SpicyIP:GI for Agriculture Products:Levergaing LegalProtection for Commercial Gains


With the gold rush for the coveted G.I registration continuing with unabated momentum, the APEDA (Agriculture and Processed Food Product Export Development Authority) workshop held in Delhi recently provided the right platform to interpret the implications and opportunities of this trend. Exploring both the socio- development dimensions and the trade potential of commercializing G.I products, the dialogue set in place the next phase for the G.I regime.

The focus of the first phase post the G.I legislation in 2003 was on creating awareness and garnering numbers to endorse the nascent legislation Time is ripe to move on to the next phase and that’s perhaps what this APEDA/UNCTAD collaboration purports to do—–brand G.Is to bolster their brand equity and unleash the inherent economic potential ;catapult it to an international platform; create the requisite capacity building infrastructure to build sustainable long term solution, and ensure that the grassroots producer gets his equitable due share of this exercise…(that’s the essence of Access and Benefit Sharing in short).!

The Numbers game has met with tremendous Success( India has about 100 odd G.Is to its credit.

As Mr. Abhijit remarked , thats just about 25% of the battle won.
Hereon and ahead what is needed is a holistic well crafted strategy that will ensure that the G.Is are applied and marketed in manner where moneys and benefits from the G.Is accrue to the the actual farmer and artisan.

This national workshop organized by APEDA and UNCTAD –India project, UNCTAD India Programme on Strategies and Preparedness for Trade and Globalization is a Joint trade related.capacity building project of DFID,Dept of Commerce and UNCTAD
Aptly titled thus: ‘G.I for Agriculture Products: Leveraging Legal Protection for CommerciaL Gains’ , the emerging issues for the domestic industry and current thoughts on international policy implications were debated. Primarily aimed at the Agricultural sector, it nevertheless held deep insights and suggestions for G.Is across the spectrum.

Organized by APEDA in conjunction with the UNCTAD, the gathering comprised of a diverse group of industry bodies, lawyers, and policy analysts.

Both the panelists and the participants agreed that the a blueprint for the road ahead would have to straddle and address the twin objectives of addressing domestic concerns both emerging and current, whilst understanding larger policy implications from an international perspective.

India and the friends of the G.I nations have been pushing for reforms in the Doha round such as the extension of protection for all products and not merely for wines and spirits, also for the establishment for a multilateral register for GI’ where countries can extend recognition to G.Is from foreign countries on a quid pro basis.Latha Nair(her book ‘Search for identity’ ‘ is a must read for all G.I buffs) , the legal expert on the panel ruefully added that there are larger issues that India needs to negotiate chief among them harmonization of international laws. Other interesting thoughts offered by Latha was the domain names of Indian G.Is that are being registered by those who do not hold in any manner a valid claim to the originals G.I All this results in the dilution of the brand equity of the G.I product.

Arundhati Ray, from the Tea Board of India, in her forceful presentation elucidated on the saga of the prestigious Darjeeling and the incessant tirade it has to undertake across the multiple international jurisdictions to combat infringement of its G.I.Having to rescue the Darjeeling from the clutches of Lingerie producers(a.k.a.Darjeeling vs. Delta Lingerie) in France to countering infringements in the U.S( as in the case of the Darjeeling .vs. Darjeeling Nouveau)the Darjeeling crusaders toil ceaselessly. Warning against complicity, Arundhatis’ key message is that the producers need to be both active and reactive in guarding their brand. Seemingly tongue in cheek, she claims that Darjeeling’s’ notorious litigatious history has in turn led to an increased awareness of its brand in the international market place. Further the lack of harmony in international legislations with respect to protection of G.I goods, adds to the woes of the producer while escalating the cost of protection, one that the poor farmer or artisan can ill afford.
Perhaps the message in consensus that rang out loud and clear was that ensuring supply chain integrity in the production process was key to deriving commercial gains from a G.I.

In tandem, Mr.Kumar from the Karnataka Horticulture Board emphasized the need to establish the scientific validity through DNA analysis of the G.I product that would help distinguish the product from counterfeits.

While many State Governments have put in place a mechanism a for surveillance for of the G.I Products, MR.Chandel from Himachal Pradesh provided a classic case study on how the HP government with a multi pronged approach with a multi stakeholder involve ment has managed to obtain optimum benefits from its home grown G.Is’

India with its varied agro climatic zones is a treasure trove for unique Agro products that could possibly command a premium in the international marketplace. Lack of education and paucity of funds deprive the farmers the opportunity to commercially leverage their products That said the farmers have virtually little or no wherewithal to promote or protect their G.I’s, despite a legislation that promises to do so.

All in all, there were many take home lessons that one learnt from the deliberations and one hopes that we see many such meets in future. Our accolades to Mr.Abhjit Das, MR.A.K.Gupta.Ms.Lakshmi Puri ,MR.T.C James and all other participants for organizing the workshop and giving us the opportunity to participate in this knowledge platform. Implementation would be the operative word we fondly hope!

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