In a recent decision passed issued December 31, 2013, the Geographical Indications Registry has allowed six oppositions by Madhya Pradesh-based parties, namely Madhya Kshetra Basmati Growers Association, Narmada Cereals, Daawat Foods, SSA International, Madhya Kshetra Basmati Exporters Association and the State Govt. of Madhya Pradesh, to APEDA’s application for GI on Basmati (Application No. 145 in Class 30). APEDA’s application covered only the states of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. We have earlier blogged on the Basmati GI issue here, here and here.
The primary ground of opposition of all six parties was that there was no rational basis for including certain states and excluding certain others, particularly the State of Madhya Pradesh. Further, no scientific nation-wide survey had been undertaken by APEDA to identify Basmati-cultivating areas in India before moving the GI application which was restricted only to the aforementioned seven regions. To this end, the opponents provided extensive historical and commercial evidence to show that Madhya Pradesh has a history of Basmati cultivation dating back to at least the early 1900s.
Allowing the oppositions, the Assistant Registrar observed as follows:
“49…. [A]pplicant has,…failed to satisfy the fundamental requirement of clear, specific and reasoned demarcation of Basmati-cultivation areas. There is no proper demarcation of cultivation area in the GI application. From the above evidence, it was found that the areas mentioned in the oppositions are having Basmati cultivation and need to be included in the GI application.
50. Geographical area of protection is an important feature in granting GI tag and area has to be defined with clarity and without any ambiguity. The applicant as a guardian in protecting the product must include each and every cultivating areas where it (is) grown. It is vital to demarcate actual producing area even up to the level of village Panchayat. The GI application remains imperfect, if it fails to cover the actual producing area. Not even a micron point space actual cultivation area should be left uncovered.
51. At the same time both the opponent and respondents are tussling with the indistinguishable motto of protecting the interest of Basmati producers. The ultimate aim of litigants is to protect the interest of the producers of Basmati. In Geographical indications the dispute is really not inter parties alone, there is always the issue of public interest. The Registry is having a bounden duty to protect the interest of producers by covering the entire area of production.
[T]he oppositions are allowed; the respondent/applicant should file an amended GI application including the uncovered area, with map of the region clearly demarcating the area of production within 60 days from the date of this order.”
Saikrishna & Associates represented five of the Opponents, while KnS Partners argued for the applicant APEDA.