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All About Geographical Indication Tag


INTRODUCTION

Ever wondered why Champagne from France or Parmesan Cheese from Italy is so costly? It’s because these commodities have a limited supply as they are only produced in a particular region. A lot of these commodities are given a Geographical Indication. GI stands for geographical indication, which is used to identify agricultural, natural, or manufactured goods. The manufactured goods should be produced, processed, or prepared in the territory specified in the GI. The product should have a special quality or other characteristics that make it unique. GIs have been defined under Article 22 (1) of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement as: "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.” As India is a member of the WTO, the Indian Parliament, in December 1999, enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act,1999. The GI Act was followed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules of 2002. The Intellectual Property Office in Chennai is in charge of the GI Registry of India. The Act provided for the registration and better protection of GI relating to goods in India. The Act is administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks, which is also the Registrar of Geographical Indications.

Unlike other intellectual property rights, a GI can be registered by any association of persons, producers, organizations, or authority established by or under the law. It gives the community/authorized users exclusive rights to GI products, and the GI is non-transferable. GIs represent the association or group of producers' collective reputation among consumers. In contrast to a patent, a GI can be protected permanently by renewing its registration (after ten years). Names that do not imply the name of a country, region, or location can nonetheless be considered for registration under the act if they pertain to a specific geographical area and are used in connection with goods originating in that region. This allows for extending protection to other symbols such as ‘Alphonso mangoes’ and ‘Basmati rice’.

HOW TO APPLY FOR A GI TAG

The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act of 1999 grants the Geographical Indication tag. All producers of commodities or organizations are eligible to apply for GI. The geographical map of the territory or region in the country where the goods are manufactured, as well as the class of goods to which it applies, must be included in the application. It must be presented in the required format, together with a certain fee and signature. Groups of authorities will study and examine the application. To claim any rights in relation to such an indication, GI registration is required. A GI tag on a product prohibits unlawful usage and increases financial gain for producers by increasing the export potential of the product. The price of a GI product rises on the international market as exports rise. Registration gives you the ability to sue for infringement, according to Section 21 of the GI Act. Section 23 attests to the existence of prima facie proof of GI ownership and validity.


BENEFITS OF GI TAGS

Market Symmetry

Consumers generally struggle to appraise product quality in the marketplace without conducting searches or gaining experience, and they typically have limited knowledge of the product's valuable features. The makers, on the other hand, have complete knowledge of the product's characteristics and quality in comparison to other items on the market. As a result, unbalanced information experiences "natural chaos." When certain producers take advantage of information asymmetry, it can have a negative impact on the market or consumers' purchasing decisions. For example, certain producers may be tempted to lower the quality of goods supplied precisely because consumers lack complete information, as is often the case. In such a scenario, GIs can help restore the symmetry in information by offering consumers additional information on the products’ quality and reputation so that they are not adversely placed against producers.


Help Producers Get Better Returns

A GI tag provides legal protection by preventing unauthorized use of the GI by producers in other regions, limiting the supply of particular commodities, and allowing farmers to obtain better prices. As a result, manufacturers of specific distinctive items produced in a geographical territory flourish economically. Consumers are willing to pay a premium of up to 10% to 15% for GI-certified agricultural products, according to surveys conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Similarly, consumers are willing to pay between 5 and 10% more for non-agricultural goods.


Increase Soft Power of Nations

Local communities also benefit greatly from GI because it is recognized to promote the preservation of biodiversity, local knowledge, and natural resources. This is because a GI ensures that locally produced goods are priced fairly. A healthy GI ecosystem also gives a country economic and soft strength. Returning to the champagne and parmesan cheese examples, the world currently connects so strongly with French and Italian culture because of these two GI items, both of which are soft power tools that assist these two countries realize significant economic gains. Because GI helps generate centers of employment in rural regions, where some of these GI commodities may be manufactured, it has the potential to reverse urban migration.


PROBLEMS WITH GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION TAG

Lack of Quality Control

It is important to note that Indian legislation does include some procedures to ensure quality control. The applicant group shall select an 'Inspection Body' that is responsible for quality control of the products inside the GI, according to Form GI-1 (which is required to be filled out as part of the procedure for applying for a GI Tag). It is important to highlight, however, that the lack of an inspection structure will not be deemed adequate grounds for proving the inadequacy of a GI application for the final granting of the GI under Indian legislation. It has been argued that the current regulatory framework lacks teeth because inspection organizations are not subject to statutory penalties under the current Act if they fail to conduct periodic verification of compliance with the related GI's product specifications. On the other hand, a lack of quality control encourages 'free riders' within the community.


A prime example of this issue is the Banarasi saree which has not been able to benefit from its GI tag because its inspection bodies have failed to stop its weavers from lowering the quality of their goods. It is said that the penetration of markets by inferior quality products is so deep that the ordinary Indian consumer can no longer be sure of the quality of the Banarasi saree they are buying. Surat-made synthetic sarees and Chinese-made sarees are regularly off as Banarasi products in different markets across India. These ‘Surat-made Banarasi style sarees’ are produced at a fraction of the cost (due to the use of synthetic materials and polyester) in comparison to an ‘authentic’ Banarasi saree.


Lack of Scientific Vigour

It has been argued that there is a distinction between product 'uniqueness' and product specialty. Geographic considerations determine product specialty, whereas uniqueness is determined by a combination of geographical and non-geographical variables, or solely by the latter. The lack of conceptual understanding and scientific rigor in determining product uniqueness is revealed in research of registered GIs. Customers may be confused by the statement in GI Journal No. 19 'flesh whitish occasionally pink' in the instance of 'Allahabad Surkha.' In the instance of 'Naga mircha,' the claim that it is "the hottest chili on the planet" is not scientifically proven. To demonstrate the uniqueness of agricultural products, a lot of research is required. Both specialty and originality must be given equal weight since when consumers are aware of specialty, they place a higher value on uniqueness as a purchasing criterion. However, most of the country's registered agricultural GIs are claimed to be lacking this information entirely.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT GI TAGS IN INDIA

India’s First GI Tagged Commodity: Darjeeling Tea (2004)

A tea field in Darjeeling

Oldest Non-European GI Tag: Tequila, Mexico

A field of “Agave tequilana,” or blue agave, an important economic product of Jalisco, Mexico.

GI Tags on Products From Other Countries Recognised in India:

  • Scotch Whisky- Scotland

  • Champagne Cognac -France

  • Prosciutto di Parma (cheese), Parmigiano-Reggiano (cheese), Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco (Wine), Grana Padano (Cheese), Gorgonzola (Cheese), Brunello Di Montalcino (Wine), Lambrusco Di Sorbara (Wine), Lambrusco Grasparossa Di Castelvetro (Wine), Montepulciano D’abruzzo (Wine), Toscano (Wine), Franciacorta (Wine), Chianti (Wine) - Italy

  • Porto (Wine), Douro (Wine)- Portugal

  • Napa Valley (Wine) - USA

  • Tequila - Mexico

  • Peruvian Pisco (Brandy) - Peru

  • Lamphun Brocade Thai Silk - Thailand

  • Irish Whiskey - Ireland

  • Žatecký chmel (Hops) - Czech Republic

  • Münchener Bier (Beer) - Germany


A Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano

Foreign Country with most GI Tagged Products on India's Registry - Italy (14)

WHEN TWO STATES FOUGHT OVER A ROSOGOLLA

In November 2017, the GI tag for 'Banglar Rosogolla,' the state's purported rendition of the syrupy treat, was awarded to West Bengal. Mr. Ramesh Chandra Sahoo, who claims to be the chairman of an Odisha regional development trust, submitted a rectification petition in February 2018, requesting that Bengal's GI registration of the sweet be canceled.


However, on October 31, the Registry dismissed the rectification petition due to Odisha's failure to produce evidence in support of its appeal within the deadlines set.

After the application for the removal/cancellation of the GI Registration for "Banglar Rasogolla" was filed in February 2018, West Bengal Government filed a counter statement to defend its claim to the sweet, according to Advocate Manosij Mukherjee. Odisha, on the other hand, failed to present evidence to support its plea within the time limit. "In the end, they filed the proof, but it was after the three-month deadline," said Mukherjee, who accompanied counsel S Majumdar in representing the West Bengal government with Sayan Roy Chowdhury. "Rather than challenging the evidence on its merits, West Bengal opposed it on technical grounds." West Bengal also filed an interlocutory plea, requesting that the application for rectification be dismissed under the required provisions of the legislation.


The GI registry's ruling on October 31 upheld West Bengal's interlocutory plea and dismissed Odisha's rectification petition after both parties finished their arguments in the case.


According to Odia mythology, the rosogolla was first presented as an offering in the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri in the 12th century, when cottage cheese or 'chenna' dumplings were served. Pradip Kumar Panigrahi, the former Science and Technology Minister of Odisha, established multiple committees in 2015 to investigate the origins of the sweet delicacy.


Bengal hurried to provide the GI tag after Odias began asserting a claim to the beloved treat, which was previously characterized by colonial British chef William Harold as "sweet, syrupy, soft cheese balls." The Bengal government, too, formed a committee and resolved to take legal action against the Odisha government's assertions. According to Bengalis, the archetypal Bengali delicacy was invented in the 19th century at the Banghbazar mansion in Kolkata by Nabin Chandra Das, a famous sweetmeat maker.


Odisha Small Industries Corporation Limited and Utkala Mistanna Byabasayee Samiti (Utkala Sweetmakers Business Body) received the GI tag for Odisha's version of the sweet known as "Odisha Rasagola" in July 2019. Cultural scholars like Asit Mohanty also supported the Odisha government’s claim. Mohanty said he had uncovered the use of the word “rasogolla” in the seminal Dandi Ramayan written by the medieval poet Balaram Das in Odia in the 15th Century.


As of now, both states have GI status for their own versions of the dessert. However, its origin story remains uncertain.


Pahala rasagolas from Odisha (left) and Bengali roshogollas from West Bengal (right)