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Geographical Indication (GI) Tags in India

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On the Fiftieth Year of the Republic India, An Act which provide for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods enacted by Parliament, It extends to the whole of India. This Act is called, “The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999”.

A geographical indication is one of the seven rights that are being conferred on the creators under Intellectual Property rights.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines that “A geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, a reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin”.

The Egyptian Civilization can be traced back for the growing roots of GIs because in order to indicate the origin of the bricks they used to mark the bricks. Not only this in ancient Greece, Thasian wine had demand since it came from island of Thasos in Macedonia.

Tuscany, Champagne, Basmati Rice etc. are some of the typical examples of Geographical Indications. There are so many agricultural products that attain quality and taste due to the place of production and climatic conditions such as soil, water etc. These products have got the value as commercial assets and these are reputed internationally.

The geographical indication can be used by any person on his product if that product conforms to applicable standards of the good where that geographical indication belongs.

As per the (Indian) Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 “Geographical Indication”, in relation to goods, means 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 another 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.

By registering a geographical indication in India, the rights holder can prevent unauthorized use of the registered geographical indication by others by initiating infringement action by way of a civil suit or criminal complaint.

“Creativity is the most productive and expensive fruit of human mind, thus every effort is being made to keep this fruit healthy and free from insects of plagiarism”

Keeping the fruit of creativity fresh forever and for the sake of economic safety, a legal shed of GI rights is being circulated.

After possessing GI Status, the brand name of the product gets developed that give rise to prices, exports and also protects farmers/artisans against undue competition given by phony products in the market.

Darjeeling tea, Kanchipuram silk saree, Kolhapuri slippers, Meerut scissors are some of the examples of GIs in India. GI is not an exclusive right of the owner but collectively enjoyed by a group of producers, community or even by a nation.

Violation of GI right is a criminal offense in India and it is a punishable offense of six months prison and fine which may be extended to three years. Being a cognizable offense, the Police may conduct search and seizure without any warrant. Thus it protects producer’s interest, boosts healthy competition in the market and safeguards consumers against misleading & phony products.

India which is decorated with diverse culture, tradition, and soil can be benefitted to a larger extent with the idea of GIs. No doubt, various challenges are still there which makes the implementation of GIs a hard nut to crack. Thousands of goods will qualify for GIs by virtue of huge cultural, ethnic, social and food diversities. Producers of such products are small households and small units often in the same area. Hence, it is often difficult to organize them into groups or communities and apply for a GI sign. People are not fully aware of this wonderful legal sword of intellectual property right which has marvelous potential to make their economic battle much easier and convenient.

Most of the associations often think whether it is worthwhile to go for geographical indication protection.

The prime purpose of the geographical indications act is to provide legal protection to geographical indications which encourages the marketers to expand their business worldwide and its boosts exports. It helps in the economic prosperity of the producers.

A geographical indication is represented by a GI tag. The protection of the GI tag prevents misuse of a registered Geographical Indication. The producer has a legal right to charge anyone not belonging to the GI region trying to use their GI tag and save his reputation from being damaged. The farmers selling products of a given region have to face less competition from fake people who sell phony products. The protection of geographical indications builds a reputation for the GI product throughout the world. More and more people notice the various GI products from various regions which in turn motivates them to visit those places for accessing those products.

This helps in the growth of the tourism industry and promotes entrepreneurship. The process of manufacturing or only traditional knowledge which has developed over a period of time, throughout which the locals have put their effort, must be rewarded in the context of the contemporary market economy. Article 37 of the International Conference on Intellectual property has declared overtly that the skill and heritage of any local community must be protected from unfair competition and should be adequately paid.

The requirement for useful marketing and trading tool to compete with buck products in the global market is identical for all the producers of traditional quality products with a specific geographical origin.

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