WHAT ARE GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS?
Art. 22 of the TRIPS Agreement defines GIs 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 other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.’ The name of a product considered to be a geographical indication will signify the place of origin of such product.
Simply put, any good which possesses certain unique characteristics by virtue of its place of origin it may be granted the status of a GI. Common examples of GIs are Roquefort cheese[i], its unique flavour a result of ageing in the caves in the Roquefort-sur-Soulzon region and Darjeeling tea with its characteristic smell and taste attributable to the geological and climatic conditions of its place of cultivation namely, Darjeeling.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE IN INDIAN LAW RELATING TO GIs?
The scope of goods protected under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 is very wide and includes agricultural, natural or manufactured goods or any goods of handicraft or of industry including foodstuff[ii]. This is very beneficial in a vast country like India where there is much diversity is conditions and cultures, thus giving rise to many a product exclusive to a particular territory, area or even locality.
WHY IS IT BENEFICIAL TO REGISTER YOUR GI?
The protection under the GI Act is granted to the people at the grass root level such as persons who produce, process or package agricultural goods, exploit natural goods and makes or manufactures or trades or deals in the production, exploitation, making or manufacturing of industrial goods and handicrafts.[iii] Thus, this is generally a protection that is guaranteed to artisans and agriculturalists. Section 11 of the GI Act 1999 enables any association of persons, producers, organizations or authority established by or under the law to apply for registration of GIs. Though registration is not mandatory for GIs, it guarantees more sanctity to the GI and makes for a stronger case if litigation arises. The benefits of registration of GIs include that;
- It confers legal protection to Geographical Indications in India.
- It prevents the unauthorized use of a Registered Geographical Indication by others.
- It provides legal protection to Indian Geographical Indications which in turn boost exports.
- Consequently, it promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods produced in a geographical territory.[iv]
It is clear by the increasing number of decisions and the volume of discussion on the subject of Geographical Indications in the country that the rights of GI holders in the country are receiving more attention. It is important that people are made aware of their rights so that they will be able to exploit them efficiently.
[ii] Section 2 (I) (f), GI Act, 1999
[iii] ‘Producer’ as defined u/s. 21 (k) of the GI Act, 1999