Geographic Indications and International Trade (GIANT)

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TED Case Studies
Number 716, 2003
by Suzan Herzeg, Bryan Rund and Jim Lee
Idaho Potatoes and Protection as a Geographic Indication
General Information
Legal Cluster
Bio-Geographic Cluster
Trade Cluster
Environment Cluster
Other Clusters

I. Identification

1. The Issue

Idaho companies, and the state, use a trademark to protect the intellectual property rights of potatoes that can be rightfully called "Idaho". This is different from Europe where geographic indications are used either with respect to place or process.

2. Description

A Presbyterian missionary named Henry H. Spalding established a mission near Lapwai in 1836, where he printed the Northwest's first book, established Idaho's first school, developed Idaho's first irrigation system, and grew the state's first potatoes. He thought that by teaching the local Nez Perce tribe to farm, they would settle down. He gave up on the idea after the Natives massacred the residents of a nearby mission. Potato cultivation temporarily stopped.

In 1860, Mormons established farms north of Franklin, Idaho, and began cultivating potatoes. The first crop yielded 33 bushels; 16 years later, Idaho farmers exported over 2.5 million pounds of potatoes out of state.

Luther Burbank (New England) created a line of hybrid potatoes in 1872 that had a greater yield and size than other varieties, and took some of the tubers (Burbank potatoes) to California with him. Lon Sweet (Denver, CO) then selected a mutation of the Burbank potato that was resistant to several common potato diseases.
This mutant variety became known as the Russet Burbank, and would be the dominant Idaho potato variety. Idaho made this variety famous. Idaho became the 43rd state in the US on July 3, 1890. The University of Idaho established an agricultural research station in Aberdeen in 1911, with the primary purpose of improving potato cultivation. This remains its primary purpose today.

The Idaho Potato Commission began in 1937, and is funded by a tax on Idaho-grown potatoes, which is ten cents per each 100 pounds of potatoes. This money funds the IPC's activities, which include advertising, promotion and research to expand the Idaho potato market. According to the Idaho Potato Commission, Idaho is uniquely suited to producing consistently good potatoes. These ideal conditions include volcanic soil; clean air; warm, sunny days and cool nights; and water that comes from the snow that melts off of the nearby mountains. The potatoes consistently have a delicate flavor, high solids (21%) and high nutritional content. The high solids content is important, since it means that more solids are left for consumption after the water has been cooked off in frying or baking.
Idaho potato farmers have generations of experience. The state has "pioneered research to improve and storage practices, and remains a world research leader. Idaho has the world's most advanced storage research center, and claims more environmentally controlled commercial storage facilities than any other growing region". The state of Idaho grows more potatoes than any other US state, accounting for 30% of US production, or 13.8 billion pounds of potatoes. Potatoes make a large contribution to Idaho's gross state product, equal to 15%, or $2.5 billion; they account for 6.8% of southwest Idaho's economy, 27.4% of south central Idaho's economy, and 32.8% of eastern Idaho's economy.

The average US person eats 142.7 pounds of potatoes each year. Idaho potatoes have the greatest name recognition and production preference among consumers, 82%. Idaho potatoes include the Russet Burbank, Norkotah and Ranger Russet varieties of potatoes; the name "Idaho potato" can only refer to a potato grown in the state.;;;

3. Related Cases


4. Author and Date: Suzan Herzeg, Bryan Rund and Jim Lee

II. Legal Clusters

5. Discourse and Status: Agreement and InProgress

6. Forum and Scope: USA and Multilateral

7. Decision Breadth: NAFTA and EU (18)

8. Legal Standing: Treaty

III. Geographic Clusters

9. Geographic Locations

a. Geographic Domain: North America

b. Geographic Site: Eastern North America

c. Geographic Impact: USA

10. Sub-National Factors: Yes

11. Type of Habitat: Temperate

IV. Trade Clusters

12. Type of Measure: Culture

13. Direct v. Indirect Impacts: Indirect

14. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental Impact

a. Directly Related to Product: Yes, Food

b. Indirectly Related to Product: No

c. Not Related to Product: No

d. Related to Process: Yes, Culture

15. Trade Product Identification: Mezcal

16. Economic Data

17. Impact of Trade Restriction: Ban

18. Industry Sector: Food (and Drink)

19. Exporters and Importers: US and many

V. Environment Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type: Culture

21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species




22. Resource Impact and Effect: High and Regulation

23. Urgency and Lifetime: High and 100s of years

24. Substitutes: Like Products

VI. Other Factors

25. Culture: Yes

26. Trans-Boundary Issues: No

27. Rights: Yes

28. Relevant Literature