Thursday, December 3, 2015

Overview of Geographical Indication Registration in India

The Geographical Indication Act, 1999 in India has been instrumental in the extension of GI status to many goods so far. The Central Government has established the Geographical Indications Registry with all India jurisdictions, at Chennai, where right-holders can register their geographical indications. Unlike TRIPS, the Act does not restrict its special protection to wines and spirits alone. The Central Government has the discretion to decide which products should be accorded higher levels of protection.  This approach has deliberately been taken by the drafters of the Act with the aim of providing stringent protection as guaranteed under the TRIPS Agreement to geographical indications of Indian origin. However, other WTO members are not obligated to ensure Article 23-type protection to all Indian geographical indications, thereby leaving room for their misappropriation in the international arena.

India’s Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, has been in effect since September 2003. To date, there are 236 geographical indications registered in India. The Geographical Indication Registry conducts regular awareness-creation workshops in various parts of India to educate stakeholders about the availability of such protection for the various geographical indications in relevant regions.

As a developing country, India is in the nascent stages of geographical indication protection, and because of this the government plays a more active role in the protection process. With the provisions of the GI Act permitting government bodies to become applicants, it is easier for the Indian government to support producers of the indications by protecting the indications and helping producers gain market access for their goods.
Since the first Indian geographical indication registration in 2004, 236 geographical indications have been registered with the GI Registry of India. Of these, more than half (64%) are handicrafts, more than one fourth (26%) are agricultural products, and the remaining are food and manufacturing products.

The trend of GI registration has been mostly upward with the maximum number of products registered in the year 2008 – 2009. While handicrafts have been the most registered GIs consistently, agricultural and manufactured products are increasingly being protected under the Act over the past few years. Food products, a more recent addition in the registered GI basket of India, was first granted protection in 2008 – 2009 when Dharwad Pedha from Karnataka was granted the status of a registered GI product. The recent increase in manufactured products being registered as a geographical indication can be partially attributed to more foreign products being registered at the Indian GI Registry.

Since 2009, six foreign products have been registered as geographical indications within the territory of India. These are Champagne and Cognac from France, Scotch Whiskey from the United Kingdom, Napa Valley wines from the United States of America, Douro wine from Portugal, Peruvian Pisco from Peru and Prosciutto di Parma from Italy.

As of date, the Southern states of India have bagged the maximum number of registered Geographical Indications. The state of Karnataka has been the forerunner in registration of GIs followed by the states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The spread of geographical indications’ recognition is concentrated in the southern states. Products from other states are getting registered now. At the same time many states, which have several traditional varieties of agricultural products or handicrafts, are not forthcoming in applying for GIs. There are only three geographical indications from all of north east India and none from Uttarakhand. The states of Punjab and Haryana have no geographical indication either except for a joint geographical indication on Phulkari embroidery along with Rajasthan. Phulkari is the only geographical indication in India which covers more than one state.

- Monidipa Sengupta