What is Geographical Indications? What is the status of Geographical Indications in India?

Geographical Indications (GI) are one of the eight intellectual property items coming under WTO’s TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights). The GI provision allows member countries to protect products belongs to a specific territory against commercial exploitation by other parties. This can be done by including such products in a Geographical Indications Registry.

Such a registry will protect that product from commercial utilization by others using a trade mark.  For example, a US firm can’t use a trademark in the name of basmati rice as the rice is protected as a GI under the GI Registry of India.

Many existing intellectual property agreements give recognition to GIs. Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPRs. In TRIPs, GIs are covered under Articles 22 to 24. TRIPs give more protection to wine and spirit GIs under Art 23. Many countries are now demanding that such level of high protection should be extended to other goods under GIs as well.

What is Geographical Indications?

According to the WTO, “Geographical indications are 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 geographical origin.”

Geographical Indications Act 

India enacted the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force with effect from September 15, 2003. The Geographical Indications Act was mainly an attempt to comply with India’s obligations under the TRIPS agreement.

Geographical Indications Registration Procedures

As per the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 , association of persons or producers can apply for GIs for specific products supported by required documents. The Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDT), (under the Dept of Industrial Policy and Promotion of Ministry of Commerce and Industry) is the ‘Registrar of Geographical indications’. The CGPDT directs and supervises the functioning of the Geographical Indications Registry (GIR).

Complaints against GI registration can be made at Intellectual Property Appellate Board at Chennai.

A registration is valid for a period of ten years and the same can be renewed thereafter. By registering an indication in India a right holder can prevent its unauthorized use by others and also promote economic prosperity of the producers of the said good in a particular region. An unregistered GI can be enforced by initiating an action for passing off. India’s GI Registry is situated in Chennai and like the other intellectual property rights; GIs also come under the purview of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks.

As on February, 6, 2016, there are 237 goods registered under the GI registry of India. The latest addition is going to be Basmati rice.

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