Geographical indications are development meter, preserver of environment, employment generator, protector of traditional knowledge and export booster. They are the tools to make life better. Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) have never been more economically and politically significant or controversial than they are at present. In a knowledge based economy, there is no doubt that an understanding of IPRs is indispensable in informed policy making in all areas of human development.
One of the budding field of intellectual property is Geographical Indications (GI). Every region has its claim to fame and it has to be protected. Geographical indications are generally traditional products, produced by rural, marginal or indigenous communities over generations, that have gained a reputation in the local, national or international market due to their specific unique qualities.
What is Geographical Indication (GI)?
A Geographical Indication (GI) refers to a name or sign used on products that have a specific geographic origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. GIs have been defined under Article 22(1) of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement as “Indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.” GIS are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirits drinks, handicrafts and industrial products.
As the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a strong link between the product and its original place of production. The use of a geographical indication acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities like it is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin. The GI tag ensures that none other than those registered as authorised users are allowed to use the popular product name.
In the recent times, there are few new products that have got GI tag.These are follows
• In April 2020, Black rice of Manipur, also called the ‘Chakhao!, Gorakhpur Terracotta and Kodaikanal Malai Poondu of Tamil Nadu got its GI tag.
• Kashmir saffron which is cultivated and harvested in Karewa (highlands) of spice is grown in some
J&K, has been given the GI tag in May 2020. The spice is groun . ,regions of Kashmir, including Pulwama, Budgam
• The famous Banarasi Paan, Banarasi Langra (Mango variety), Barabanki handlooms of Uttar Pradesh are ready to get GI tag soon, as notified by the government
Protection of GI
The GIs had to be protected because of widespread imitation and ineffective protection in different countries. These products had to fight for their reputation for market access using their names because of a large number of imitated products. Thus, to prevent GI from becoming generic and establish a rule based system which is open, fair and provides for an enforcement mechanism, protection of Gis became essential. A Geographical Indication can be protected by three approaches i.e, ‘sui generis’ systems (i.e. special regimes of protection), using collective or certification marks and methods focusing on business practices, including administrative product approval schemes.
Among the major developing economies, India has an efficient GI tagging mechanism. India on becoming a signatory to Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which has came into force with effect from 15th September, 2003. The objectives of this act is three fold
• First is to have a specific law governing the geographical indications of goods in the country which could adequately protect the interest of producers of such goods.
• Second is to exclude unauthorised persons from misusing geographical indications and to protect consumers from deception.
• Third is to promote goods bearing Indian geographical indications in the export market. Further, India has set a Geographical Indications Registry with All India Jurisdiction in Chennai under the Registrar of Geographical Indications, who is also the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks.
Significance of GI Tag
The benefits of geographical indications are numerous. The first GI tagged product in India was Darjeeling tea which attained this status in 2004-2005. Currently, there are more than 500 GI tagged products in India. GI registration is beneficial for India as it confers legal protection to geographical indications in India and prevents unauthorised use of a registered geographical indication by others which helps in boosting exports of such products. This promotes economic prosperity of producers. Also, it enables a country in seeking legal protection in other WTO member countries. With the protection assured by GI registration, the market is developed and encroachment of market by pirated and counterfeit products is prevented.
Further, it ensures consumer of the genuineness of the product and of quality assurance and promotes brand building. GIs are strongly connected to socio-economic development, along the lines of sustainability in countries rich in traditional knowledge.
The recognition and protection in the markets of the names of these products allows the community of producers to invest in maintaining the specific qualities of the product on which the reputation is built. It enhances the capacity of producers to invest economic gains into higher quality products and access niche markets.
This drives a virtuous circular economy. The application of circular economy will ensure socio-economic returns in the long run to attain sustainable growth. Geographical indication contributes to rural development encompassing environmental protection, economic development and social well-being, It helps in strengthening sustainable local food production and supply, structuring of the supply chain around a common product reputation linked to origin and give a higher retail price benefit percentage to raw material producers for better distribution.
Geographical indication helps in preservation of traditions and traditional knowledge, builds identity based prestige and boosts tourism. It helps in environmental protection as it promotes preservation of the natural resources on which the product is based.
It boosts the economy via its spill-over effects. Gl registration helps to prevent unauthorised use of the product and promotes financial gain to the producers. It helps in stabilisation of prices, improving marketing strategy, generating employment and income.
Challenges Relating to GI Tag
The issues of GI tag has been debated in India and globally at various forums like the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The major challenges faced by goods applying for GI status are-origin of the goods for identifying geographic territory, registration of GIs, monitoring and controlling specified processes, procedure and quality of GI protected goods, protection of Gls from infringement and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Indian products are still learning to explore the idea of GI in their fullest and are battling to reap the benefits of our art, heritage and food that could bring us on the international trade scenario. Even with our GI regime being over 15 years, with GIs for more than 300 Indian products like Rasagolla, that triggered a bitter tussle between West Bengal and Odisha, and Basmati Rice, Navara rice, Kolhapuri Chappal etc. are shared by multiple states. It results in conflicts among communities due to similar and competing products.
India’s GI legacy started with Darjeeling tea, which was a good step to check authenticity and promote a premium product in the market and among the people However, government need to make strong efforts like EU and USA do for their premium products. It is worth mentioning that 80% of French champagne have GI tags, with the government’s active promotion.
GI is a powerful tool for economic development and wealth creation particularly in the developing world. GIs have potential to be our growth engine. The benefi of GI tag is realised only when these products are effectively marketed and protected against illegal copying. Effective marketing and protection requires quali assurance, brand creation, post-sale consumer feedback and support for prosecutin. unauthorised copiers etc.
Thus, the government should make efforts to familiarise people about GI and its benefits in improving the quality of life. This will help in improving the standard of living of rural communities which are lacking behind in developmental activities as compared to the mainstream India due to poor socio-economic condition and geographical location.