Geographical Indication and How to protect it

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India is a land of wealth gifted with natural resources having high economic and commercial value. Rural regions possess exceptional skills and expertise to produce hand crafted products like textiles, chappals, silks and they are involved in the above skill from generations. Many times one product or skill belongs to two regions and then both the regions claim ownership over the same. For example you must have heard about the Tussle between Orissa and west Bengal over the Rasgulla GI registration.

A geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used for goods indicating that the product belongs to a certain geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). It is a form of Intellectual Property just like Trademark, Patents or Copyright. Only difference is Geographical Indication is a community right not a private right.

For eg. Darjeeling tea. Kohlapuri Chappal, Bikaneri Bhujia etc.

The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act), in Section 2(e), defines the term “geographical indication” as –

“An indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and in case where such goods are manufactured goods one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality, as the case may be.”

Geographical indication is one of the eight Intellectual Properties included in TRIPS agreement and India being a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act in the year 1999 which came into force with effect from 15th September 2003.

Benefits of registration of Geographical Indications:

A geographical indication has various commercial advantages because the producer or manufacturer will be the sole seller of the goods and provides the exclusive right to protect the registered GI on the specified goods. GI registration aims at protecting the industry for exclusive goods, whose distinctiveness exists due to their geographical location.

Further, buyer gets value for their money when they buy a good with a GI tag, since tag makes certain that the product has all the features associated with it. For example, the taste of original Darjeeling tea is special unlike of those manufacturers trying to pass off their products.

It is important to note here that the majority of applicants applying for GI Registration are from micro, small and medium industry, which basically originate from the rural areas of India. GI registration helps these enterprises to create a niche for themselves in the market and to increase their presence in market share, which otherwise would have been conquered by the large industry. Hence, the consumers get genuine goods instead of common and generic goods.

Test for Geographical Indication

The test for a GI product, therefore, is whether the buyers recognize it to begin from specific geography, traits, uniqueness or reputation to that region.

As per section 9 of the Act, A geographical indication shall not be granted if the same may likely to deceive or cause confusion; contrary to any law for the time being in force; comprises or contains scandalous or obscene matter; which may likely to hurt the religious susceptibilities of any class or section of the citizens of India; which would otherwise be disentitled to protection in a court; which are determined to be generic names or indications of goods and are, therefore, not or ceased to be protected in their country of origin, or which have fallen into disuse in that country; which although literally true as to the territory, region or locality in which the goods originate, but falsely represent to the persons that the goods originate in another territory, region or locality.

How to protect GI in India

GI can be protected by filing an application under the following heads:

  1. Ordinary – Herein Applicant will apply for ordinary registration of Geographical Indication with registrar in India.

  2. Convention – in this type, Applicant shall apply for Registration of a GI, which is already recognized in another country. In this scenario, one files an application in another counter which is a member of the Paris convention along with proof of registration of that GI in his home Country.

  3. Single Class – This Application is filed for registration of goods belonging to a specific class.

  4. Multi Class – This is filed for registration of goods belonging to different classes or more than one class of goods. The application must contain all the appropriate details like –

· The Application must be filed in triplicate along with the details of the “principal place of business”, defined under Section 3 of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002. · Application shall contain the special attributes of that goods and how the applicant has been maintaining the standard · Historical evidence to back the claims mentioned in the Application. · A detailed description of the good and its usage and method of production. · Current status of the GI goods.

Intellectual property rights have never been more economically, commercially, internationally and politically important than they are today. Geographical Indications is an emerging field among other areas of Intellectual property Rights. Every region has its name and fame and it should be protected and acknowledged with recognition. It boosts exports, attracts foreign tourists and helps rural areas to preserve their skills, generate employment and much more hidden advantages.

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