The session of the WTO Council for Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights convened (TRIPS), on the 23-24th of October saw the group of least-developed countries come out in support of a proposal to amend TRIPS rules to require patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic resources or traditional knowledge used in their inventions.
Also widely discussed was the application of IPRs and more specifically the potential of employing the G.I right’ as a tool for advancing socio-economic development goals
New perspectives on the G.I right pave the way for adoption and application of this right and in a manner that endorses the collective existence and livelihood of communities in a sustainable manner
An interesting paper commissioned by the ICSTD, Exploring the ‘Relationship between Geographical Indications and Traditional Knowledge’ suggests that a carefully structured legal protection of G.I could facilitate the socio-economic development of producers of G.I products including those village and local communities in developing countries. It is also argued that effective legal protection of G.Is’could also extend protection to traditional knowledge associated with eth G.I’s.
Not merely as a defensive IP right, the GI right has been adopted by many Asian countries more recently, to add value to the list of G.I products. Of special mention are the indigenous crafts and textiles that often hold an exotic appeal for the western consumer. Aligning the G.I right with the business strategy, a co-operative engaged in production of traditional product lines, could potentially unlock the economic value of its product and increase the revenue yielding capacity. Where branding makes all the difference to the marketability of a product, the GI registration serves to add brand value and recognition. This factor assumes greater importance in a sophisticated market place that patronizes originals. A savvy discerning clientèle often seek the’ original Mysore Mallige, so to say’!!! and in that context a G.I mark establishes authenticity.
Conscious of the growing importance in promoting the G.I as a tool and catalyst towards socio-economic development, many Indian States notably are drawing up a checklist of their native arts and G.I products.
Andhra Pradesh Technology Development and Promotion Centre (APTDPC), an autonomous society comprising the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Government of Andhra Pradesh and Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) of the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology, is proposing to secure GI coverage for native art bearing antecedent of origin to the State. The elite list of traditional knowledge and innovation for which GI recognition has been sought are Nirmal paintings and furniture and leather puppetry (‘Tholu Bommalaata’) of Nimmalakunta in Anantapur district and parts of Guntur district. The other items in the pipeline include Anab-e-Shahi grapes, and Venkatagiri and Gadwal sarees.A growing awareness is noticed in other parts of the country as well, albeit one that is spreading slowly.
A cultural mindset prevalent amongst traditional communities and village societies that inhibits seeking legal protection is often cited as the reason that prevents societies from applying for a G.I registration. Lack of awareness is cited as another.Structural chinks in the regulatory framework and administrative inefficiencies encountered in the registration process impede further.Further reports suggest that many societies failed to reap the benefits , as the G.I registration did not trickle down to the communities in the absence of implementation guidelines per se or guidelines that failed to address relevant socio-economic issues.
Drawing insights from development rationale propounded , it holds that ‘Freedom’ of the individual and the society underlies most socio-economic initiatives—-freedom of the individual and the society.If that be, then the G.I could be an interesting intervening variable that seeks to collect, collaborate , mobilize,harmonize, promote and liberate a given society. In the Indian context, one that is hinging its development drive on a knowledge based trajectory, it has much to gain from the intellectual property arising from tradition and geography and the G.I could be a portent tool.