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

Context:

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.

Relevance:

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  • Outdated Legislation: The GI Act of 1999, framed over two decades ago, requires timely amendments to align with current challenges and realities.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
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