Geographical indications can help India grow

By Abhai Pandey,Lex Orbis IP Practice
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Indian agriculture is gradually adjusting to global realities. The strategy of extending consumer assurance by way of geographic indication and appellations of origin has become a pivot for global commodity trade.

Abhai Pandey, Lawyer, Lex Orbis IP Practice
Abhai Pandey
Lawyer
Lex Orbis

Ginger, one of the earliest known oriental spices, is produced in the northeast of the country both as fresh vegetable and as dried spice.

The ginger grown in the Karbi Anglong region of Assam has a buoyant market around the world. The demand for this particular ginger has prompted the district administration to apply for a geographical indication (GI) certificate to protect the region-specific characteristics and flavour of Karbi ginger.

Ultimately, the move could help not only preserve the unique qualities of the regional crop but also help the region grow.

The aroma and taste of ginger grown in Karbi Anglong are enough to confirm where it comes from but for unwary buyers the GI tag is essential.

If the application is approved, the ginger grown in Karbi Anglong region of Assam will join the league of muga silk to make the GI grade.

Means of protection

The Indian parliament enacted in 1999 the Geographical indications (GI) of Goods (Regulation and Protection) Act for registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods.

Under the act a “geographic Indication” in relation to goods is an indication that identifies the specific product as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods originating or manufactured in the territory of a country or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality reputation or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributed to its geographical origin and in cases where such goods are manufactured goods, one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality as the case may be.

The focus of the act is on quality, reputation or another characteristic of such good that is essentially attributed to its geographical origin.

The geographical domain can be a territory of a country or a region or locality in that territory.

The quality of the product is attributed essentially to its geographical origin and if it is of goods either the raw material production or processing or the preparation shall take place in the territory.

IP issues

There are several intellectual property rights issues that arise within the domains of geographical indication and agriculture.

The issue of traceability directly impinges on the isolation of the indication which identifies the agricultural goods as a geographical indication.

The traceability of the raw material that yields the GI produce is important and the details of the growers and their cultivation practices are a matter of detailed documentation.

The genetic constitution or the hereditary information of the agricultural goods and the cultivation practices should be within an area range with the produce having constant quality to qualify as a GI and consequently as a sustained trade advantage.

This calls for a proper survey of the geographic region or growing area where the particular product comes from as a means of identifying the farms that produce it, documenting their cultivation details and providing them with an identiiable number that allows them to be traced.

Registry

The process of collecting information about Karbi ginger from various sources on cultivation practices, along with photographs, is on track to meet the needs of the Geographical Indications Registry.

GIs are essentially collective marks which are put to use for the collective benefit of the producers in a given region.

A GI registration allows for legal protection of an item from duplication. Action can be taken against unauthorized cultivation and use of the same geographical indication.

Authorized users can also exercise their exclusive right to use the GI label on their products.

Development aid

The Karbi Anglong district administration is striving hard for the GI label, specifically as it will protect the region-specific characteristics and flavour of Karbi ginger and also help Karbi ginger, in times to come, to become a global brand name.

This could, in turn, set the stage for improved socio-economic conditions for the growers.

Protection through the GI system would go a long way in strengthening the region and contributing to its development. Securing protection through a GI can transform potential opportunities into on-the-ground realities.

Abhai Pandey is a lawyer with LEX ORBIS IP Practice, a law firm specializing in intellectual property issues.

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