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Protection Of Geographical Indication In India

If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else – Yogi Berra

Introduction
Geographical Indication is defined as an indication used to identify the goods, whether natural or manufactured goods emanating from a particular area known for a particular quality or characteristic of goods. The products which have recognized as Geographical Indication, if such geographical names are used by any person originating from a different place will likely create confusion among customers.

A sign of Geographical Indication should identify a product originating from a particular place and the qualities or characteristics must have resemblance from a place of origin. Generally, Geographical Indication is granted to the products like agricultural, manufactured or having a natural origin, handicraft gods having a definite place of origin.

Article 22 of the TRIPS Agreements defines Geographical Indication as:
indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or another characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin"[1].

It can be said that there is a connection between a product or goods and their place of origin. It is not compulsory for registering for Geographical Indication but it can give benefits to the owner of GI if someone uses unfair business practice for misleading the customers which result in loss of revenue to the owner and harming their goodwill.

The Geographical Indications Of Goods (Registration And Protection) 1999 Act

The Geographical Indications of Goods Act is designed to protect the use of such geographical indication from infringements by others and protect the consumers from confusion and deception through the process of registration of such indication by law.

The Geographical Indication is defined under the act as:
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 characteristics of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and in the 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[2]

The Act provides for registration of geographical indication coming within the scope of the definition under the act and confers certain rights on the registered proprietors and provides for remedies against infringement of such by third parties. The usage of registered Geographical Indications, using unfair competition, or passing off by any third party which is not authorized to use will be considered as an act of infringement. [3] The act prohibits any unauthorized party from representing the registered Geographical Indications that indicate its origin in a particular geographical area.

The legislative intent behind the act is to identify the goods with their origin, to indicate to customers that the goods belong to a particular geographical area and these goods are attributed to this particular region. The objective of the act is threefold, firstly it will protect the interest of the producers or manufacturers of these goods. Secondly, protecting the Geographical Indication from infringement by any unauthorized party and safeguards the consumers from getting confused or deceived. Lastly, to promote the goods having Indian Geographical Indications in the export market.

The relatedness between the product and its geographical area becomes highly recognized that the reference of the place reminds of their goods and vice-versa. For instance, Darjeeling Tea, Agra Petha, Basmati Rice, KangivaramSarees, Muga Silk, PochampalliIkat, ChanderiSarees, Kancheepuram Silk, Mysore Agarbathi, Coorg Orange, Madhubani Paintings, Malabar Pepper, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Bikaneribhujia, Mahabaleshwar Strawberries, Phulkari and many more[4]. Currently, there are 361 registered geographical Indications across India noted in September 2019.

The generic name or indication cannot be registered as a Geographical Indications. It means that although the product is originated and manufactured in that geographical area and has a relation to it now it has lost its original meaning and is considered as the common name. The famous example of GI becoming a generic name is Camembert for cheese, now this can be used to describe any camembert type cheese. [5]

Case Studies
Some of the major geographical indications of India will be discussed below:
Darjeeling Tea[6]
Darjeeling tea was India’s first product to get a GI tag. It is one of the most important GI India has as India is the world’s largest producer of tea. For, 150 years the cultivation of Darjeeling tea has been continued in the hilly areas of District Darjeeling of West Bengal. The climatic condition of the region, the production regulations, and processing has led to a distinctive nature and flavor of tea which is highly recognized across the world, consumers have developed a taste of the tea and have maintained its goodwill for over a century. As it is widely recognized it was important to get the registered Geographical Indications to protect it from being getting misused by the unfair practices of their competitors.

It will be difficult to protect the reputation of the Darjeeling tea on the international and domestic level if it is not registered. India is facing problems exporting the tea from their competitors like Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Nepal and they have also been passed their tea several times across the world as Darjeeling Tea. Hence to increase the export market, protecting the rights of the owner, and safeguarding the consumer from getting deceived it is important to get a registered Geographical Indication.

Basmati Rice[7]
Basmati Rice is unique extra-long grained rice having a soft texture and aroma that is cultivated only in the Indo-Gangetic plains of India and Pakistan for over 200 years. It is one of the most important GI of India as India is the largest producer and exporter of Basmati Rice for many countries like the USA, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, etc. The GI tag has been issued to some states for growing Basmati Rice on the foothills of the Himalayas they are Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.

Once Texas-based Company has got a patent for Basmati Rice and said India and Pakistan do not own the word Basmati. This made an impact on the farmers for protecting their Country’s famous product.  Basmati is a premium product in domestic as well as international as it has its certain characteristic which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Hence it was important for it to be preserved and protected so it cannot be used for unfair trade practices.

Muga Silk [8]
Muga Silk is the first registered Geographical Indication from the north-eastern region. This has gained worldwide recognition and is Assam’s most popular export product after Assam Tea. Muga Silk is way expensive when compared to other Silks due to the diminishing area for Muga cultivation because of increased rubber cultivation, disease at cocoon stage, loss due to natural calamities owing to these farmers found it expensive and could not afford to cultivate it.

Banaganapalle Mangoes [9]
Banaganapalle Mangoes King of Fruits featured a bright yellow shiny fruit with the tagline Banganappalle Mangoes of Andhra Pradesh with and images of a man and woman representing farmers. If any person wants to sell or produce these mangoes they need to get a No- Objection Certificate from the Horticulture Development Agency, Government of Andhra Pradesh.

It was submitted that:
The prominent characteristic of Banganapalle mangoes is that their skin has very light spots, the stone is oblong in shape and has very thin seed with sparse and soft fiber all over' and it can be stored for three months in a cool place. The fruit is also known by many types of sages such as Beneshan, Banahan, Benishan, Chapati, Safeda, Banganapalli, Banginapalli, Banganapalle, etc. The State of Andhra Pradesh has a huge production as well the huge market of export. It was important to get a registered GI in order to protect the integrity and reputation of the origin of the mangoes.

Malabar Pepper[10]
Malabar Pepper is cultivated in the geographical area of the Malabar region of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. It accounts for 25% of the entries’ world pepper as India is the largest producer of spices. It has a sharp, hot and unique biting taste having its flavor, aroma, and a distinctive fruity bouquet, and is a warming spice. It has its own authenticity for the products and procedures for cultivating. It is one of the oldest spices of India and in the earlier times tax was levied on black pepper.

The Malabar pepper from Kerala and Karnataka contributes to a quarter of the world’s pepper supply. Intending to protect the reputation and integrity of the Malabar Pepper across the world from unfair trade practices, it was important registering Malabar Pepper as Geographical Indication. As India is the largest exporter of Spices there were instances where the counterfeit product was made to deceive the consumers.

Conclusion
The Geographical Indication tag has significant importance for protecting and maintaining the originality of the product of a certain geographical area. The Geographical Indications Act of India provides a provision for safeguarding the interest of the owner of the GI and helps in enhancing the export market across the world. Indian act has laid down the stringent protection which has been enshrined under the TRIPS agreement.

In India registration of Geographical indications is not compulsory but it will be helpful for getting better legal protection if GI has been infringed by any unauthorized party. If GI has been registered it will become easier to seek protection in other countries and especially the member countries of WTO.

End-Notes:
  1. Art. 22, The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), 1994
  2. Sec. 2(e), The Geographical indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
  3. P. Narayanan, Intellectual Property Law, 3rd ed., Eastern Law House, Kolkata (2017)
  4. List of Registered Geographical Indications, GI Application Register, IP INDIA Government of India (2019) https://ipindia.gov.in/
  5. Basics of Geographical Indication, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) https://www.wipo.int/geo_indications/en/faq_geographicalindications
  6. Darjeeling Tea ( Registration No. 1&2), granted by Geographical Indications Registry
  7. Basmati Rice (Registration No. 145), granted by Geographical Indications Registry
  8. Muga Silk (Registration No. 55), granted by Geographical Indications Registry.
  9. Banaganapalle mangoes (Registration No. 241), granted by Geographical Indications Registry
  10. Malabar Pepper (Registration No. 49&56), granted by Geographical Indication registry
Written By:
  1. Navin Kumar Jaggi
  2. Bhavya Bhasin

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