civils360 Editorials for mains
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Significance: West Bengal’s struggle with Odisha  concluded recently with the State getting Geographical Indication tag for rasogulla. For a product to get GI tag, it has to have a unique quality, reputation or characteristic which is attributable to its geographic origin.

What is Geographical Indication: A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. Some famous examples of products under GI include Kashmir Pashmina, Darjeeling Tea, Nagpur Oranges etc.

Importance of GI tag: GI tag provides an assurance of quality and uniqueness, which are attributable to the place of its origin.GI tag enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. That is,in the jurisdictions in which the rasagulla geographical indication is protected, producers of Bengal rasagulla have to exclude the term “Bengal” not produced according to the standards set out in the code of practice for the geographical indication.

How GI are protected: 

There are three main ways to protect a geographical indication:

  • Special regimes of protection);
  • using collective or certification marks; and
  • methods focusing on business practices, like administrative product approval schemes.

Geographical Indications and WTO: Globally, Geographical Indications are protected under TRIPS agreement. It treats GI as a form of intellectual property requiring affirmative governmental protection and mutual recognition in international trade. Article 22 applies to all goods and provides a standard level of protection.Article 23 provides enhanced protection to GIs related to wines and spirit.Article 24 provides for exceptions,for products which has already been registered as trademark. The Doha mandate identified two agenda items, both of which would have resulted in enhanced protection for GIs:

  • the creation of multilateral register for wines and spirits.
  • extension of higher level of protection under Article 23 beyond wines and spirit.

The recent EU- Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement covers GI and higher level protection beyond wines and spirit.

India and GI: India has formulated a legislation to accord geographical indications and comply with the provisions of TRIPS agreement.The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999  is an Act of the Parliament of India for protection of geographical indications in India.The GI tag ensures that none other than those registered as authorised users (or at least those residing inside the geographic territory) are allowed to use the popular product name. Darjeeling tea became the first GI tagged product in India.The benefits of GI include:

  • Prevents unauthorised use of a Registered Geographical Indication by others.
  • It also provides legal protection to Indian Geographical Indications which in turn boost exports.
  • GI makes branding possible in the global market. It cuts out intermediaries and helps manufacturers raise profits.

However there are some flaws in GI Act,1999 as the Act does not provide anything on the post-registration aspect in terms of inspection and quality control.Also, the manufacturers are clearly lacking awareness about its benefits.Also, it is difficult to convince manufacturers of local goods to register under the Act.

Although India has taken the first step by enacting a law to protect the interests of local manufacturers of different regions, a lot needs to be done before the GI process can be called a success.