IPR for Cocoa

Intellectual Property Rights for Cocoa

About this page

This webpage is designed to assist cocoa farmers and producers of cocoa products to learn more about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that can be applied for cocoa to promote and protect it in local and foreign markets. It is one component of a small project of change conducted as part of the advanced international programme on Genetic Resources Intellectual Property Rights. A Facebook page has also been created and a printable brochure for distribution.

An online and paper survey of local farmers and cocoa producers has so far shown that very little is known about the IPR that can be used for cocoa and thus the need to educate cocoa stakeholders on the forms of IPR that can be most useful for the industry. If you are an interested stakeholder and would like to take the survey now, please visit the survey page here.

The types of intellectual property that will be featured on this page are Certification Marks, Collective Marks and Geographical indications.


Why do I need to know about this?

Certification marks (CM) or Geographical Indications (GI) can be used by farmers or cocoa/chocolate producers to distinguish their product/service from others by origin or a specific quality trait. The mark (through proper marketing) will then become a recognisable brand that will help consumers to know the difference between something that is originally from Trinidad or from a particular farm or region in Trinidad and something that is a copycat product. The mark is protected from use by those who are not authorised to use it, if it is officially registered for protection though national or international IP registration.

To help us at CRC determine what information you need to help you make the best decision for your business, we ask that you complete the survey at the link below.

Survey on Certification Marks/GI


Certification Marks

Certification Trademarks or Certification Marks are symbols that show a product has met specific standards. These standards may relate to quality, content, manufacturing, or origin. Jamaica has a certification trademark for Blue Mountain coffee, which has successfully improved the income of coffee producers in Jamaica.

Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee - Protected with a Certification Mark to indicate the authenticity of the origin

The Certification Mark for Blue Mountain was developed and marketed in collaboration with the national government and the national coffee board in Jamaica.


Pros of Certification

Certification requires traceability and quality control and therefore can be important to potential buyers of your product if they have policies that dictate they cannot purchase a product that is not certified. Specific example of this is The Hershey Company which no longer purchases beans from Trinidad because the cocoa from Trinidad is not certified.

Cons of Certification

  • The certification procedure may be complex for beginners, however this can be easily surmounted by seeking advice from the T&T IP office, the agents of which will readily provide assistance.
  • Certification is not a guarantee and must be combined with marketing to ensure that the certification mark becomes well-known and establishment of a good reputation for the mark will balance out the uncertainty that comes with certification.


Geographical indications

The primary goal of GI based marketing is to increase the incomes of farmers. This income increase may also extend to the producers of cocoa products.

Geographical indications are distinctive signs used to differentiate competing goods.
In other words, GIs differentiate one group of products from others that don't come from the region it protects. There may be natural or human factors in the region that make a product different - this is what GIs recognise.

The reference to geographical origin – most regularly used for agricultural products – combined with the use of traditional extraction and processing methods, presents an interesting marketing potential in terms of product branding. The marketing of Colombian coffee is an example of a success story using GI marketing.

Colombian coffee - marketed using a Geographical Indication Logo for Cafe De Colombia - GI for Colombian coffee

The challenge: those who produce and market GIs must act collectively with regard to production methods, quality standards and control, as well as product distribution and marketing. One positive aspect that should be motivation to Trinidad cocoa stakeholders is that the lack of local cocoa in foreign markets means consumers in those markets are already accustomed to quality coming from overseas, that is, from countries such as Trinidad and Tobago. It is up to T&T to ensure that consumers who seek after the authentic T&T flavour have the means to identify what comes from T&T by looking at the label. If T&T does not take steps to protect the origin specificity of the cocoa from T&T, there is no way to ensure consumers are not misled by products that claim to originate from T&T.


Pros of GI based marketing

  • Official registration is not compulsory however if your GI is registered, it is easier to defend.
  • Reputation of your GI is built into the region, therefore exists naturally, and cannot easily be copied by persons outside the region.
  • Because a GI product gets its special qualities from the region, it is easy to defend especially from copycats who are not authorised to use the name of your GI.
  • Collective initiatives are safer (and are a lower risk for individuals) and work well for goods or products that can be protected and marketed with a GI.
  • Proper marketing strategies build the GI reputation and this reputation grows to the benefit of the farmers who produce within the region where the GI is protected.


Cons of GI based marketing

  • The use of a GI has the risk of the name or logo becoming generic - meaning that the GI name becomes the same as a general term for items of that type, for example, the name TSH is somewhat generic for cocoa in Trinidad, and probably not a good candidate for a GI. Once the term has become generic, it will no longer be eligible to be officially protected, according to international laws governing GIs.
  • If there is no proper marketing of the GI, recognition of the GI will not increase and the GI will not benefit from higher sales.
  • Registering a GI only assures protection in the country where it is registered. To get protection in other countries, the GI must be applied for and approved in each country in which protection is sought, before the GI can be protected in those other countries.
  • GI law around the world is not standardised. In some countries GIs are protected as Protected Designations of Origins (PDO), or Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) while in others they are protected as Appellations of Origin. The names are as complicated as the rules for being eligible for protection and this makes it difficult for the average lay person, to understand all the requirements..


Collective Marks

Collective marks are usually registered by a group of individual entities, such as a cooperative, an association or a public institution and can be used to indicate similar types of standards as described for Certification Marks, specifically origin, material, manufacturing, or other characteristics common to products of the members of the group.

Darjeeling Tea - Collective Mark

Darjeeling tea logo (shown above) is protected with a collective mark in several countries and as a GI in others. It is used to market tea from a specific region in India. Collective marks may be a useful tool for members of Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) to overcome the challenge of their size and market isolation. In other words, in unity, is strength. Collective marks are not yet available for registration in Trinidad and Tobago, however there is a new draft Trademarks legislation which handles Collective Marks registration.


How can you make a start into product differentiation?

  • Process your beans onsite

Processing your beans onsite (with proper research into methods and with support of CRC services) and having your final product evaluated for flavour distinction is important to guarantee the product is truly single-origin. Single-origin products have captured the imagination of consumers and are highly favoured by connoisseurs. Farmers who do not have onsite processing facilities, may consider forming together in a coop with nearby farmers, and collectively funding an onsite processing facility for your region - this can be the start of creating a brand for your specific origin.

  • Find ways to prove the distinctness of your cocoa

There are other ways to differentiate your cocoa such as special processing regimes. Uniqueness can also be claimed for growing in a certain areas. Traditional knowledge passed down through generations can become protected if they are incorporated as part of what makes your product unique which will qualify it for protection under IP law.


Where can I get more information?

  • Download the Cocoa IPR app and browse the many links to read more about the IPR mentioned on this web page.
  • The Trinidad and Tobago IP office is the place to get all information on registration of intellectual property (IP) including Certification Marks, Geographical Indications and (in the not too distant future) Collective Marks. All forms for registration are available from the IP office and IP office personnel are able to explain the requirements. Visiting the IP office does not mean you have decided to register an IP, it can be just to gather information and begin your own research into how you will apply an IP as part of your business strategy. The IP office website has downloadable forms for registration of GIs but other forms need to be obtained directly from their office.
  • Farmers, feel free to engage personnel from the Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board or personnel from the Ministry of Food Production and suggest a farmer training workshop on Intellectual Property rights such as Certification Marks, Geographical Indications and Collective Marks. The national community of stakeholders must engage in continuous discussions and spread information on these IPRs and how to use them, to ensure cocoa industry stakeholders will have the capacity to make positive decisions towards the successful application of these IPRs to the benefit of the cocoa industry.
  • April 26th is World IP day and will be celebrated by the T&T IP office with a public exhibition. The event features information on all forms of IP including Certification Marks and Geographical Indications. Visiting this exhibition will be an excellent way to learn more, and network with the people who are going to be handling your applications.
  • Follow the T&T IP office on Facebook and Twitter and do not be afraid to ask questions. The only stupid question is the one you do not ask.



General CM/GI Brochure | Indepth CM/GI Brochure | Cocoa IPR App



Facebook | Take the Initial Survey | Take the final survey | Certification Marks


Sources of Information

WIPO website | Trinidad and Tobago IP Office



Gratitude is due to the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and course coordinators, Dr. Carl-Gustaf Thornström, Dr. Eva Thörn, as well as Maria Ericsson who had an integral role in making all of this possible through the GRIP13a programme.

Special thanks to my advisors, Professor Umaharan and Ms. Lilyclaire Bellamy of the Jamaica IP office (external), who were very helpful and an inspiration. Thanks also to CRC staff for their valuable input, CCIB personnel and TTIPO personnel who were helpful when consulted and to all the farmers, chocolatiers and everyone else who filled out the survey. ~Antoinette (Contact)