1 August 2019 marks the first anniversary of the launch of India’s first logo and tagline “अतुल्य भारत की अमूल्य निधि” (Invaluable Treasures of Incredible India) for registered Geographical Indications (GI) in India. The purpose of this step was to enable effective branding of India’s vast troves of wealth, whether agricultural, naturally occurring, or manufactured products attributable to specific regions of the country.
This was perhaps the first time that a GI was granted a certification mark, and was meant to sensitize consumers as to the authenticity and standardized quality of a product of a regional origin. At a profound level, it may go a long way to beginning a “renaissance” of national and patriotic spirit, and a sense of pride arising from a knowledge of what the country actually owns over centuries in terms of products and processes zealously safeguarded by word-of-mouth tradition, and often not even documented in any manner.
The move is meant to give a much-needed impetus to artisans preserving age-old Indian tradition. In doing so, the move also validates the precious nature of every original GI, and encourages the owner not to give in to temptations by creating newer, diluted and less authentic products digressing from the original authentic versions created by his/her ancestors.
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DPIIT) has embarked on this project as part of its holistic campaign to create awareness among both GI producers and consumers, with the motive of increasing marketability of these products. Interestingly, the Ministry of Commerce had announced a reward for the most innovative and indicative symbol and tagline.
There were 918 participants for creating slogans, and 383 for logos, from which Akancha Tripathi emerged as the winner of the contest for the best GI slogan and Atri Chatterjee won the contest for best GI logo. The winning logo is a highly suggestive, stylised logo in national tri-colour, which conspicuously displays its association with the letters GI. The winning tagline undoubtedly provokes a nationalistic spirit.
The DPIIT would be the owner of the GI logo and tagline, and has specified the application process and set out clearly the terms and conditions, and the procedure for grant of the GI logo and tagline to prospective applicants.
A few years ago, the Geographical Indications Registry made it mandatory for each GI producer/stakeholder to present a GI application with a logo. The application for the logo was a precondition to register a Geographical Indication. This led to a major anomaly in that the GI had an origin a few centuries old, while the newly created logo was possibly a few days old. The logo, therefore, never quite accurately represented the GI as regards the “period of use and heritage”, and was not in sync with the actual GI.
The present move to embark on one common logo for GIs by way of a certification mark overcomes this confusion and serves to certify all GIs by one common certification mark. The use of the new logo for a registered GI appears to be akin to the use of the ® mark for a registered trademark.
The DPIIT set out guidelines on 24 June 2019 for permitting the use of GI logos and taglines, and seeking stakeholders’ comments. The GI logo and tagline are available only for Indian GI products registered in India and abroad, and not products not registered as GIs but eligible to be registered as GIs. Importantly, foreign GI products, whether or not registered in India, are not allowed to use the GI logo and tagline.
This may lead to a situation of unequal access to use of the logo where all GIs registered in India would not be entitled to equal rights to use the new logo. While the tagline is indicative of the “treasures and pride of India”, the logo is a certification mark for a GI registered in India. Of the 344 GI registrations in India, at least 14 are of non-Indian origin, and the GI logo would be out of bounds for these products.
This takes us to the next question, as to why a non-Indian origin GI registered in India should not be entitled to a certification on par with an Indian origin GI, for the sole purpose of validating its legitimate registration on Indian soil. The GI logo is only meant to provide a visual representation for registered GIs in India.
It is not yet clear why a registered GI of non-Indian origin, which has gone through the required registration process in India, should not be entitled to the registered GI logo, which certifies it and authenticates it on Indian soil.
These are possibly questions which may arise and be answered in due course. The idea of a common GI logo in India is a welcome move and deserves to be hailed.
Gowri Tirumurti is a partner and Purvasha Mansharamani is an associate at Anand and Anand.
This article is the first of a two-part series. The second part will appear in the next issue of Asia Business Law Journal.