SpicyIP Tidbits: GI update

It’s been a while since we’ve updated you on GI-related activities, and there have been several developments over the past few weeks, which I have tried to put together in a enhanced-tidbit-type post. Future GI updates will hopefully be less lengthy, and more timely!

1. GI for Banarasi sarees

Last year, there were reports that UNCTAD intended to support a GI application process for traditional Banarasi silk sarees, which SpicyIP had picked up here. Latest news here and here suggest that the process is nearing completion, with the Banarasi Bunkar Samiti – a collaborative of traditional handloom weavers – along with eight other organisations awaiting clearance for the GI tag for ‘Banaras Brocades and Sarees’. The traditional woven silk from eastern Uttar Pradesh faces stiff competition from manufacturers in Bhagalpur (Bihar), Surat and Bangalore, as well as from China.

2. Basmati-APEDA politics: MP vs the rest

The Madhya Pradesh government appears to be miffed at having been ignored by the Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) for the registration and protection of IPR related to Basmati rice, including GIs, according to this report. APEDA has apparently only considered Basmati rice grown in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for this purpose. MP’s Basmati rice growers are particularly concerned over not being able to export the rice if GI becomes mandatory in the times to come. Things are in cold storage for the moment, but if reports are to be believed, the MP government will resume lobbying once the election-mania subsides.

3. Legal opposition to GIs from J&K?

Pakistan’s Daily Times reports that the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi has decided to go litigious and block India’s attempts to obtain GIs for products originating in Jammu and Kashmir. The concern is that the rights to these products rests in both countries – in Indian-, as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and no state can claim exclusive ownership. The report adds that “the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and AJ&K Chamber of Commerce and Industry has authorised the Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi, to file appeals against the registration of Pashmina, Kanni Shawl and Kashmiri Sozan Kari crafts in Indian legal forum.” With a USD 20,000 grant in hand from its nation’s Export Development Fund, the Pakistan High Commission appears to be gearing up to take it to the mattresses. Get ready for the ringside seat.

4. Post-GI stress for Kullu shawls

In a study that portends a great deal for a GI-hungry nation like India, we are informed that three years since Kullu shawls were granted a GI tag in 2006, benefits are yet to permeate to the original weavers. According to this study, and this report, awareness about the Kullu shawl GI remains abysmal, and fake products remain as prolific as ever, with no perceptible effects on business. This is primarily due to implementation issues, which are detailed as follows:

“The Kullu Shawls Weavers Association (KSWA) was given the responsibility of registering Kullu shawl as a geographical indicator in 2006. Ever since, there has been slow progress in its implementation. The association, which plays a key part in the implementation of the GI, is busy identifying the number of local household and commercial weavers whose shawls could be given a GI mark to protect them from imitations. This process has been slow and taken close to two years mainly because the weaving industry in the valley is highly disorganised. …The logo, which is a representative of Kullu shawls as a GI, is yet to be finalised and this has been largely due to the miscommunication between the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the KSWA and the Wool Board.”

This is an excellent eye-opener for manufacturers and representative groups and whoever else is lobbying for GIs for various products across India. A significant quantum of GIs are awarded to products manufactured by cottage industries, which are intrinsically challenging to monitor. Therefore, any application for such products/industry should consider implementation issues , which among others, includes, (i) consolidating the industry for the purposes of manufacturing under a common tag/brand; (ii) maintaining the tag/brand reputation; and (iii) in some cases even sustaining the industry qua traditional heritage.

5. God’s own GI redux

As a tailpiece, and for those among you who haven’t already, I invite you to read Dwijen Rangnekar’s delightfully written op-ed that appeared in Economic Times recently. Dr Rangnekar, an Assistant Prof. of Law at Warwick University has a particular interest in GIs, and here he analyses the application for the Tirupati laddu (which, along with other items of religious heritage where the sacred and the profane have commingled, has stoked some embers). The article puts several things in perspective, not least the nearly 200-year old history of religious institutions attempting to “invoke the ethic of money-making”. Besides the obvious issue of the application potentially “hurting religious sensibilities”, and therefore invalidable under law, he also highlights other issues including of the applicant, i.e., Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), being a single entity, and not an ‘association of producers’ as required under GI law, which may prove problematic in times to come. An engaging and thought-provoking read!

One comment.

  1. Avatarmnbvcxzaq1

    Regarding your comment on the GI over Banarasi Saree, inter alia, I would like to take this opportunity to confirm your view. Recently, I had been to CDRI to present a paper in the seminar on IP, wherein a state govt. official had delivered an audio-visual lecture on how the state govt. was promoting the GI, amongst others, for various products, including the Banarasi Saree. It was nice to know that the govts. are slowly getting out of their slumber in promoting awareness and extending protection in these, hitherto neglected, areas of IP, which are of vital national concern.


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