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Geographical Indication as an Intellectual Property Rights

When we say Kolkata has the best Rosgulla and no other city in this world can replicate that, we attribute the product because of its geographical location where it first originated and assures originality. Similarly, Geographical Indication or GI Tags is an Intellectual Property Right (IPR) given to a product that belongs to a specific location and holds the quality which is intrinsic or reputable due to its location. However, with regards to the example of Rosgulla, later it was asserted by a committee formed by the government of Odisha that Rasgulla has its origin in Odisha where it was offered at Jagannath Temple in Puri. This example clearly reflects the importance of having Geographical Indication as an Intellectual Property Rights. A few more examples would be Blue Pottery of Rajasthan, the age-old Kashmir Pashmina or Cashmere dating back its origin to 300 BC also have GI labels in today’s time.

 It is governed and directed by the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). It was decided and also stated under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention that the protection of industrial Property and Geographical Indication are elements of Intellectual Property.

“Geographical Indications (GIs) are the indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.”

These are mostly signs used on products of a specific geographical origin that carries with its quality and reputation; due to it, the sign identifies that the product is of the location’s origin. However, other than signs, a certificate or name can also be given to establish the uniqueness and to protect it. It is important for the essentials to fit into the category of possessing a GI tag if the characteristics, reputation or quality of the product is quintessential due to its place of origin. There should be a direct link between the pioneer or original place of production and the product. GI tags are important because it assures the quality of the product and it also ensures that no other unaccredited party other than the authorized users can use the GI tagged products for their sales.

In India, GI Is given to the qualified goods by the Geographical Indication Registry, the headquarters lay in Chennai. This body has come into being under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. The next question that might come to your mind is what type of rights does geographical indication provide? It enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent any third party from using the indication because they don’t conform to the applicable standards. For example, in the jurisdiction of Darjeeling geographical indication, if the producers produce tea outside the said jurisdiction and in a way different from the standards set out in the code of practice, then they should exclude the use of the word “Darjeeling” while selling the tea.

For registration purposes, it is to be ensured that the products fall under the ambit of section 2(e).  Those are mostly natural, agricultural goods, or manufactured goods originating at a given territory, region or location. After it fulfils the criteria, an application for a GI Tag can be filed under section 11 of the Act. This application should contain the description of the GI, statements of the case for GI, details of the applicant for example their address and name, three certificated copies of geographical maps in which the GI belongs. Then it has to go through an examination round. Whereby if objected, an opportunity for a hearing will be given. If the application passes then it goes for advertisement in the GI Journal. If there is any opposition, the applicant can go for an appeal to IPAB, otherwise, it passes unhampered. Now, when that stage is passed, a certificate of registration and a seal of the GI Registry will be issued to the applicant. The registry is applicable for ten years and can be renewed at its expiry by payment of a renewable fee.

In the Indian context, GI Tags play an important role within the ambit of Intellectual Property Rights. It protects the cultures and heritage rights of the people belonging here. 

By Zoya Hossain