GI Registry dragging its feet on petitions filed against ‘Darjeeling Tea’ & ‘Tirupati Laddu’


It has been more than a year since rectifications petitions have been filed against the Geographical Indication tags for ‘Darjeeling Tea’ and ‘Tirupati Laddu’. Both petitions were filed in the year 2010 and both petitioners are yet to be granted a date of hearing despite repeated reminders to the G.I. Registry. 
While the petition against ‘Darjeeling Tea’ has been filed by Rajeev Saraf who is represented by Advocate Vinay Kumar Jain, the petition against the ‘Tirupati Laddu’ G.I. has been filed by Praveen Raj, an IP enthusiast and a scientist at NIIST. 
Both petitions raise very important issues under the G.I. Act, 1999. The first petition against the ‘Darjeeling Tea’ G.I. raises very fundamental questions on the nature of ownership and use of a G.I. The ‘Darjeeling G.I.’ was granted to the ‘Tea Board’, a statutory body set up under the Tea Act, 1953. The Tea Board hardly fulfils the definition of ‘producer’ under the G.I. Act, 1999 since it is a government body, controlled mostly by the government with only a few representatives from the tea estate owners and workers. The petition against this G.I. registration states, in pertinent part: 
“The Tea Board has no locus standi to file any application for registration of Darjeeling Tea. It is constituted way back in 1953 for regulating Export of Tea and for honoring International agreements thereof. It is neither a body constituted and nor has in its constituents the basic grass root stakeholders involved in Darjeeling Tea production. Mere representation of one of its representative shall not suffice the requirements of Section 11 of GI Act.” 
The petition further alleges that “The status of applicant was not examined and scrutinized prior to entertaining the application for registration and before notifying the registry.” 
It is likely that if this petition were ever to be heard by the G.I. Registry, it would expose the absolute farcical examination process followed by the G.I. Registry while granting G.I.s. As I had discussed in an earlier post, available over here and here, more than 50% of all G.I. registrations in this country are secured by the Central and State Governments, none of whom comply with the definition of ‘producers’ under the G.I. Act, 1999. 
Given that the Tea Board and the G.I. Registry, both, fall under the same Ministry it is unlikely that any bureaucrat in the G.I. Registry is going to initiate a hearing in both of the matters without a nudge from the Madras High Court. 
The petition against the ‘Tirupati Laddu’ G.I. by Praveen Raj also raises very important issues on the commercialization of religion and once again the definition of ‘producer’ under the G.I. Act, 1999 i.e. can a single producer private entity like the TTD secure G.I. registrations for a prasadam. We’ve covered several of these arguments over here, here and here
Hopefully the petitioners will approach the Madras High Court to put some pressure on the G.I. Registry.

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).

6 comments.

  1. Anonymous

    Another good post from Prashant whom I loved to read his posts. I have also been mentioning in my comments. The petitioners must approach the Madras High Court, if the GI Registry is not helping even for a hearing.
    However, I have lost that love. The reason is that you have started the same policy as it appears on the image of this post namely “I hear you but I am not listening”.
    The post was expected from you with respect to the summoning of an official from the office of the TM, New Delhi and also the directors of the Indian and its Foreign parent company in the criminal case involving forgery. It is long overdue. Please cover it. You will get the clue from blog of Shamnad dated 18 May, 2012 under the title “SpicyIP and Authorship: Fostering Diversity (and Guest Posts)”. Shamnad is stated to have asked you for further information and covering up the news in your post. PLEASE DO IT. Prove it that you have lived unto your promise of a free and fair discussion.

    Reply
  2. Prashant Reddy

    Anon – The criminal case regarding the TM official is coming soon. As you can appreciate blogging is something we do in our free time and the present case is extremely confusing and given its implications we are being extra careful.

    We normally have a time lag of at least 2-3 weeks between hearing of a complicated case and carrying it on the blog. For example this particular post on which you have commented, was pointed out to us about 1 week ago but I got time to carry it only now.

    So please calm down, I’ve seen the rest of your comments on the blog and you seem to be extremely anxious to have the story on the blog.

    We will carry the post against the TM Official but at our convenience once we are convinced so please stop bombarding us with anonymous comments. It is not helping anybody.

    Regards,
    Prashant

    Reply
  3. praveenrajrs

    Dear Prashant,

    Thanks for carrying a post on this issue. If there is further delay in the process by GI Registry, I will approach Madras High court for an appropriate writ.

    R.S. Praveen Raj

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    sir,

    i want to contribute some critical thinking about the issue. ie.

    1.There is a rigid rule in the application about producer qualification but there is a silent part that to whom can register. it never says that only a producer definition undergone group can register.Its different that being a part of register and applying favor of endorsed producer.

    2. In every angle like social or economical a public authority should do at least this.

    3. in the definition of producer have a very wide space and its never blocks public institution initiation towards GI registration.

    4. “Definition of producer” and “the application for registration gathering and taking initiation” is like “driving the car” and “pulling the car to start”. mixing it makes no sense.

    5. If the public institutions are not ready to realize the GI it will be a corporate story.

    6. At least we should encourage them to do more registration for the sake of our INDIAN INCREDIBLE GIs.

    7. Most of the GI authorized producers are illiterate or partially literate. They have loyalty towards the public institutions and they are ready to follow the new methods and strategies of public institutions.
    So public institution are the easiest way of communication channel towards the producer. so it is the better way.

    Reply
  5. praveenrajrs

    Dear Anonym,

    Section 11(1) of the Geographical Indication of Goods Act, 1999, makes it very clear that the GI applicant should be any of the following

    a) association of persons or producers (of the goods)

    b) any organisation or authority established by or under law representing the interest of the producers of the concerned goods

    The key word here is “interest of the producers”

    regards,
    R.S. Praveen Raj

    Reply
  6. praveenrajrs

    Public institutions also may apply for GI registration if they uphold the “interest of the producers”. But it would be better if public institutions encourage the “real producers” to form associations. Let the application be filed by the association or group of producers.

    Reply

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