Geographical Indication (GI) represents the name or sign that are used in connection to the products that are related to the particular geographical area or to a region, town or a nation. Acting as a certification mark, GI grants rights to the holder and also indicate that specific product possesses certain qualities and enjoys a good reputation for it is obtained from particular geographical location.
According to Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement, 'Geographical indications rights' are considered as exclusionary rights for those who identify the origin of goods within member nation territories, region or an area of the territory, where merchandise repute or attributes is directly related to its place of origin. Geographical indications is a division of intellectual property law therefore governing conditions and regulation of GI varies from country to country like all other laws as high differences have been viewed in the usage of generic terms world over. This is more noticeable in food and beverage that more frequently use geographical terms. Geographical Indications is a precious business tool and is focused towards identification of source of product.
Global trade has made it essential for harmonizing different methods and approaches that are used by government for the purpose of registering GI in their own territories. The first proposal was laid in 1883 on trademarks as Paris Convention that is followed by various elaborative provisions of Lisbon Agreement in 1958 for Appellations of Origin and its Registration protection. During the year 1994, during conclusions of negotiations on WTO Agreement on aspects of trade of Intellectual Property Rights, all the members of WTO decided to bring forth certain standards for the protection of GIs in desired countries. The Article 22 of TRIPS Agreement stresses on obligations of government for rendering various legal opportunities in their own territories for safeguarding GI use and further restricting its misappropriate use.
Geographical Indication Act in India
Geographical indications regime in India is controlled by Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 as well as Geographical Indication of Goods (Regulation and Protection) Rules, 2002. However, registration of GI is not a compulsion in India as the owner of unregistered GI can enforce the actions through the assistance of passing off against violator, though it is advised to register GI for the registration certificate as the chief court evidence at the time of dispute and no other proof is required to prove validity. The examples of famous geographical indicators are Darjeeling Tea, Kanjeepuram Sarees and Basmati Rice. In Indian act, GI is utilized as an indicator of products followed by origin and geographical location.
It comprises of natural goods, agriculture goods and ranges up to manufactured goods. For registration of geographical indication, the merchandise should own reputation, certain qualities and attributes such as quality of soil, climate, processing methods and many more. Since the GI relates to community and groups rights and consequently it cannot be registered on an individualís name. Geographical Indication Registry is been established by Indian Geographical Indication Act for the purpose of completing geographical indication registration. The statutory body prepares a Geographical Indications register in Part A as well as Part B. While Part A comprises of products attributes along with the name of registered owner whereas Part B includes different rules relating to geographical indicator.
Any kind of association of people, organization or statutory body can apply for registration. They have to file application that comprises of statement of how the geographical indicators are related to quality and other features that are the effect of the geographical environment, consists of natural attributes and human factors, exclusive production methods, processing and preparation that occurs within specific geographical area. The applicant is required to provide geographical map of area where the goods are produced followed by descriptive methods. The applicant can easily file the application for diverse classes of goods though separate fees are paid for every class of goods. However, for registration of overseas indications, the given application should provide the address details. If application is rejected or accepted partially, the registrar is expected to record the reasons in writing.
After acceptance of the application, it will publicize in Geographical Indication Journal in 3 months of publication. The registrar has to send the copy of opposition to applicant who is expected to counter statement in 2 months of receiving opposition copy. In case, the applicant fails to obey as per time given and then application will be considered rejected. After giving the evidence, the registrar will give a chance for oral hearing and then settle the matter between two parties. In this case, the foreign parties are required to submit security costs.
The initial registration holds validity of 10 years of geographical indication. The Indian act gave the grace period of 2 years for restoring back registration of geographical indications that have been cancelled because of failure of paying renewal fees. Two types of remedies are mentioned in case of geographical infringement. Punishment tenure for the offender may last from 6 months to 3 years. The fine for the same ranges between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2, 00,000.