Geographical indications (GIs) have become a key intellectual property rights (IPRs) concern in the Indian environment in recent years. The word generally refers to the product's specific geographic origin in a certain location or locality, and GIs are formed to distinguish items that have unique features due to environmental variables, processing methods, or manufacturing expertise. Geographical Indications (GIs) are signs indicating a product comes from a particular region and has particular features, a good reputation, or other traits that are essentially attributed to that origin. As of May 2023, the country had 478 GI tags, with Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh having the most.
India, known for its diverse culture, is the birthplace of many arts and crafts that have been developed through many centuries. Nine new products from different Indian states, including Gamosa from Assam, Tandur Redgram from Telangana, RaktseyKarpo Apricot from Ladakh, and Alibag White Onion from Maharashtra, have been added to the collection of GIs. With this, there are 432 GI Tags in India overall. Darjeeling tea was the first product in India to be designated as a geographical indicator. DPIIT has conducted several initiatives in conjunction with other stakeholders in which exclusive GI goods highlighted Indian tradition, culture, and entrepreneurial activity under a unified umbrella. Furthermore, by fostering the development of multicultural societies across the nation, such activities would not only encourage the exchange of a variety of goods between the states but will also help create a more vibrant cultural society in the future. The government recently approved spending of US$ 8.42 million (Rs. 75 crore) over three years for the promotion of GIs at awareness initiatives.
Geographical Indicators in India
Products with a geographic indication (GI) are those whose qualities or reputation are attributable to their particular geographical origin and have a specific geographical origin. Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 protects GI products in India. Darjeeling tea, Alphonso mangoes, and Banarasi silk are a few examples of GI products in India. Geographical Indications (GI) for Products are a sort of intellectual property rights (IPR) that normally corresponds to a country's geographical indications. A name like this conveys a sense of excellence and originality, primarily because of its origins in a particular place, area, or country.
Protection of GIs
Geographical Indications (GIs) are protected under national legislation and international treaties in many nations. GI protection can take various forms, depending on the legal structure of each country. The protection of geographical names and signs of origin attempts to prevent the unauthorised use of geographical names or signs of origin on items that do not originate in the designated region and do not fulfil the appropriate requirements or qualities. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) provided this definition in 2018, emphasising that the markers of a product's origin are, in reality, the GIs. The name "Geographical Indication" (GI) derives from the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which was signed in 1883 in Paris, France. The terms 'appellation of origin' and 'indications of source' were used and later defined in the Lisbon and Madrid Agreements. Geographic indicators are protected as an aspect of IPRs under Articles 1(2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
However, the growing relevance of GIs may be linked to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-led Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ('TRIPS'), which went into effect in 1995. The TRIPS agreement establishes basic standards of protection for GIs and requires WTO member countries to develop legal mechanisms for GI protection. TRIPS formally recognised and regulated minimum protection standards for geographical indications. GIs are covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was included in the final accords of the Uruguay Round of GATT talks.
Importance of GIs in supporting rural economies in India
Certain communities around the world are well-known for their distinctive products, on which their livelihoods are highly reliant. A GI label recognises these items while also protecting the economic livelihoods of their suppliers. These speciality products are frequently associated with cultural and regional identity, and they highlight a long history of craftsmanship, community, and civilization. GI tags enable manufacturers to distinguish their products and sell them as authentic, enabling future generations of artisans, chefs, and other professionals to maintain their traditional practices.
The GI-labelled traditional products not only symbolise the local character via the harmonisation of natural resources and cultural methods but also provoke a sense of nostalgia. These products give residents a sense of belonging and are an appealing tool for tourists looking to learn about local identities in rural areas.
Professionals are additionally shielded by GI labelling against industrial practices and competitive pricing. The tags contribute to the creation of a legacy and the mobilisation of local revenues by earning premium brand prices and increasing exports. Furthermore, GI-tagged products contribute to local job development, which may help to reduce rural-urban migration, sustain livelihoods, and enhance living standards for people. These items also have the potential to generate positive externalities by increasing income and employment possibilities along the supply chain.
There were 420 GI Applications registered with the Office of Geographical Indications as of July 27, 2022. There are 391 Indian GI Applications and 29 Foreign GI Applications. During the years 2019–20 to 2021–22, 77 GI Applications were submitted. Furthermore, the office has registered 20 Indian GI Applications for Food Products. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka are the top 5 states with the most GIs.
It is a transformative step towards realising the Prime Minister of India's vision of promoting balanced regional development across all districts of the country. The concept is to choose, brand, and promote one product from each district (One District - One Product) in order to facilitate holistic socioeconomic progress throughout all regions. The effort aims to improve local economic growth by recognising and promoting each district's distinctive characteristics and encouraging the development of local entrepreneurship.
In the first phase, 106 products from diverse industries such as agriculture, handicrafts, textiles, and manufacturing were selected. The Initiative has now finalised a more comprehensive list of items that cover all 761 districts. 106 ODOP goods were made up of 80 GI products. This demonstrates the close relationship that exists between local communities and their distinctive products. Out of the 400+ products with GI tags that have been found so far by the ODOP programme, more than 160 have been highlighted, demonstrating the potential of using the GI tag to promote the expansion and recognition of regional goods and industries. The following activities are being carried out under ODOP to promote GI products:
Detailed reports on the action plan for Geographical Indications (GIs) items under the ODOP project have been developed in partnership with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). These papers highlight current bottlenecks in the supply chain and provide potential solutions to alleviate them. The reports include Export Import (EXIM) analysis, primary research on stakeholder concerns and issues, and a list of specific actions and action-oriented steps to be taken by various ministries, departments, and autonomous organizations.
To facilitate trade and improve market access, the ODOP project has held a number of buyer-seller meetings (BSMs) on a variety of GI goods, including
Under the ODOP initiative, buyer-seller gatherings have been planned in partnership with various Indian embassies throughout the world. These events have taken place in a number of countries, including Japan, Russia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan, to promote and highlight local Geographical Indications (GIs) products.
To assist the promotion of products with a Geographical Indication (GI), ODOP works with artisans and producers to upgrade their skills and expand their capacity. For craftsmen of Muga Silk from Kamrup, Assam, and Molela Craft from Rajsamand, Rajasthan, ODOP recently held design training programmes. This programme will help artists modernise their products and increase their marketability while keeping the craft's originality and authenticity.
For products with Geographical Indications (GI), ODOP is creating a brand identity that will be used across a variety of platforms, including social media postings and creatives. Additionally, they are displaying a vast array of GI items at important occasions like the GI pavilion at the 2022 India International Trade Fair hosted at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.
This legislation grants legal protection to commodities that are produced in a certain geographical region and have unique traits, characteristics, and reputations connected with that location. In addition to defending the product from misuse and copying, the GI tag also raises its market value and aids in its promotion in both domestic and international markets. Aside from the product itself, the geographical indicator has enormous potential because it safeguards historical and cultural heritage. According to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), approximately 400 products in India are currently protected by geographical indications (GIs) in 2023. Karnataka is the state with the most registered GIs, with 48 registered items. The 'Geographical Indications Registry' was established in Chennai in order for right holders to register their geographical indications, and it exercised pan-India jurisdiction. The GI Act is administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks, and is referred to as the 'Registrar of Geographical Indications'.
In order to comply with the TRIPS agreement, India passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999. The Geographical Indications Act of 1999 establishes a legal framework for the protection of GIs in India and calls for the creation of a Geographical Indications Registry. In addition to maintaining a roster of GIs, the registry is in charge of evaluating and registering GIs. The Act came into effect in September 2003. Darjeeling Tea was the first product in India to be granted GI classification. GI Products are divided into five groups:
The Indian GI system is undeniably important in empowering local artisan groups, fostering Indian culture, and allowing customers to experience India's rich and diverse cultural past. As a result, it is critical for the government and stakeholders to continue to promote and encourage the registration of new products for geographical indication, thereby contributing to the country's economic prosperity and cultural richness.
The Geographical Indication (GI) label is a useful instrument for ensuring the authenticity of agricultural products, handicrafts, and foods produced in the country. Because GI tags are becoming increasingly important, India has made significant steps to ensure the legal protection of Indian GI products. Institutions and agencies are developing successful marketing methods to popularise GI-tagged items. GI is a critical intellectual property right that is used in commerce to identify the origin of goods. The lack of comprehension among GI stakeholders and a lack of qualitative check procedures prevent the goal from being accomplished. The nation is vigorously promoting the 'Aatmanirbhar' and 'Vocal for Local' statuses, which were inspired by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. Thus, GI-tagged items are expected to rise in the near future as a result of government backing, rising consumer sentiments towards high-quality and traditional products, higher exports, and increased market share in international markets.