Geographical Indication Tag

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Every place has its own charm, some places are famous for their rich culture, some are for their food, some for their natural charms and some are for their art and clothes. These places and people belonging to them can be easily identified because of these uniqueness mixed in their form of dresses, cuisines, language and culture. The uniqueness becomes Geographical Indicators such as Rasgullas of Bengal, Shawl of Mandi, Tea of Darjeeling and many more.

What are Geographical Indication Tags?

A geographical indication tag (GI) is a sign that identifies a product as originating from a particular location which gives that product a special quality or reputation or other characteristic. The purpose of a geographical indication may act as admittance that the product possesses certain attributes, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain prominence due to its geographical origin.

For example –

Mysore silk is a unique handicraft from Karnataka.

A popular spice named Uttarakhand tejpatta used in this hilly region has been accorded a GI certificate making it the first product primitive to the state to have made it to this list.

Spices – Alleppey Green Cardamom under the agricultural sector from Kerala.

Why are they necessary?

India is the epitomal cultural Hub. It is the land where art and craft in its various creative forms have flourished from ancient times. Traditional Art and craft works have always enriched our homes and lives through their aesthetic and utilitarian aspects.

Many of these unique and traditional creations which have had their origin in ancient times, today, unfortunately, face threats in the market, which is being flooded with cheap imitations. The original art and craft forms therefore suffer, many are on the verge of disappearance unable to compete with the interlopers.

This is where the term GI tag, awarded by the Government of India comes into picture. The GI tag links the authenticity of a product to the geographical place or the cultural community that produces it. So, a product with a GI tag is definitely Original, of good quality and the money spent will go to the real artists who produce them.

Who accords and regulates GI tags?

Geographical Indications are covered as a component of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. At the International level, GI is governed by World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In India, Geographical Indications registration is administered by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force with effect from September 2003. The first product in India to be accorded with GI tag was Darjeeling tea in the year 2004-05.

How are Geographical Indications protected?

There are three major ways to protect a geographical indication:

  • so-called sui generissystems (i.e. special regimes of protection)
  • using collective or certification marks
  • Techniques concentrating on business practices, including administrative product approval schemes.

These approaches comprise of differences with respect to critical questions like conditions for protection or the scope of protection. On the other hand, two of the modes of protection mentioned above namely sui generissystems and collective or certification mark systems, share some common characteristics, such as the fact that they set up rights for collective use by those who comply with defined standards.

Geographical indications are protected and preserved in various countries and regional systems through a wide array of approaches and often using a consolidation of two or more of the approaches defined above. These approaches have been developed in consonance with different legal practices and within a framework of individual historical and economic conditions.

Issues with GI tag

  • Off late, there has been a rise in disputes over the question of place of origin of the product under consideration. This gets aggravated due to lack of clear historical evidence. For ex: the disputes surrounding the origin of Roshogulla, a popular dessert, from eastern India. Both West Bengal and Odisha claim that the dessert originated in their own states. By ‘winning’ a GI tag, each state is looking to promote their own cultural and regional jingoism over the other.
  • This sort of unhealthy competition tends polarise the country on regional, cultural and linguistic lines.
  • Most states in their rush to corner as many GI tags as possible have forgotten to pay attention to enhance the value of products already having a GI tag. As a result, neither the local community not the customer is benefitting economically. This trend undercuts the very idea of GI protection to native endemic products.

Way Forward

  1. GI tag needs to be allotted only after a thorough historical and empirical inquiry.
  2. for products whose origin can’t be effectively traced, either none of the regions be provided with the GI tag or both the states should be given ownership.
  3. The focus of the states and the community needs to shift from mere certification for the sake of regional and instead divert all resources towards active promotion of the product and its respective industry.

GI Tags in India

Geographical Indication Tags took a very long time to start. The origin of the GI tag can be traced back to when WTO administered an international agreement in 1994 called the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to safeguard IPs of member countries and set down certain standards for it. TRIPS has had its fair share of controversy. Protection under TRIPS is defined in two articles – Article 22 and 23. As per Article 22, GIs are protected to avoid providing public with misleading information and to prevent unfair competition, and thus, products under this article are provided with standard protection. On the other hand, Article 23 is mostly used for GI tags for wines and spirits and are subject to a higher level of protection. Some countries including India, Pakistan and Switzerland want Article 23 to increase its coverage of products so that their respective produces can benefit from greater brand equity born out of them being a GI.

In 1999, the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act was passed in India. While the use of GI tags by unauthorised users is in principle illegal, there is no concrete method of preventing it. If a man, say, from Kenya decides to sell rice as Indian basmati rice, despite not being authorized to use the GI tag, at most, the government of India can write to the Kenyan authorities. But what if Kenya refuses to take action? It’s fairly impossible to even imagine the efforts and time that The All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA) will take to go about establishing the GI tag for the product in every country.

States wise GI Tags:

 

Andhra Pradesh

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