Geographical Indication

Who is going to be the G.I. Joe that will save the vanishing Indian GIs?


A few days ago the Hindu published a telling editorial written by Justice Prabha Sridevan, former judge of the Madras High Court and former Chairperson of the IPAB. The lucid editorial highlights the need for India to concentrate not just on patents and other mainstream IP rights but also bring back Geographical Indications (GIs) into the foreground of debate. This is specially true for India, as she rightly remarks “Practically everything that we grow, make or produce is linked to a particular region. For example, we often hear these examples in every day conversation: ‘Leave your Kolhapuri chappals over there.’ ‘Come in and wash your hands with Mysore Sandal soap.’ ‘Have those idlis made with the Coimbatore wet grinder.’ ‘The Darjeeling tea in the Jaipur pottery cup.’ ‘Where did you buy that Sanganeri print?’ All of them are GIs.”

The editorial is replete with anecdotes that help strongly convey the need to revive the fast fading GIs in India. For example, the editorial throws light on how the weavers of Kancheepuram Silk (a GI) are abandoning their craft; the Thanjavur Veena (made from the wood of the jackfruit tree), another GI, is vanishing slowly because raw materials are becoming expensive; these craftpersons are now turning to other sources of income.

GIs are a unique breed of intellectual property rights as they have a ‘collective’ and ‘public’ dimension. The overall objective of GI protection is not only to empower a single producer but to empower communities that have been producing goods that are unique to a particular geographical region. Ideally, GI protection should lead to socio economic progress in such regions and to such communities. However, several obstacles, starting from the lack of awareness of GI protection, GI products not being utilized to their full potential, varying qualities of products, free riding, fragmented markets and the unorganized nature of many of these communities, result in the dilution of the objectives of such protection. All of which also play a role in the eventual abandoning of unique crafts.

Revival of GIs can take place in several ways. Increasing awareness about GI protection is one such way. Recently, Kiran blogged about the laudable initiative by the Tezpur University Intellectual Property Rights Cell (TUIPR) Cell, along with the IPR Cell of the Dibrugarh University and volunteers from the North Lakhimpur College, to increase awareness about GIs in the Northeast.  By the end of this camp, more than 90 people applied to be registered users of Muga Silk. As pointed out by Prabha Sridevan, even small steps can make significant impact.

The efforts and results of this camp should inspire the governments to follow suit in enabling the realization of the objectives of the GI Act. Though some states have introduced schemes to revive local arts, the overall attitude is still far from satisfactory. This is because instead of spreading awareness and making sure benefits reach the stakeholders, as reported by Prashant here and here, many government bodies that are not associations of producers have been filing GI applications and appropriating GIs for themselves. To name a few, the APEDA filed a GI application for Basmati, the Central Leather Research Institute filed a GI application for Kolhapuri Chappals etc. These instances go to show that GIs are certainly valuable for India but the implementation and working of the GI Act needs to be more bottom-up than top-down. Therefore, may be its time for us to ponder as to who is going to be the G.I. Joe that will save the dying Indian GIs?

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Aparajita Lath

Aparajita graduated from the WB National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. She was formerly an editor of the NUJS Law Review. She is a lawyer based in Bangalore. All views expressed by her on the blog are her personal views.

5 comments.

  1. AvatarParesh Chinchole

    THE G.I. JOE SAVING VANISHING INDIAN GIS
    I am referring to your blog dated 17th June, 2015 titled “who is going to be the G.I. Joe that will save the vanishing Indian GIs?”
    Let me bring to your kind attention the work of one person who received National Award, 2015 namely IPO Special Mention Award for his significant efforts towards facilitation of Registration of GI and promotion of Registered GIs. A special note of noteworthy contribution of Prof. Ganesh Hingmire has been taken by the Indian Patent Office and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
    Through his individual efforts Prof. Ganesh Hingmire has registered 5 GI’s and he applied for 23 Agricultural GIs with the help of World Bank and Department of Horticulture, Government of Maharashtra. The GI registry received 36 applications in 2014, so his contribution is almost 64 % in Indian GI application for the year of 2014.
    It is to be specially noted that out of 28 GI applications, 25 belong to agricultural/horticultural sector which makes it a commendable contribution towards economic empowerment of the farming community and strengthening rural economy.
    United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) study has revealed that GI registered agricultural products can fetch a price premium of 10–15 per cent whereas for non-agricultural products it would be to the tune of 5-10 per cent. Recently Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi offered 2 GI products as a Welcome gift to Mrs. Obama, wife of The President of United States of America, i.e. Pashmina Shawl and Banarasi Saree. Such is the value of our GIs and that needs to be recognized worldwide. Prof. Hingmire works with a vision that GIs are not meant to be a mere heritage stamps. He is working with an objective of making available GI products globally through skilled international representatives.

    Regards
    Paresh Chinchole

    Reply
  2. AvatarBhaskar

    Thanks to Prabha Sridevan for writing a wake up call and thanks to SPICYIP for ringing the bell loud and clear.
    My limited interaction as founder member secretary for Biodiversity Board of Andhra Pradesh G.I. Applications were filed for MAHANANDI grama panchayat Water christened as “Shiva Ganga” and also filed for a few agricultural produce with higher market value.
    my concern is the art and science of Making G.I. enforced. For example the Kodapally toys received the G.I. and one certificate was framed and kept in the village temple.
    The non kondapally village toy makers are also selling their toys as Kondapally in the urban markets. This aspect is not being monitored by the kondapally toy makers as they are busy making both ends meet . Hence I feel that this is high time a “think tank” or “watch dog” is created to look for the G.I.Act violations and bring the violators to pay fine or punishment for violation will not only make the G.I. objects more active but also will popularise the G.I. Instrument

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  3. Avatarwachiuri

    this can be achieved by creating an independent body that will be playing the oversight role and also create laws that require those responsible are audited and performance is gauged

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  4. AvatarArun Kumar

    Sentiment is one thing, practicality is another. The rules for registering a GI (forming an association or getting individual signatures of the manufacturers/producers, ensuring consistency of quality and standards being met etc.) which are all in place understandably make it far more difficult to protect these GIs. Additionally, GIs like Coimbatore wet grinder are like the tirupati laddu. Just because we use the name of the place ahead of an object does not mean it should be registered as a GI – the place must have some unique qualities that enable the good to be produced in that manner only in that place or region. Supply of ordinary granite or even the existence of the Lord Venkateshwara temple cannot be sufficient reasons!

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  5. AvatarJacques

    Kumar: “Just because we use the name of the place ahead of an object does not mean it should be registered as a GI – the place must have some unique qualities that enable the good to be produced in that manner only in that place or region. Supply of ordinary granite or even the existence of the Lord Venkateshwara temple cannot be sufficient reasons!”
    Then what is?

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