What is Geographical Indication?
–> Geographical Indication is a genre of Intellectual Property.
–> GI tag is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries with regards to its special quality or reputation attributes.
–> The status to the products marks its authenticity and ensures that registered authorised users are allowed to use the popular product name.
–> For example: Kanchipuram Silk Saree, Alphanso Mango, Nagpur Orange, Kolhapuri Chappal, Bikaneri Bhujia, Agra Petha etc.
–> So, outsiders cannot sell other variety of teas with title/label “Darjeeling”, else they can be punished.
GI tag – Important Facts:
-> Darjeeling tea was the first product to accorded with GI tag in India.
-> Rosogolla – West Bengal (In Nov 2017)
-> Etikoppaka toys – Andhra Pradesh (In Nov 2017)
-> Banganapalle Mango – Andhra Pradesh
-> Gobindobhog rice – West Bengal (In Aug 2017)
-> Nilambur teak – Kerala (In Feb 2017) [First recognized by Britishers; Considered Mecca of teak]
-> Produces from Kerala with GI tag ‐ Pokkali rice, Vazhakulam Pineapple, Chengalikodan Banana.
Benefits of a GI Tag:
- GI tag as India’s growth engine: Employment generation, Boost Tourism Industry in India, promote rural development, Enhance innovation, Creativity, R&D, Materialization of “Make in India“.
- GI tag will bring foreign exchange by boosting export market.
- Legal protection to the products.
- Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits
- Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demand in national and international markets.
- The GI tag allows the producers of the objects to claim a premium for their products. Thus, it is financially beneficial to them.
Legal Authorities associated with GI tag:
–> It is covered as an element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
–> At international level – GI is governed by WTO’s Agreement Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
–> In India – GI registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force in September 2003. This act is administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks, who is also the Registrar of Geographical Indications.
How are Geographical Indications protected?
There are three major ways to protect a geographical indication:
–> Sui generis systems (special regimes of protection)
–> Using collective or certification marks
–> Techniques concentrating on business practices, including administrative product approval schemes.
Loopholes of India GI Act:
a) Focus on historical proof – in form of documentary evidence is mandatory which hinders GI registration in tribal location especially in North Eastern states where oral history has more convention over written history.
b) Ambiguous definition of Producer – as GI Act does not distinguish producer between real producer, retailer or dealer.
c) Act is silent on mechanism and provision to fight against infringement.
d) No proper emphasis given on quality control measures, marketing strategies and promoting awareness.
e) Lack of multi-level monitoring mechanism in India as seen in European Union.
Suggestions / Way forward:
-> The loopholes can be filled with positive interventions by the government like focusing on etymology as a means to provide evidence, making a centralised library of all the historical scriptures on a web portal which can be accessible by all the groups, easing the norm of written evidence for tribal community only after proper inspection by concerned authority would go a long way in protecting the interest of North eastern states of India particularly.
-> There is an increased conflict on IPR’s in the whole world and European nations have rightly protected their domestic interests and India should adopt such measures after proper analysis.
-> There is urgent need to upgrade India GI Act to make it more inclusive and responsive to challenges of present time.
-> It should be more comprehensive in resonance with best international practices to make it an effective economic important tool for rural and tribal upliftment and bring them in mainstream of development.
–> GI tag needs to be allotted only after a thorough historical and empirical inquiry.
–> For products whose origin can’t be effectively traced, either none of the regions be provided with the GI tag or both the states should be given ownership.
–> The focus of the states and the community needs to shift from mere certification for the sake of regional and instead divert all resources towards active promotion of the product and its respective industry.
India has a rich cultural and geographic diversity with an ability to produce a wide variety of products. We should aim to increase that ambit of products covered under GI to harness maximum benefits out of it.
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