India is a country that is rich in diversity, with each state in India being famous for some good – be it food, craft, clothing, art. It is necessary to protect the good and its origin – the purpose which is served by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”). As per Section 2(1)(e) of the Act, “a geographical indication refers to an indication capable of identifying goods, including natural goods, agricultural goods, or manufactured goods, as manufactured or originating in a country’s territory, or a locality or region within that territory, where a specific quality, reputation, or any other attribute of such good is particularly a characteristic to its geographical origin.”
Some examples of Geographical Indications are:
Paithani Sarees and Fabrics[x]
Mysore Rosewood Inlay[xii]
Palakkadan Matta Rice[xiii]
Nashik Valley Wine[xv]
Temple Jewellery of Nagercoil[xvi]
Mysore Traditional Paintings[xvii]
Tirur Betel Leaf (Tirur Vettila)
Budithi Bell & Brass Metal Craft[xviii]
Channapatna Toys & Dolls[xx]
As per Section 8 of the Act, Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act,1999 a geographical indication may be registered for any or all goods in a class specified by the Registrar and for a definite territory of a country, or an area or locality within that territory. The registrar may classify goods according to the international division of goods to register geographical indications and publish an alphabetical index.
Prohibition on Registration of Certain Class of Goods
Section 9 of the Act lays down and prohibits the registration of certain class of goods, which include:
(a) the use of which would be likely to deceive or cause confusion; or
(b) the use of which would be contrary to any law for the time being in force; or
(c) which comprises or contains scandalous or obscene matter; or
(d) which comprises or contains any matter likely to hurt the religious susceptibilities of any class or section of the citizens of India; or
(e) which would otherwise be disentitled to protection in a court; or
(f) which are determined to be generic names or indications of goods and are, therefore, not or ceased to be protected in their country of origin, or which have fallen into disuse in that country; or
(g) which, although literally true as to the territory, region or locality in which the goods originate, but falsely represent to the persons that the goods originate in another territory, region or locality, as the case may be, shall not be registered as a geographical indication.
In R.S. Praveen Raj v. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams[xxii], the Petitioner filed a rectification petition challenging the GI tag granted to on the grounds of contravention to Section 11(1) read with Rule 32(5) and 32(6)(a),(f) of the Rules which prohibits registration of the Tirupati Laddu on hurting religious sentiments. He further contended that the award served no industrial purpose and granting a monopoly undermines the ratio of a Geographical Indicator and thereby prayed for the removal of GI-121 from the Registry. Disposing the petition, the Court held that granting of GI tag never hurt religious sentiments, at the same time GI protect the devotees against non-genuine products and on the other hand facilitates the growth and prosperity of the society.
Who can apply?
According to Section 11 of the Act, any association of persons or producers or any organisation or authority established by or under any law for the time being in force representing the producers of the concerned goods desiring to register a geographical indication in relation to such goods must apply in writing to the Registrar in such form and manner and accompanied by such fees as may be prescribed for the registration of the geographical indication. Any question about the class of a good, the area in which a geographical indicator is to be registered, or where good is not listed in the alphabetical index of goods is decided by the Registrar, and his judgement is final. Rule 32(6)(a) of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration & Protection) Rules, 2002 states that there should be an affidavit which states that how the person wants to represent the association of persons or organisations.
In the case of Subhash Jewellery v. Payyannur Pavithra Ring Artisans[xxiii] producers, it was held that a mere claim that the society is called Payyannur Pavithra Ring Artisans and Development Society will not suffice. There should be evidence to show that the producers are desirous of coming together to protect the Geographical Indication, that is clearly absent. Above all on their own admission, it is the Choovatta Valappil family which was entrusted with the technique of making the ring, but even the members of that Tharawad had no notice of the application. Such an application will defeat the purpose of the Act.
Duration, Renewal, Removal and Restoration of Registration
Section 18 of the Act provides that a geographical indication lasts 10 years or until the authorised user’s registration expires, whichever comes first.
After an application is made in the prescribed manner by the registered proprietor in the prescribed period and after the payment of the prescribed fee, the Registrar renews the registration of the geographical indication or authorised user for ten years from the date of expiration of the original registration or of the last renewal of registration, as applicable.
Before the expiration of the last registration, the Registrar must notify the registered proprietor or the authorised user of the expiration date and the conditions for paying fees and getting a renewal of registration. If these conditions aren’t met by the end of the time allowed, the Registrar may remove the geographical indication or the authorised user.
Restoration of registration
Where a geographical indication or an authorised user has been removed from the register because the required fee has not been paid, the Registrar must restore the geographical indication or the authorised user after six months and within a year of the expiration of the last registration of the geographical indication or the authorised user, provided they receive an application in the prescribed form and pay the required fee.
[xxii] R.S. Praveen Raj v. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams
[xxiii] Subhash Jewellery v. Payyannur Pavithra Ring Artisans, 2013 (55) PTC 197 (IPAB)