Agricultural trademark violations pose health concern, says Charles
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Pearnel Charles Jr says that his ministry is working to address the issue of copyright and name-brand safety for agricultural produce linked to Jamaica as, along with the trademark issue, fraudulent branding raises a potential health concern.
Charles was speaking with The Gleaner on Wednesday at the Invest Jamaica 2022 Business Conference in Montego Bay, St James.
“My wish is that Jamaica will be able to extend to the world the protection of its products. It is not just a matter of intellectual property, it is also a matter of public health, because, when you have products that are not legitimate and that are breaching the rules, they not only breach the intellectual property in terms of using the name, but it means we do not have any understanding or regulation of how the product was actually manufactured and you do not know that the ingredients are wholesome,” said Charles.
“From the perspective of agriculture, when we have individuals who take the time to invest in agriculture and invest in our sector, we must do what is necessary to protect that investment. A big part of that protection is that, if they have a trademark or some kind of intellectual property that they have developed, they must be presented with an environment that respects our laws,” Charles added.
The minister was reacting to a report that JP Farms, Jamaica’s largest commercial grower of bananas, will be taking legal action against fraudsters in Canada who have misrepresented its brand by providing produce purporting to be ‘Jamaican bananas’ with fake JP branding.
JP Farms said that the imposter bananas were labelled with circular stickers bearing the old St Mary’s logo, whereas genuine JP Farms bananas bear oval stickers with a refreshed logo.
Up to Monday, investigators believed that the bananas originated from another Caribbean island.
“As soon as I heard of the issue, I reached out to the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce and, through one of their agencies, I asked for an assessment and report to be given to me, just so we can understand the context within which this occurred and to understand exactly what steps are being taken,” Charles said.
A similar problem had previously arisen with the branding of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee, from as far back as 2010, with reports that counterfeit versions of that product were being sold both locally and in overseas markets.
“The matter of intellectual property breaches has been a long-standing issue and has not just caused concern, but has been an impediment to growth in the sector and expansion of our products globally. When someone invests their hard-earned money and takes the risk to develop and brand products, and to respect our geographical limitation, our trademarks, and Brand Jamaica, and then they have to deal with fraudsters who seek to simply rely on their efforts to escape the legitimate route of building up business, it is certainly a concern,” said Charles.