IPR Laws for Agriculture: Geographical Indications Act of India

Priyanka Sardana and Vijay Sardana

Fundamental aspects of Intellectual property regime have been discussed in earlier articles. Now application and utility of related acts from agribusiness points of view will be dealt in subsequent articles in order to encourage domestic industry to take the benefit of these legal provisions. The new regulations can also be used for competitive advantage by stakeholders of Indian agriculture and agro-based industries.

What are the options for farmers and producers about their crop, even if they are not using any technological interventions, in their production system?

Geographical Indications Act of India’1999

A product’s quality, reputation or other characteristics can be determined by where it comes from. Geographical indications are place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify products that come from these places and have these characteristics (for example, “Darjeeling Tea”, “Assam Tea”, “Kashmir Apples” or “Bikaner Namkeens”)

In December 1999, the Parliament passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, which seeks to provide for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods in India. The Act is administered by the Controller General of Patents, Design and Trade Marks who is also the Registrar of Geographical Indications. The Geographical Indications Registry is located at Chennai.

Geographical Indication provisions under Indian Laws

Under the GL Act, it is an indication of origin of a definite geographical territory which is used to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods. Under the Act, the manufactured goods should be produced or processed or prepared in that territory as specified under the law and it should have a special quality or reputation or other characteristics. Some of the common examples of Geographical Indications are Basmati Rice, Darjeeling Tea, Kanchipuram Silk Saree, Alphanso Mango, Nagpur Orange, Kolhapuri Chappal , Bikaneri Bhujia, Agra Petha.

It is important to note that, under WTO regime GI needs legal protection under the law. In it protection required under the TRIPS Agreement is defined in two articles.

All products are covered by Article 22, which defines a standard level of protection. This says geographical indications have to be protected in order to avoid misleading the public and to prevent unfair competition.

Article 23 provides a higher or enhanced level of protection for geographical indications for wines and spirits: subject to a number of exceptions, they have to be protected even if misuse would not cause the public to be misled.

Who producers can benefit from Geographical indications Act of India?

First of all it confers legal protection to Geographical Indication in India; it means it prevents unauthorized use of a Registered Geographical Indication by others. It means it restricts the use of similar products from other locations to pass off as product of the original location. This brings more demand and profits for the producers. It provides legal protection to Indian Geographical Indications in other countries as well, which in turn boost exports. It promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods produced in that geographical territory.

How producers can apply for GI under Indian law?

According to the Act, any association of persons, producers, organization or authority established by or under the law can apply: . The applicant must represent the interest of the producers. The application should be in writing in the prescribed form and the application should be addressed to the Registrar of Geographical Indications along with prescribed fee as specified under the Act.

Who will own the registered Geographical Indication?

According to the act, any association of persons, producers, organization or authority established by or under the law can be a registered proprietor, for example it can be Basmati Producers Association of India, Darjeeling Tea Producers Association, etc.

In order to get legal protection their name should be entered in the Register of Geographical Indications as registered proprietor for the Geographical Indication applied for.

How producers can become Authorized user of the registration?

A producer of goods in that area can apply for registration as an authorized user. He will be only entitled to use the registered Geographical Indication allocated for that area for specified product. In order to become registered user he should apply in writing in the prescribed form along with prescribed fee at the address specified under the act.

Producer in relation to a Geographical Indication Act

According to the Act, the persons dealing with three categories of goods are covered under the term producer, they are: people dealing in agricultural goods includes the production, processing, trading or dealing, people dealing in Natural Goods like exporting, trading or dealing , and people dealing in Handicrafts or Industrial goods include making, manufacturing, trading or dealing.

Why producers’ should go for registration of a Geographic Indication?

Registration of GI is not compulsory. Like any other legal protection, registration provides better legal protection to facilitate an action for infringement by unregistered suppliers and protects the misuse of the GI. The registered proprietor and authorized users can initiate infringement actions against people those who are using GI without meeting the criteria under the law. The most important aspect of registered GI is that the authorized user can exercise the exclusive right to use the Geographical Indication. This improves the business prospects and profitability for producers and ensures desired quality for consumers.

Use of the registered Geographical Indication

Under the act, an authorized user has the exclusive rights to the use of Geographical Indication in relation to goods in respect of which it is registered.

Duration for which the registration of Geographical Indication is valid?

Under the Act, the registration of a Geographical Indication is valid for a period of 10 years. It can be renewed from time to time for further period of 10 years each. If a registered geographical indication is not renewed it is liable to be removed according to the provisions of the Act.

Infringement of registered Geographical Indication

According to the Act, the registered proprietor or authorized users of a Registered Geographical Indication can initiate an action, when an unauthorized user uses a Geographical Indication that indicates or suggests that such goods originate in a Geographical area other than the true place of origin of such goods in a manner which misleads the public as to the Geographical Origin of such goods. It means when the use of geographical indication results in an unfair competition including passing off in respect of registered geographical indication. This includes when the use of another geographical indication result in false representation to the public that goods originates in a territory in respect of which a registered Geographical Indication relates.

It is important, to note that Registered Geographical Indication cannot be assigned, transmitted under the GI Act. In fact, a Geographical Indication is a public property belonging to the producers of the concerned goods; it can neither be assigned nor transmitted etc. under any contact or agreement related to assignment, transmission, licensing, pledge, mortgage or such other agreement.

It is important to note that when an authorized user dies, his right devolves on his successor in title, provided he is operating in that area. Under certain situations, the Appellate Board or the Registrar of Geographical Indications has the power to remove the Geographical Indication or an authorized user from the register. Further, on application by an aggrieved person action can be taken.

Our request to all the producers and related organization is to explore the possibility of GI in their areas of operation and take the benefit of the GI act for their prosperity and market leadership.

 

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