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Reforms Needed in India’s Geographical Indication (GI) Tags Journey


India’s Geographical Indication (GI) tags journey of over two decades faces challenges, with limited outcomes indicating the need for reforms in the registration processes.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Geographical Indications (GI) Tag
  2. Concerns Regarding GI Tags in India
  3. Realizing the Potential of GI-based Products

Geographical Indications (GI) Tag

Definition and Importance:
  • Geographical Indications of Goods indicate the country or place of origin of a product.
  • They assure consumers of the product’s quality and distinctiveness derived from its specific geographical locality.
  • GI tags are an essential component of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and are protected under international agreements like the Paris Convention and TRIPS.
Administration and Registration:
  • Geographical Indications registration in India is governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
  • The registration and protection are administered by the Geographical Indication Registry under the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade (DIPIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The registration is valid for 10 years, and it can be renewed for further periods of 10 years each.
Significance and Examples:
  • GI tags provide a unique identity and reputation to products based on their geographical origin.
  • The first product in India to receive a GI tag was Darjeeling tea.
  • Karnataka has the highest number of GI tags with 47 registered products, followed by Tamil Nadu with 39.
Ownership and Proprietorship:
  • Any association, organization, or authority established by law can be a registered proprietor of a GI tag.
  • The registered proprietor’s name is entered in the Register of Geographical Indication for the applied product.
  • Protection and Enforcement:
  • Geographical Indications protect the interests of producers and prevent unauthorized use of the product’s name or origin.
  • Enforcement of GI rights helps maintain the quality and reputation of the products associated with their specific geographical regions.
Location of the Geographical Indications Registry:
  • The Geographical Indications Registry is located in Chennai, India.

Concerns Regarding GI Tags in India:

  • Outdated Legislation: The GI Act of 1999, framed over two decades ago, requires timely amendments to align with current challenges and realities.
  • Complex Application Processes: Registration forms and application processing times need simplification for easier compliance by producers seeking Geographical Indication (GI) tags.
  • Low Application Acceptance Ratio: The current application acceptance ratio in India is only about 46%, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the GI registration process.
  • Institutional Development Deficiency: Lack of suitable institutional development hampers the effective implementation of GI protection mechanisms, affecting the overall success of the GI system.
  • Post-Registration Challenges: Producers often face challenges post-GI registration due to a lack of guidance and support, hindering them from fully realizing the benefits of the GI tag.
  • Undefined “Producers” and Intermediaries: Lack of clarity in defining “producers” in the GI Act of 1999 leads to the involvement of intermediaries, potentially diluting the intended advantages for genuine producers.
  • Intermediary Benefit Concerns: Intermediaries benefit from GIs, posing a challenge to ensuring that the advantages of GI protection primarily go to authentic producers.
  • Neglected Attention Compared to Other IP Protections: Disputes, especially in products like Darjeeling tea and Basmati rice, highlight that GIs receive less attention compared to patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
  • Limited Academic Focus: Limited academic focus on GIs is evident, with only seven publications from India, indicating a gap in scholarly research on geographical indications.
  • Growing Academic Interest Abroad: A recent surge in publications, with 35 articles published in 2021, indicates growing academic interest in GIs; however, European nations, such as Italy, Spain, and France, lead in GI-related academic publications.

Realizing the Potential of GI-based Products:

  • Incentivize Grassroots Producers: Government initiatives should incentivize producers at the grassroots level, encouraging more producers to seek Geographical Indication (GI) status.
  • Exclude “Non-Producers” from Benefits: Laws should be structured to exclude “non-producers” from benefiting, ensuring that the direct advantages of GI protection go to genuine producers.
  • Technology and Skill-building: Promote technology adoption, skill-building, and digital literacy among GI stakeholders to facilitate modernization and enhance competitiveness.
  • Collaboration with Trade Associations: Government agencies should collaborate with trade associations to organize exhibitions and leverage various media channels for promoting GI-based products.
  • International Promotion by Embassies: Indian embassies should actively promote GI-based products to encourage growth in foreign markets, enhancing global visibility.
  • Favorable International Tariffs and WTO Focus: Advocate for favorable international tariff regimes and emphasize GI products at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to boost their global presence.
  • Integration with One District One Product Scheme: Integrate Geographical Indications with the One District One Product scheme to enhance promotion and expand market reach.
  • Market Outlet Schemes, Especially in Rural Areas: Develop market outlet schemes, particularly in rural markets (gramin haats), to enhance the visibility and accessibility of GI products.
  • Establish Testing Laboratories at Marketplaces: Establish testing laboratories at marketplaces to ensure consumer confidence in the quality of GI products, contributing to market trust.
  • Align Startups with GIs and SDGs: Encourage startups to align with Geographical Indications and link their performance with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to contribute to social and economic development.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024