Geographical Indications (GIs) make their mark in Bihar & Orissa

Bihar and Orissa are two of the most disturbed and impoverished states in India. Usually wracked with perennial law and order problems whether it be Marxist rebels, caste violence or tribal movements, it is heartening to note that these states seem to have woken up to their Intellectual Property Rights especially Geographical Indications. As SpicyIP has already discussed extensively 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.

Bihar: A news report claims that Bihar is filing for GI protection for its Madhubani paintings which are famous all over the world. According to the report “For ages, rural people, mostly women, of Mithila in Bihar have developed their own tradition of art, popularly known as Madhubani paintings and named after Madhubani district. This painting tradition dates back to the seventh century A.D.” The report also claims that Bihar is aiming to register tassar silk and aromatic Katarni rice of Bhagalpur under the provisions of GI Act as also Shahi Litchis being grown in Muzaffarpur. GI protection would definitely increase the brand value of these products. (See this interesting report for more on Madubhani paintings)
Interesting Bloopers in the news report: This report quotes Abhijit Das, representative of United National Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as saying: ‘The Madhubani painting of Bihar is the first item to be registered under the GI Act for patenting”. (Correction as of Aug. 20th, 2008: We recently spoke to Mr. Das and he informed us that the media completely misquoted him. We would therefore like to apologize to Mr. Das for unfairly criticizing him in our previous post. I should have been more careful in accepting at face value a news report which was already full of holes. On the same note I would like to mention that while it is understandable for the media to get confused about IPR law it is simply unacceptable that they mis-quote professionals and publicly tarnish their reputations as a result.) Also according to the newspaper IPR now stands for International Property Rights!

Orissa: Another news report claims that Orissa is going all out to protect traditional handloom designs whose designs are being unfairly ripped off by powerlooms causing massive losses to the traditional weavers. Orissa has already claimed protection for ikkat and bandha fabrics and kotpad vegetable dye. The report however was totally confused about IP. It claims that Orissa is going all out to give the traditional handloom designs – copyright protection, trademark protection, GI protection and then quotes the textile minister of the State who is claiming even patent protection for the designs!!! How does he intend to give them patent protection for something which has existed since the 7th Century????
One problem that I foresee is that which has been experienced during the GI registration of Pochampally textiles i.e. even the powerloom owners in the same area demand the GI status as is being accorded to the handloom owners.

All in all however the civil servants of these states definitely deserve a pat on their backs for all of their efforts.

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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