Decoding Geographical Indication in India
What is a Geographical Indication?
As the name suggests, a geographical indication (GI) is a tag given to a particular product ‘indicating’ the origin of the product. For the purpose of protection against duplication and passing off, a GI tag is given to a product and is awarded the protection of an intellectual property. Geographical indications are, for purposes of the TRIPS Agreement, a type of intellectual property (“IP”). “Geographical Indications,” (“GIs”) are defined, under Article 22(1) of the TRIPS Agreement, as “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.”
For the tag of a GI, it must be proved that a product possesses a particular or distinctive feature due to its place of origin and it wouldn’t have the same feature if it were to be produced elsewhere. A GI tag provided to a particular good is not just an indicator of its place of origin but now is equated with a standard of quality it aims to deliver to its user. Most importantly, a GI tag helps the producer to protect the authenticity of his product. It prevents a third party to copy or duplicate the product. It is given to mainly agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products. Examples of famous GIs in India are Basmati Rice, Darjeeling Tea (foodstuff), Aranmula Kannnadi (handicraft from Kerala), Malabar pepper etc.
The importance of protection lies in preventing others from using false practices of generating and selling low-quality products that do not conform to the authentic quality. This instrument also helps the final consumers or customers to ascertain they are buying real and premium products. A GI tag helps producers to build goodwill and reputation for their genuine products. Many GIs have now added value to tourism in a particular place owing to the manufacturing of a product. For example, Darejeeling tea is quite famous among tourists who visit Darjeeling.
How is GI protected?
The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 is the legislation governing the registration and use of geographical indications in India. It comes under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Under this Act, the Geographical Indications Registry was introduced, in which a register on GIs must be maintained which contains the details of the GI along with the basic details of the proprietors and authorized users. The classification of goods is done in accordance with the International classification of goods for registering GIs.
Section 2 (e) of the Act defines GI as
“An indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and in case where such goods are manufactured goods one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality, as the case may be.”
How is GI registered?
For the purpose of getting a GI registered, it must be ensured that the specifications of the product fall within the ambit of Sec 2 (e) of the GI Act, 1999. An application signed by the applicant, accompanied by a statement of case and details regarding the special and distinctive features of the product must be filed and sent to the Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai. Upon receiving the application, the Examiner will scrutinize the application after which an Examination Report will be issued. If the examiner finds any objection with the application, he will issue a show cause notice upon the applicant. The applicant must respond to the same within two months or apply for a hearing. If no objection is found, the application will be published in the Geographical Indications Journal within a period of three months of acceptance. Where an application for a GI has been accepted, the registrar shall register the geographical indication. If registered, the date of filing of the application shall be deemed to be the date of registration. The validity of a GI is for 10 years which can be extended upon payment of certain amounts of fees.
The GI tag to a product is significant IP in terms of its economic value and the protection it ensures to its producers. The relevance of registration and awarding GI tags in India is high in the context of economic policies which are directed at promoting local products. It is an incentive to local artisans and manufacturers to infuse innovation and creativity into their products which will be protected from scrupulous competition and passing off.
 Kamra A, Geographical Indications – Intellectual Property, Legal Services India (16 July 2020, 12:00PM) http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/geoind.htm
Frequently Asked Questions: Geographical Indications. WIPO. (16 July 2020, 12:00PM) https://www.wipo.int/geo_indications/en/faq_geographicalindications.html#:~:text=A%20geographical%20indication%20%28GI%29%20is%20a%20sign%20used,a%20product%20as%20originating%20in%20a%20given%20place.
 Importance of Geographical Indications, Semeion (16 July 2020 01:00PM) https://www.semeiongroup.com/2019/11/06/importance-of-geographical-indications/
 Pavithra K, Explainer: What is Geographical Indication (GI)? Why is it important? Factly (16 July 2020 02:00PM) https://factly.in/explainer-what-is-geographical-indication-gi-why-is-it-important/
 Registration Process, Geographical Indications, IP India (16 July 2020 02:00PM)