karnataka scores once again in registration of a ‘geographical indication’

Of late Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in India have been getting their fair share of bad publicity. Amongst others, the Novartis dispute, as also the yoga patenting dispute were especially damaging to the image of ‘intellectual property’ in the Indian psyche. But as the Prime Minister Dr. Singh (or was it Yeats?) famously said ‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind?’ So true for the world of Indian IP too. Unlike the nuclear winter that Dr. Singh is now facing, SpicyIP is happy to experience spring, through a positive example of how a branch of intellectual property rights – Geographical Indication – as envisioned by TRIPS, is actually benefiting Indian communities, be it the humble horticulturist or the skilled artisan communities.

A Geographical Indication or a GI is the protection given to a reputable product, either man-made or natural, if the applicant can conclusively prove that the unique character, reputation of the product is attributable to a specific quality attributable to only the geographical region where the product is produced and which may not be replicated to the same standard in any other region. Famous Indian examples are Darjeeling Tea and the not yet registered Basmati. The most popular international examples of GIs that come to the mind are Champagne and Scotch. As the French and the Scottish people would swear both these types of liquors are highly unique in their taste; the uniqueness being attributable to the soil, climate, cultivating practices of their respective geographical regions. The logic of protecting them as a GI is quite similar (but not same) to that of a trademark with the important distinction that GI protection is a community right i.e. it is given to all manufacturers/producers of a product in a certain designated area if their products meet the certifications standards laid down by a collective society. To get a GI protection reputation has to be proved before registration. GI is defined both in the TRIPS & in the Indian ‘The Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

The uniqueness of the ‘Mysore Mallige’ is that it is a variety of jasmine with a unique lingering fragrance. The Hindu in a very informative article also mentioned another unique factor that is “The volatile oil (essential oil) content is comparatively lower in this variety.” (unique quality)
According to the same report “The dry sandy soil prevailing in the region around Hadagali taluk is responsible for the particular aroma of this flower, while the dry climate (low/sparse rainfall) adds to the favourable environment for the crop.” (attribution to the specific geographical region)

And to continue “The flower is in high demand in places such as Mumbai, besides the coastal region. It has an export potential as it is in demand in West Asia.” (reputation)

Since ‘Mysore Mallige’ fulfils the criteria of a GI as laid down in the Act it was granted protection. Therefore nobody outside this specific geographical region will be allowed to sell under the name. The GI status gives an exclusive cultivation rights for a period of 10 years. The Act has rather strict punishments of imprisonment along with hefty fines of upto Rs. 2 lakhs.

A fact which must get special mention is that the people of the State of Karnataka seem to be extremely conscious of the concept of ‘Geographical Indication’ especially since according to a report released by the Ministry of Commerce a year ago 12 out of 27 GIs registered in India were from Karnataka. The 12 were: Mysore silk; Coorg Orange; Mysore betel leaf; Nanjanagud banana; Mysore sandalwood oil; Mysore sandal soap; Bidriware; Channapatna toys & dolls; Mysore rosewood inlay; Kasuti embroidery; Mysore traditional paintings, Mysore Agarbathi. Whether this is the result of a conscious IP strategy or a mere coincidence is not known but the Mnistry of Agriculture, Govt. of India in its National Horticulture Mission, Revised Action Plan for Karnataka, 2005, recognized the wide biodiversity in Karnataka and clearly stated the need for the creation of a GI Register in order to make it easier to establish genuiness and better quality control.

Before ending this post, SpicyIP would like to caution its readers on the various connotations of the term ‘Mysore Mallige’. In popular discourse ‘Mysore Mallige’ refers to a unique variety of jasmine flowers found in Mysore and certain other districts of Karnataka. However in Karnataka’s subaltern culture (read adult entertainment!) ‘Mysore Mallige’ refers to a scandalous, adult video which apparently has its roots in Mysore. The reason that SpicyIP is cautioning its readers is because we are aware that some of you like to carry on additional research and if you were to type ‘Mysore Mallige’ in the Google search engine you will come up with some positively shocking, embarrassing and potentially damaging links which may jeopardize your career/life especially if the search is conducted through a monitored network. So if you actually want to research on the topic please Google ‘Mysore Mallige Geographical Indication’ and save yourself, my embarrassment.

Prashant Reddy

Prashant Reddy

T. Prashant Reddy graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, with a B.A.LLB (Hons.) degree in 2008. He later graduated with a LLM degree (Law, Science & Technology) from the Stanford Law School in 2013. Prashant has worked with law firms in Delhi and in academia in India and Singapore. He is also co-author of the book Create, Copy, Disrupt: India's Intellectual Property Dilemmas (OUP).


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