Geographical Indication (GI) protection is pivotal in safeguarding products
uniquely tied to their place of origin, fostering cultural heritage, and
ensuring consumer authenticity. This abstract explores the multifaceted aspects
of GI, emphasizing the interplay of natural and human factors in shaping
distinctiveness. Examining international agreements such as TRIPS and the Lisbon
Agreement underscores the global importance of GIs.
In the Indian context, the
historical background reveals the catalyst for its GI legislation, exemplified
by the Basmati dispute. The rationale for GI protection is outlined, emphasizing
its role in acknowledging collective traditions, rewarding tradition with
ongoing evaluation, and highlighting the intricate relationship between human
efforts, culture, land resources, and environment.
Functions of GIs include
identification, quality assurance, and promotion. The Geographical Indications
of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, serves as India's framework
for GI registration, involving a meticulous process with provisions for
opposition. Furthermore, the application of GIs to goods, prohibition criteria,
penalties for infringement, and civil remedies are explored. Judicial
involvement and administrative bodies like the Geographical Indications Registry
contribute to the effective enforcement of GI protection in India.
Geographical Indication (GI) is a vital concept in the world of intellectual
property and trade, as it plays a crucial role in protecting and promoting
products with unique qualities and reputations that are closely tied to their
place of origin. GI serves as a certification that certain goods are linked to a
specific country, region, or locality and possess distinctive characteristics
that are a result of their geographical environment, encompassing both natural
and human factors.
Geographical indications often owe their distinctiveness to a
combination of natural elements, such as the quality of raw materials, the
composition of the soil, regional climate patterns, temperature variations,
moisture levels, and even topographical features. These factors shape the unique
attributes of products and contribute significantly to their identity.
In addition to natural elements, human activities and practices in a particular
region can also be instrumental in defining the qualities and characteristics of
products. Concentrations of specialized businesses in a specific area,
longstanding traditions of crafting certain items, and the adherence to strict
quality standards are among the human factors that contribute to the reputation
of goods under a GI. For instance, when you hear the term "Champagne" and its
association with the district of Champagne in France, it immediately conjures
images of the renowned sparkling wine produced there.
This is a prime example of
how a GI can evoke a strong connection between a product and its place of
origin. France, in fact, was a pioneering country in the protection of GIs, with
the introduction of the French "appellation d'origine" legislation in the 20th
century, starting with the law of 1919. This legislation recognized
geographical indications as a form of collective intellectual property and
provided legal protection to ensure the authenticity and quality of products
associated with specific regions.
Internationally, efforts have been made to standardize and protect GIs. The
Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and Their
International Registration in 1958 is a notable example. This agreement aims to
safeguard appellations of origin, which are defined as geographical names of
countries, regions, or localities used to designate products originating from
To qualify as a GI under this agreement, products must meet specific
The quality and characteristics of the product should be primarily or
exclusively influenced by the geographic environment, encompassing both natural
and human factors.
The reputation, quality, or other essential characteristics of the product must
be fundamentally linked to its geographical origin.
On a global scale, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS) also recognizes the importance of geographical
indications. TRIPS defines geographical indications as indicators that
identify a product as originating from a particular territory, where a
particular quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the product is
essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
Indications serve as a powerful tool for preserving cultural heritage, promoting
regional development, and safeguarding consumers by ensuring the authenticity
and quality of products associated with specific geographic areas. They not only
protect the interests of producers but also enrich the global marketplace with a
diverse array of unique and high-quality goods, each carrying the essence of its
place of origin.
Historical Background of Geographical Indication Law in India
Before 1999, India did not have specific legislation addressing geographical
indications adequately. Despite being a party to the Agreement on Trade-Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), India did not enact a dedicated
law on geographical indications until 1999.
The Basmati controversy in 1997
played a pivotal role in raising awareness about the importance of protecting
geographical indications in India. This dispute involved the use of the term
"Basmati" to describe rice varieties, with implications for the reputation and
economic interests of the region associated with genuine Basmati rice
production. This controversy highlighted the need for legal mechanisms to
safeguard the interests of producers and regions.
In response to such challenges and recognizing the significance of protecting
GIs, India eventually enacted legislation to provide legal protection for
geographical indications, ensuring the preservation of traditional knowledge,
the promotion of regional products, and the prevention of misappropriation and
misuse of these valuable designations. This legal framework has since played
a crucial role in safeguarding the interests of Indian producers and preserving
the authenticity of regional products, including Basmati rice, Darjeeling tea,
and many others.
Rationale for Protecting Geographical Indications
Geographical indications (GIs) are a crucial aspect of intellectual property
rights that serve several important functions, primarily focused on benefiting
indigenous and local communities while promoting fairness and geographical
inclusion. Here are the key reasons for protecting geographical indications:
Functions of Geographical Indications:
- Collective Tradition and Decision-Making Process:
GIs are often based on collective traditions and decision-making processes within specific geographical regions. These traditions reflect the shared knowledge, expertise, and cultural heritage of local communities. Protecting GIs ensures that the benefits of these traditions are preserved and shared among the community members.
- Rewarding Tradition with Continued Evaluation:
GIs reward and acknowledge the rich traditions of a region while allowing for ongoing evaluation and improvement. By recognizing the unique qualities associated with a particular place of origin, GIs encourage producers to maintain and enhance traditional practices, ensuring the continued authenticity and quality of their products.
- Emphasizing the Relationship Between Human Efforts, Culture, Land Resources, and Environment:
GIs highlight the close connection between human efforts, cultural practices, the local environment, and the land's resources. They showcase how these elements collectively contribute to the unique characteristics and qualities of products from a specific region. Protecting GIs acknowledges and preserves this holistic relationship.
GIs are not freely transferable from one owner to another. This non-transferability ensures that the benefits of GI protection remain within the region of origin and directly benefit the local producers and communities. It prevents individuals or entities outside the region from exploiting the GI without contributing to the region's development and sustainability.
Geographical indications serve a range of functions that are essential for the
well-being of producers, consumers, and the regions they represent:
GIs identify goods as originating from a specific territory, region, or
locality. This clarity helps consumers make informed choices and recognize the
authenticity of products tied to their place of origin.
GIs suggest to consumers that goods from a particular area possess certain
quality, reputation, or other characteristics inherently linked to their
geographical origin. This assurance fosters trust and encourages consumers to
choose these products for their known qualities.
GIs promote the goods of producers from a particular geographical area. By
highlighting the unique attributes and cultural heritage associated with these
products, GIs can boost sales and demand, ultimately benefiting the local
The Geographical Indication Registry in India serves as the linchpin for the
implementation and enforcement of the Geographical Indications of Goods
(Registration and Protection) Act of 1999. Under the jurisdiction of the
Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trademarks, this registry shoulders the
vital responsibility of managing the registration and safeguarding of
geographical indications (GIs). Several key facets define its operational
First, the appointment of a Registrar of Geographical Indications,
often occupied by the Controller-General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks,
ensures a seamless integration of trademark and GI-related matters. Second, the
Central Government has the authority to appoint officers who assist the
Registrar in executing GI-related functions, promoting efficiency, and
specialization. Third, the establishment of the Geographical Indications
Registry, headquartered in Chennai with branch offices, extends its reach and
accessibility for stakeholders across the nation.
The official seal of this
registry serves as a symbol of authenticity and authority, authenticating
certificates and documentation associated with GI registration and protection.
In essence, the Geographical Indication Registry plays a central role in
preserving and celebrating the unique heritage tied to GIs, bolstering economic
development, and fostering equitable trade practices across India. It stands as
a testament to India's dedication to conserving its cultural and agricultural
diversity while facilitating responsible and sustainable commerce.
The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act lays out
a comprehensive framework for the registration and protection of geographical
indications (GIs) in India. It also defines the criteria for prohibiting the
registration of certain GIs. These prohibitions are crucial to maintain the
integrity and authenticity of GIs and protect against misuse or confusion. Here
are the key points regarding the prohibition of registration of certain
Likelihood of Confusion
Section 9 of the Act prohibits the registration of GIs that are likely to
deceive or cause confusion among consumers. This provision aims to prevent the
registration of GIs that may mislead consumers regarding the origin or
characteristics of goods.
Contrary to Law
GIs that are in conflict with existing laws cannot be registered. This provision
ensures that GIs do not violate any legal provisions or regulations.
Scandalous or Obscene Marks
Geographical indications that contain scandalous or obscene elements or marks
are ineligible for registration. This prohibition maintains the dignity and
decorum of registered GIs.
GIs that are likely to hurt the religious susceptibilities of Indian citizens
are not allowed for registration. This safeguard protects the religious and
cultural sentiments of the population.
GIs that are considered generic names or have lost their protection in their
country of origin due to generic use cannot be registered. Generic names are
common terms used to describe products and cannot be monopolized.
GIs that make false representations about the origin, quality, or other
characteristics of goods are prohibited from registration. This ensures that
consumers are not misled by misleading GIs.
The registration process for GIs involves submitting an application to the
Registrar of Geographical Indications. This application can be made by any
association of persons, producers, or organizations representing the interests
of the concerned goods. The applicant must be a legal entity and demonstrate
that they represent the interests of the producers of the goods.
application for registration must contain various details, including a statement
describing how the geographical indication serves to designate the goods'
origin, the class of goods it applies to, a geographical map of the territory of
origin, particulars about the appearance of the GI, information about the
producers of the goods, and other prescribed particulars.
Furthermore, the Act allows for the filing of a single application for different
classes of goods, reducing paperwork and expediting the processing of
applications. Once an application is submitted, it undergoes examination by the
Registrar, who may accept it, refuse it, or require certain amendments or
After acceptance, the Registrar advertises the application,
allowing interested parties to oppose the registration within a specified
timeframe. Opposition to registration is allowed to ensure that the rights and
interests of all stakeholders are considered and protected.
Thus, the Act establishes clear guidelines and prohibitions for the registration
of geographical indications in India, with a focus on preventing confusion,
respecting legal requirements, and upholding cultural and religious
sensitivities. The registration process involves a thorough examination,
advertisement, and provision for opposition to ensure the integrity of
The application of geographical indications (GIs)
to goods is a critical aspect of protecting the authenticity and origin of
products. Section 37 of the Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999,
elucidates what constitutes the application of a geographical indication to
Direct Application to Goods
This involves physically applying the geographical indication directly to the
goods themselves. For example, labeling wine bottles with the name of the region
where the grapes were grown.
Application to Packaging
GIs can also be applied to any package or container in or on which the goods are
sold, exported for sale, or held in possession for sale or trade purposes. This
includes labels, tags, and packaging materials that bear the GI.
Combining with Goods
If a person combines, endorses, or attaches any goods to packaging or other
items to which a geographical indication has been applied, it is considered an
application of that GI. This ensures that any associated items maintain the GI's
Using a GI in any way that could reasonably lead to the belief that the goods
are designated or described by that GI is prohibited. This prevents misleading
marketing and labeling practices.
GIs must also be respected in commercial documents. Any sign, advertisement,
invoice, catalog, business letter, price list, or other commercial document
related to goods, where the GI is referenced, must adhere to the GI's proper
Section 39 of the Act outlines penalties for offenses related to geographical
Individuals found falsifying any geographical indications or falsely applying
GIs to goods can face legal action.
Possession of Instruments
Possession of equipment or instruments intended for falsifying GIs is also a
False Indication of Origin
Applying a false indication of the country or place of origin, or the name and
address of the manufacturer, as required by Section 71, is an offense.
Tampering with, altering, or erasing an indication of origin on goods where it
is required is prohibited. The severity of penalties depends on the nature of
the offense and whether it is a first-time or subsequent conviction. A person
found guilty of these offenses can face imprisonment for a term ranging from 3
to 6 years and a fine not less than INR 50,000, which may extend up to INR 2
Subsequent convictions can result in enhanced penalties, including
imprisonment for a term of 1 to 3 years and a fine ranging from INR 1 lakh to
INR 2 lakhs. These provisions ensure that the integrity of geographical
indications is upheld, discouraging fraudulent practices and protecting the
reputation and authenticity of products associated with specific regions or
Geographical Indications (GIs) are a form of intellectual property that
is vital for protecting products with unique geographical origins and
characteristics. In India, as in many other countries, there are legal
mechanisms in place to safeguard GIs and provide remedies for their
Infringement and Passing Off
GI infringement occurs when a party uses a registered GI that is identical or
deceptively similar to another's registered GI without authorization.
Passing off is a related concept where a party misrepresents their goods or
services as being associated with a particular GI. Legal remedies are available
to address both infringement and passing off situations.
Parties seeking to enforce their GI rights in India can resort to civil
remedies. These remedies are designed to protect the interests of the GI holder
The court can issue temporary or permanent injunctions to prevent the
unauthorized use of a GI. This is a powerful tool to immediately stop the
GI holders can seek monetary compensation for any losses they have suffered due
to the infringement. This could cover financial harm caused by the unauthorized
use of their GI.
Account of Profits
In cases of infringement, the court can also order an account of profits. This
means that the infringing party may be required to provide an account of the
profits they have earned from the unauthorized use of the GI, which can then be
awarded to the rightful GI holder.
These civil remedies are essential for ensuring that GIs are protected
effectively, and they provide a strong deterrent against unauthorized use.
Role of Judiciary
The role of the judiciary in India is paramount when it comes to resolving
intellectual property disputes related to Geographical Indications (GIs). Courts
serve as the final arbiter in these matters, and they fulfill several crucial
functions in the protection of GIs.
When disputes arise concerning the unauthorized use of GIs or instances of
passing off, it is the judiciary's responsibility to hear these cases and make
legal determinations. This includes assessing whether there has been an
infringement of GI rights and deciding on appropriate remedies.
The judiciary has the authority to grant remedies to GI holders. These remedies
can include issuing injunctions to stop the unauthorized use of a GI, awarding
damages to compensate for losses suffered due to infringement, and ordering an
account of profits earned by the infringing party. These measures are essential
for deterring unauthorized use and compensating rightful GI holders.
Interpreting and Applying Laws
Courts are responsible for interpreting and applying relevant laws and
regulations related to GIs. They provide legal clarity on the scope of GI
protection, the criteria for infringement, and the rights of GI holders. Their
decisions set important precedents for future cases.
The judiciary plays a crucial role in ensuring fairness in GI disputes. They
weigh the evidence, consider legal arguments, and make impartial decisions that
protect the interests of both GI holders and consumers. This fairness is
essential for maintaining trust in the legal system.
Setting Legal Precedents
Judicial decisions in GI cases establish legal precedents that guide future
cases. These precedents contribute to the development of jurisprudence in the
field of GIs and provide clarity on legal standards and principles. In addition
to the judiciary, India, like many other countries, has a dedicated
administrative body known as the Geographical Indications Registry. This
registry is responsible for the registration and administration of GIs. Its
functions complement those of the judiciary in the following ways:
The Geographical Indications Registry manages the registration process for GIs.
It maintains a record of registered GIs, which serves as official documentation
of their protection.
Facilitating Legal Processes
The registry plays a crucial role in facilitating legal processes related to
GIs. It assists GI holders in the registration process, handles documentation,
and provides information to stakeholders involved in GI protection.
Maintaining a comprehensive record of registered GIs is vital for tracking and
enforcing GI protection. This record ensures that GI holders can easily
demonstrate their rights when needed.
Hence, the judiciary and administrative bodies like the Geographical Indications
Registry work in tandem to ensure the effective enforcement of GI protection in
India. These measures are not only essential for safeguarding GIs but also for
preserving the cultural and economic value of products associated with specific
geographical origins. They contribute to the integrity of the intellectual
property system and promote fairness in trade practices.
- VK Ahuja, 'Protection of Geographical Indications: National and International Perspective' (2004) 46 Journal of the Indian Law Institute 269.
- Nicole Coutrelis and Pierre Yves Corre, 'The Protection of a Name Registered as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under the Simplified Procedure against a Trade Mark' (2011) 6 European Food and Feed Law Review 116.
- Ahuja (n 2).
- Kalliopi Dani, 'Geographical Indications', Community Collective Marks: Status, Scope and Rivals in the European Signs Landscape (1st edn, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH 2014) accessed 2 September 2023.
- Marsha Simone Cadogan, 'Making Agricultural and Food-Based Geographical Indications Work in Canada' (Centre for International Governance Innovation 2018) accessed 2 September 2023.
- Graham Dutfield, 'Geographical Indications and Their Feasibility' (International Institute for Environment and Development 2011) accessed 2 September 2023.
- Dani (n 5).
- Coutrelis and Corre (n 3).
- Marsha A Echols, 'Geographical Indications for Foods, Trips and the Doha Development Agenda' (2003) 47 Journal of African Law 199.
- Michael Handler, 'The WTO Geographical Indications Dispute' (2006) 69 The Modern Law Review 70.
- Dutfield (n 7).
- Echols (n 15).
- Coutrelis and Corre (n 3).
- Echols (n 15).
- Handler (n 16).
- Hazel Moir, 'Geographical Indications: An Assessment of EU Treaty Demands' in Annmarie Elijah and others (eds), Australia, the European Union and the New Trade Agenda (ANU Press 2017) accessed 2 September 2023.
- Dani (n 5).
- Echols (n 15).
- Ahuja (n 2).
- Daniel Gervais, 'Traditional Innovation and the Ongoing Debate on the Protection of Geographical Indications' in Peter Drahos and Susy Frankel (eds), Indigenous Peoples' Innovation (ANU Press 2012) accessed 2 September 2023.
- Cadogan (n 6).
- Ahuja (n 2).
- Coutrelis and Corre (n 3).
- Dutfield (n 7).
Written By: Bhagyamma G.
Scholar (Law) University of Mysore &
Sarada Vilas Law College, Krishnamurthy Puram, Mysore, Karnataka, India 570004
Email: [email protected]