History of Geogriphical Indication & present challenges under Indian Legal Framework
The concept of formalizing Geographical Indication (“G.I.”) was developed in France which was widely known as “appellation d’origine controlee” ( AOC ) which means “controlled designation of origin”. The idea of G.I. is to protect and give legal rights to people whose trade or craft is from a specific region. A G.I. reflects the quality of a product that comes essentially from a particular region’s features or attributes e.g., a G.I. for wine might indicate not only the region where the grapes are grown but it also considers the soil, the climate and might also indicate a particular patch of land in a vineyard.
INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS AND INDIAN LEGAL FRAMEWORK:
The standards of protection and safeguarding for G.I. took its forms from the Paris Convention for protection of Industrial Property, 1883. It was followed by the Madrid Agreement for Repression of False or Deceptive Indications of Source of Goods, 1891 and covered under the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). India in particular follows ‘The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) and the Geographical Indications of Goods(Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002 (GI Rules). The GI registry is established at Chennai by the Indian government, with all India jurisdictions.
G.I. REGISTRATION, VALIDITY AND THE INDIA APPROACH:
It is pertinent to note that G.I. registration is not mandatory in India. But at the same time, there are some exclusive advantages for registered GI holders as ascribed u/s 21 of the GI Act. Further, before granting registration; the Producers are provided with insight on the need for registration and being recognized as an authorized and apprised about requirement of authenticity of a registered good(s) and to ensure the uniform quality of the good(s). Section 11(1) of the GI Act explains that G.I. can be filed by the producers or organization, an association of persons or any authority.
GI – u/s 18 GI Act is valid for a period of 10 years and it can be renewed after the completion of the validity. India has adopted a sui generis system concerning G.I. which ensures to focus on business practices, consisting of administrative product approval schemes, Usage of certification marks and safeguard Special regimes of protection (sui generis systems).
ADVANTAGES OF REGISTERED GI:-
G.I. not only protect and gives legal rights to people whose trade or craft is from a specific region; but it also has various other benefits. (Rights conferred by registration are mentioned under Article 21 of GI Act) Some of additional advantages are explained below.
Most of the people who grow or make products which have the GI tag stay in rural or semi-urban areas. Their livelihood is specific to the region where the goods are produced.
A lot of women are also involved in trades which have GI tag. GI protection will help them to generate more income and help them to lead a better and dignified life. A great example is the traditional industry of producing saffron (GI applied) in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The process of producing saffron is mostly taken by women of the house who pick flowers as well as produce saffron after hours of back breaking work.
A direct result of getting the status is getting better remuneration for their product or produce. Once the status is granted, the manufacturer can charge a premium for his product. [we all have had at least once in our life thought of owning a Switz - watch or to have a Switz chocolate – that is the kind of branding a G.I. product can generate with right mix of awareness and quality control]. The proceeds from this increased revenue can help the producers to make a better life for themselves and it also incentivizes them to produce high quality goods which directly benefits the consumers.
o Creation of a common supply chain for the area
o Uniformity and stabilized prices
o Preservation of traditions and traditional expertise
o Focus to preserve natural resources on which the product is based.
Government of West Bengal and Orrisa both had claim over the sweet dish ‘Rasgolla’. After two years of tussle finally on 14 November 2017, the GI Registry of India granted West Bengal the GI status for “Banglar Rasogolla”.
Darjeeling Tea V/s ITC
Darjeeling tea was the first product in India to receive Geographical Indication in the year 2004-2005. Under the Tea Act,1953 the tea plantations were owned and controlled by the government. Darjeeling Tea is famous for its well-known quality and aroma. There was a Tea Board which managed all the activities right from sowing till harvesting and sale in the market. ITC Limited had a lounge named ‘Darjeeling Lounge’ in the ITC Hotel in Sonar since 2003. The board filed a suit in Calcutta High Court stating that ITC was infringing there right by using ‘Darjeeling Lounge’ as it was their registered GI. The contention of the defendant was that Darjeeling is the name of the place and it is not famous only for tea. The board had its tag over tea and not the word ‘Darjeeling’. Also, the suit was barred by limitation since the lounge started its operation prior to the Geographical Indication Act came into force. The judgement came in favour of ITC Limited as the board was authorized to use its certification of GI tag over tea and not a lounge.
The present government is doing its best to sensitize people about the benefits of G.I., especially through Ministry of Ayush however it is still not enough as there are several other products which despite having the coveted G.I. tag are relatively less known e.g., ‘Surkha Guava’ from Allahabad and Green Cardamom from Coorg.
There is no central agency which monitors the manufacturing and quality of products having the G.I. tag which leads to different quality of products under the same G.I. tag. It is imperative to educate people about the proper manufacturing process and quality control. The Government must focus on creating strict guidelines in place to check that all the products having the G.I. tag are of a uniform quality.
Considering the size and varied socio-cultural canvas of the country, many products/goods are still not on the GI list. There is a need to increase awareness amongst the artisans, craftsmen, and consumers as well. For it is not only the uniqueness and protection of the products that come with it, but the G.I. tag is also the symbol of the rich and varied history of India that can add to the inclusive development of the country. Which India has immense possibilities in G.I. it is contingent to government adopting strict implementation of the G.I. registration rules and ensure proper guidelines for quality standard compliance.
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