a long analysis by the intellectual property authority, which, considering the registration’s precedence, recently decided that the pisco appellation of origin must be exclusively granted to Peru, giving it preeminence over the free trade agreement between Chile and Costa Rica.
What is the situation of the pisco appellation of origin before the WIPO-Lisbon Agreement?
For the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the document governing appellations of origin is the Lisbon Agreement, which is one of the many agreements administered by WIPO. Chile is not adherent to it.
Before WIPO, the pisco appellation of origin is registered as Peruvian. The countries that are both members of the Lisbon Agreement and the European Union recognize the appellation only partially, that is, they recognize it for Peru but also for Chile. Other WIPO countries give the exclusivity to Peru.
The partial recognition given by some countries is due to the free trade agreement signed between Chile and the European Union, by which pisco was recognized as a Chilean appellation. Peruvian rights, however, were not harmed by it.
When Chile and the European Union concluded their negotiations, both parties officially notified Peru that the appellation recognition given in the Chile-Europe agreement was not detrimental to Peru, that is, Peru retains the right to recognize, register, export and trade pisco in the European Union.
At least some thirty countries recognize Peru’s exclusive pisco appellation of origin. Chile, on the other hand, has not achieved any exclusive recognition.
To which countries can pisco be exported?
Peru can export pisco to all the countries of the world, except Chile. In accordance with the pisco appellation of origin, Chile enforced an internal regulation stating that the pisco appellation of origin can only be used by eaux-de-vie produced in the third and fourth regions of the country. Similarly, Peru has a law approved in 1994 that prohibits imports of liquors or products called pisco from any country of the world.
What is the current strategy of Peru to make more countries recognize the appellation of origin?
We are working bilaterally in diverse markets to accomplish the recognition of the appellation, but we are not using commercial arguments. We are rather focusing on the historical, legal and geographical arguments that evidence the true origin of pisco. This was proved successful in several countries that considered Peru’s arguments on the designation, production method and types of pisco as a legitimate reason for recognizing Peru’s appellation.
Interestingly enough, for countries like Thailand or Laos, pisco is the first product for which a foreign appellation of origin has been recognized. Peru would be, then, a pioneer and an innovator, the first country to apply for the pisco appellation of origin. I think this effort must be complemented with the recognition of other appellations of origin already held by Peru, such as the Chulucanas ceramics and Cuzco giant corn. In my opinion, this would be the next step to promote our appellations of origin abroad.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently working on this, with the close support of three public institutions: the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Production and Indecopi (the authority for the protection of intellectual property). They are key for the recognition and protection of the appellation, as are CONAPISCO, the Regulatory Council for the Pisco Appellation of Origin, and private companies. Even though this is an effort of the State, it must be complemented by Peruvian entrepreneurs placing their products in the international markets. Take the significant exports of pisco to Thailand as an example. The registration of the appellation was accomplished by the State, but an important Peruvian producer is already profiting from the recognition by making consistent exports to such country. This effort requires the domestic producers’ progressive and continuous penetration of foreign markets.
Which legal instances may permit Peru to file a lawsuit in the future?
The sole authority that may hear a complaint on the pisco appellation of origin would be the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO’s Agreement on Intellectual Property would eventually receive the case through its dispute settlement mechanism. However, the category recognized by the WTO is based on geographical indications, and the corresponding authority in Geneva responsible for the issuance of such indications has had this matter unresolved for over 12 or 13 years. The WTO has made no decision to take over the registration, reducing the odds for Peru to settle a dispute through such organization.
(End of the interview held in October, 2007)