Understand the concept of geographical indication
The geographical indication is a sign used on products to signify the specific geographical origin. The product with GI tag possesses a quality or reputation that are due to the origin itself. For the implementation of a GI tag, a sign should be identifying a product as originating in a given place. Certain qualities, reputation or characteristics of the product are dependent on the geographical location of origin, which induces a link between the product and its original location of origin.
The GI empowers a right to use the tag and prevent any other third party from using the tag, whose product does not conform to the applicable standards.
The government of India enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999, which came into force in 2003.
However, the GI protection does not extend to protect the technique. In other words, if someone is making a product using the same technique, they can not be prevented. For example, West Bengal got the GI tag for rosogolla, but it can not prevent any sweet shop in Mumbai or UP from making rosogolla using the same technique.
Which products can receive the GI tag?
The geographical indications can be obtained on:
- Agricultural products
- Food products
- Spirit drinks and wine
- Industrial products
Who can apply for the protection of geographical indication?
The application for the geographical indication can be made by a group of producers of the products. The producers or manufacturer as an organization such as a cooperative or association, through a representative, can file for the application, For the application, it is necessary to fulfil certain requirements, which they have to agree upon as an organization.
The application is made to and granted by a national or regional authority, competent to do so.
The conditions which are to be fulfilled to obtain the geographical protection are as follows:
- The sign must be a qualifying one as a geographical indication under the applicable law and should not be subject to any obstacles to registering a GI
- The product must have a link to the geographical origin to be identified by the GI requirements.
- The link of the product to the geographical location is determined by a given quality, reputation or characteristics that arise due to the geographical origin.
How is a GI tag advantageous to a business?
The demand for the origin of authentic products is rising and the consumers are ready to pay for the products which are manufactured using the same technique that is unique to the origin of the product. Consumers care more for the specific characteristics which are relevant to the GI.
However, one must not confuse the GI tag with the ‘place of origin tag’. The difference between the two tags is that one possess geographical origin based characteristics and the others are not assuring of those characteristics. The geographical indications are the key elements in the development of the collective brands for the quality, and to be specific, the products are bound to possess the qualities of the origin.
The geographical indication protects to enable the tag owners to use the indication rightfully to take preventive measures against anyone who uses it without permission and earn a benefit from the reputation.
A geographical indication is similar to the concept of goodwill of a company, which is an intangible but valuable asset. The protection of GI provides a support system that can provide these advantages to the business:
- Competitive Advantage: The GI tag on a product assures the buyer of the authenticity of its manufacture. Which is a unique selling point for the product, and usually, even if the GI tagged products are a bit costlier, the demand manages to maintain.
- Added Value to Product: The GI tag adds the value of reputation to the product. For example, a package of Assam tea or Darjeeling tea carrying the GI tag is itself speaking for the quality of the product.
- Increase economic opportunities: The GI tags promote the economic prosperity of the producers or manufacturer of the products which are produce using a specific technique, that is approved. This enhances the demand of the product in the national as well as in the international market. This is helpful towards the economy of the country.
- A strengthened brand: When a brand is carrying all the advantages mentioned in the previous factors, with time, it creates a place in the market for its authenticity. Along with the reputation value, brand value is also provided to the consumers.
Application Procedure for a GI tag
For obtaining the GI tag, the following procedures are to be followed:
Step 1: File the Application
It is necessary to check that if the indication comes under the purview of the definition of GI as specified in Sec. 2(1)(e) of the Trade Mark Act.
The association of the producers or manufacturers as an organization or authority can file an affidavit to claim the GI tag, complying with the following conditions:
The application should be made in triplicate
The application must be signed by the applicant himself, or his agent.
The details of the special characteristics and ways to maintain the standard.
Three copies of the map of the location, the GI is related to. The copies must be certified.
Details of the inspection structure, if there is anything to regulate the usage of GI in the territory to which it is relevant.
Rest of the details of all the applicant along with their address.
- The application should be made in triplicate
- The application must be signed by the applicant himself, or his agent.
- The details of the special characteristics and ways to maintain the standard.
- Three copies of the map of the location, the GI is related to. The copies must be certified.
- Details of the inspection structure, if there is anything to regulate the usage of GI in the territory to which it is relevant.
- Rest of the details of all the applicant along with their address.
Step 2: Scrutiny
The trademark examiner shall scrutinize the application and notify if there is any deficiency. On receiving any such notice, the applicant should be replying within thirty days from the date of such communication made. The content of the statement of the case is assessed by a consultative group of experts, who is well versed with the subject.
On ascertaining the correctness of the particular furnished, an examination report is issued.
Step 3: Notice for Show Cause
In case, the Registrar has any objection to any of the part of the application made, he will communicate such points of objection.
Within two months of communicating the notice, the applicant must respond or apply for a hearing.
The decision will be duly communicated to the applicant. If aggrieved with the decision, the applicant may file for an appeal, within one month of the decision communicated by the Registrar.
The Registrar is also empowered to withdraw an application, if it is accepted in error, after giving on the opportunity of being heard.
Step 4: Publication
Within three months of acceptance of the application, it must be published in the Geographical Indications Journal.
Step 5: Objection
The purpose of the publication is to enable the world to know about the application, and if anyone has any objections, can send a notice of opposition within three months. It can be extendable by another month on request which has to be filed before three months, depending on the situation.
The registrar shall serve a copy of the notice on the applicant.
Within two months of the communication, the applicant should send a copy of the counter-statement, providing appropriate replies to the objection raised.
If the applicant does not do so, the application shall be rejected.
Where the counter-statement has been filed, the registrar shall serve a copy to the person giving the notice of opposition.
Thereafter, both sides will lead their respective evidence by way of affidavit and supporting documents.
A date for the hearing of the case will be fixed thereafter.
Step 6: Registration of GI tag
If after the debate raised on the basis of the objection, the applicant comes out with a clean hand or no objection is raised, the application for a GI requires to be accepted, and the registrar shall register the geographical indication.
If registered, the date of filing of the application shall be effective as the date of registration.
The registrar shall issue to the applicant a certificate with the seal of the Geographical indications registry.
The geographical indication is an intangible asset, that boosts the business o a product, as it carries the spirit of the region of its origin. Moreover, this adds value to the economic development of that region, and for some places, it is much helpful. In December 1999, the Parliament passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999. This Act seeks to provide for the registration and protection of Geographical Indications relating to goods manufactured in India. This Act is conducted by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, who is the Registrar of Geographical Indications. The main office of the Geographical Indications Registry is located in Chennai.