We’re pleased to bring to you a guest post by our fellowship applicant, Akanshha Agrawal on the Draft Guidelines on Geographical Indications Logo and Tagline released by DPIIT in June this year. Akanshha is a 3rd year student at National Law University, Delhi. This is her second submission for the Fellowship. Part I of her first submission can be viewed here.
DPIIT’s Draft Guidelines on Geographical Indications Logo and Tagline: Issues and Challenges
In India, Geographical Indications (‘GI’) relating to goods are registered and protected under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. This is a sui generis legislation for registration of GIs which was enacted by the Parliament to comply with TRIPS. Prior to 2018, there was no common logo or tagline for GIs in India. To remedy this, the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) organised a public contest and launched the selected Geographical Indication logo and tagline (as shown in the image) on 1st August, 2018. The logo is proposed to act as a certifying mark which can be used on all Indian GI products registered in India or abroad across different categories. This was done to encourage the promotion and marketing of Indian GI products.
To regulate the usage of the GI logo and tagline and thereby protect the interests of genuine GI producers in India, in June this year, the Department further issued the Draft Guidelines for Usage of GI Logo and Tagline for comments from stakeholders. The Guidelines lay down certain terms and conditions as per which the use of the logo and tagline will be allowed. For instance, it permits the use of the logo and tagline in relation to only Indian GI products and not the foreign ones, whether registered in India or abroad. It further prohibits the use of the logo or tagline for illegal purposes, against public interest or in a derogatory fashion. The logo and tagline can be used without prior approval by all registered proprietors and authorised users of registered Indian GI products (in relation to the particular GI they are registered for), DPIIT itself, all other Government bodies (for programmes directly organised by them) and Indian Embassies/Missions abroad (for GI promotion sponsored or supported by them). However, for any other use as specified in the Guidelines, prior permission of DPIIT needs to be obtained by the user. A form for applying for the same has been provided in the Guidelines. Any such request would be considered on the basis of the Guidelines on merit and approved by the concerned Joint Secretary.
Easy Identification of GI Registered Goods
The Guidelines are a welcome step in bringing uniformity and easy identification for GI registered products. One of the central issues related to GI registration in India has been the lack of a common logo to identify registered products. There exist individual logos for various products such as Mysore Agarbathi, Assam Tea, Darjeeling Tea, etc. This is in contrast to other jurisdictions such as European Union, Thailand etc. which have a common logo. The lack of a common logo could create difficulties in the identification of the product. Without a common logo, a consumer could be unable to identify if a particular product is registered as GI or not, which leads to issues in brand building for the product. The newly proposed logo will go a long way in helping easy identification of registered products.
The procedure laid down for obtaining permission to use the logo and tagline is quite simple. Only a form seeking relevant details is required to be submitted. Also, there is no requirement of payment of any fees for receiving permission to use the same.
Issues With the Guidelines
The DPIIT has taken a welcome step in increasing awareness and promoting the Indian GI registered products by introducing the common logo and tagline. These will help in protecting the interests of genuine GI producers. However, there are a few issues with the Draft Guidelines which one hopes are addressed in the final Guidelines.
Firstly, the Guidelines fail to specify a time limit within which the permission for usage of the logo and tagline must be granted. The lack of a stipulated time frame opens up a window for unnecessary delay in grant of permission.
Secondly, as per the Guidelines, the Department will not be liable for any claims arising out of any unauthorised use and/or violation of the logo and tagline. The Department conveniently shrugs off any responsibility here. Although it is entitled to take action in such cases, it is not bound to do so even if they are brought to its notice by an aggrieved consumer (who uses a product with a mistaken belief of it being a GI registered product due to the presence of the logo/tagline) or genuine GI producer. Further, since these Guidelines do not appear to have any legal force, one wonders if it would be possible to obtain any remedy based on them.
Thirdly, the Guidelines state that the logo cannot be used for illegal purposes, against public interest or in a derogatory fashion. However, the DPIIT fails to provide any explanation or lay down any objective test as to the meaning of the terms ‘public interest’ and ‘derogatory’. As these are highly subjective terms, there is scope for arbitrariness in the Department’s decisions under this provision. Further, these are issues which an administrative body may not have the expertise or the competence to decide. Moreover, there has been no recourse provided against Department’s denial or withdrawal of permission to use the logo and tagline on any ground. In fact, there’s no requirement for the Department to even specify the reason/s for its denial or withdrawal.
Fourthly, should the usage of the GI logo and tagline even be governed by way of these Guidelines or should it be brought under the purview of the GI Act and Rules? In the latter case, the issues of enforceability, remedies against unauthorised use, appeal mechanism against decisions on denial or withdrawal of permission etc. could be addressed.
Lastly, even though the common logo and tagline is a big step towards protection of the interests of GI producers, it is not enough. The common logo and tagline will help in product identification; however, the products will not be sold unless widespread awareness in created in respect to the same. In India, two successful examples of GI helping in widespread identification of products are Basmati Rice and Darjeeling Tea. However, in both of these cases, enormous costs were incurred to ensure the same. Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and Tea Board of India spent huge amounts towards GI protection of these products. It is essential for DPIIT to undertake measures for generating awareness on the availability and significance of the GI registered products in order to increase their marketability and thereby further the income of the GI producers.