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2nd Question about a Scotsman's Kilt

For an oenophile, champagne comes only from Champagne.  According last week's ECJ opinion, parmesan cheese comes only from Parma.  And now kiltmaker Howie Nicholsby would like official assurance that Scottish kilts can only come from Scotland.

The Edinburgh-based designer, disgusted by cheap imported kilts that he describes as like "wearing a dishcloth," has asked a member of the European Parliament to pursue protected designation of origin (PDO) status for Scottish kilts.  In order to be described as Scottish, kilts would have to be hand sewn in Scotland of pure wool. 

While this request will no doubt cause a few chuckles -- not least because very few male IP lawyers or non-Scottish MPs would wear something so closely resembling a skirt -- it's actually part of a trend toward a more inclusive understanding of protected geographical indications, at least outside the U.S.  International IP law recognizes two basic categories of GIs:  (1) wine and spirits, and (2) other -- with "other" usually considered in terms of agricultural products.  There's nothing in the definition of GIs, however, that prevents the protection of other things, like regional handicrafts.  In fact, as I noted as part of a symposium panel organized by the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal (see Summer 2007 issue), Mexico pioneered the use of GIs for manufactured products and the majority of registered GIs in India are traditional handicrafts, including many textiles. 

From a cultural property perspective -- one of my favorite topics, as some of you know -- Nicholsby's request raises another interesting issue.  His proposed criteria, like that of other PODs or GIs, focus on kilts' place of manufacture and composition.  There's nothing about historic tartans or styling; in fact, many of Nicholsby's own 21st Century Kilts are anything but traditional.  There's the pinstriped group, available with matching waistcoats and jackets; the camouflage collection; and even denim and leather versions (which might not qualify as "Scottish kilts" under the proposal).  In other words, Nicholsby's desire to protect a Scottish cultural product from cheap knockoffs doesn't reflect an intent to preserve some quaint Brigadoon-like past.  His own collections are evidence of an understanding that styles change and culture evolves.  But Nicholsby also recognizes something special about the link between kilts and Scotland that goes beyond a Mel Gibson costume drama.

Oh, and as for that 1st question about a Scotsman and his kilt -- click the copyright symbol below for the uncensored answer.

Thanks to Professor Beth Noveck for the tip!