Article GI Tag - Environment Protection - Invaluable Treasure of Incredible India


Can any reader name a produce that could be eligible for GI Tagging

  • The following produce is eligible for GI Tagging

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The Geographical Indications (GI) of Goods (Regulation and Protection) Act, 1999 to facilitate registration and protection of intellectual property in relation to goods. GI is defined in Article 22.1 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement as “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. The registered proprietors or authorized users of GI might include associations of persons or statutory authorities.

The Act provides for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to the goods. Cl.2( e) of the Act states that “Geographical Indication” in relation to goods, means an indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as 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 attributable to its geographical origin and in case 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.

An agri-produce to be entitled for a GI tag must historically originate in a particular location alone. It should also possess certain characteristics or a reputation attributable to the geographical region. Ideally, the consumer of the GI tagged foodstuff should be able to associate it with the region of origin and should be able to clearly differentiate it from agri-produce of a similar kind.

There are considerable efforts made by various institutions and agencies in India for ensuring legal protection for Indian GI. It is necessary to highlight the unique cultural aspects of rural communities associated with the produce.
  • The ownership rights on natural resources and their by-products need to be safe guarded. The produce achieves a niche market due to its linkage to a particular locality.
  • Using Geographical Indications may be regarded as a certification that the particular product is produced as per traditional methods, has certain specific qualities or has a certain reputation because of its geographical origin. GI is typically used for wine and spirit drinks, foodstuffs, handicrafts and industrial products.
Role of Various Agencies:
Dept. of Industry Promotion and Industrial Trade
: The Geographical Indication Tag is issued by the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade (DIPIT) which operates under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The first GI Tag was given to Darjeeling Tea in the year 2004-05 due to its unique quality and natural occurring flavor. The Controller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks appointed under sub-section (I) of Section 3 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, shall be the Registrar of Geographical Indications.

National Disaster Management Authority, headed by the Prime Minister of India is the apex body for Disaster Management in India. Setting up of NDMA and creation of an enabling environment for institutional mechanisms at the State and District levels is mandated by the Disaster Management Act, 2005. NDMA is mandated to lay down the policies, plans and guidelines for Disaster Management. India envisons the development of an ethos of Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness and Response.

The Indian Government strives to promote a national resolve to mitigate the damage and destruction caused by natural and man-made disasters, through sustained and collective efforts of all Government agencies, Non-Governmental organisations and People’s participation. This is planned to be accomplished by adopting a Technology-Driven, Pro-Active, Multi-Hazard and Multi-Sectoral Strategy for building a safer, disaster resilient and dynamic India.

The States/ Union Territories must pay attention to enhance the value of products having a GI Tag so that the local community and customer benefit economically. Geographical indications are mostly traditional products , produced by rural communities over generations that have gained prominence in the market for their unique qualities. The recognition and protection of the markets for these products allow the producer community to devote and maintain the precise qualities of the product on which the reputation is built. This will help the community in investing for the promotion and enhancement of value of the product.

Indian Scenario
In India, GI Tags are issued as per the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. This tag is issued by the Geographical Indication Registry, Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. GI Tagging is indispensable in the international trade scenario because it helps to retain the global reputation and worldwide value of a particular product produced in a specific geography. As on recent date, the GI Tags were issued to 432 entities. Karnataka has the highest number of GI tags i.e. 48 products followed by Tamil Nadu (42).

The first GI Tag was given to Darjeeling Tea in the year 2004-05 due to its unique quality and natural occurring flavor. As per news reports of 14-Dec-2022, Union Government has recently granted the GI tag to 9 products including Gamosa (Assam); Alibag White Onion (Maharashtra), Ladakh Raktsey Apricot. Kerala has GI tag for five agricultural products : Attappady Attukombu Avara (beans), Attappady Thuvara (red gram), Onattukara Ellu (Sesame), Kanthalloor-Vattavada Veluthuli (garlic) and Kodungalloor Pottuvellari (snap melon). GI tag is sought for Kerala’s legendary Beypore Uru, a wooden dhow(ship/sailing boat/sailing vessel) handcrafted by skilled artisans and carpenters in Beypore. GI tags may be obtained for agricultural products, handicrafts, textiles, manufactured goods, foodstuffs, etc.

International Scenario

Globally, an estimated 55800 protected GIs were in existence in 2019 with maximum GIs in force in Germany (14289), China (7834), Hungary (6494), EU(4914), Republic of Moldova (3442) and Bosnia and Herzegovina(3147). GIs in force relating to wines & spirits (56.6%), agricultural products and foodstuffs (34.2%) and Handicrafts(3.5%).

Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their international registration

The Lisbon Agreement, and its latest revision, the Geneva Act, 2015 provide for the international protection of appellations of origin and geographical indications through a single procedure with World International Property Organisation (WIPO)

The WIPO Convention, the constituent instrument of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) was signed at Stockholm on July 14, 1967, entered into force in 1970 and was amended in 1979. WIPO is an inter-governmental organization which in 1974 became one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations System.

The origins of WIPO go back to 1883 and 1886 when the Paris convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne convention for the protection of Literary and Artistic Works provided for the establishment of an “International Bureau”. The two bureaus were united in 1893 and in 1970 were replaced by WIPO by virtue of the WIPO Convention.
WIPO’s two main objectives are:
  • To promote the protection of intellectual property worldwide, and
  • To ensure administrative cooperation among the intellectual property Unions established by the treaties that WIPO administers.
WIPO undertakes activities that include:
  • Normative activities – involving the setting of norms and standards for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights through the conclusion of international treaties.
  • Program activities involving legal and technical assistance to States in the field of intellectual property
  • International classification and standardization activities, involving cooperation among industrial property offices concerning patent, trademark and industrial design documentation
  • Registration and filing activities involving services related to international applications for patents for inventions and for the registration of marks and industrial designs
The headquarters of WIPO are in Geneva, Switzerland and liaison offices in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), Japan (Tokyo), Singapore (Singapore) and USA(United Nations, New York).

The Global Biodiversity Framework emphasized on the conservation of biodiversity, reducing the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals. The agreement means people around the world can hope for real progress to halt biodiversity loss and protect and restore our lands and seas in a way that safeguards our planet and respects the rights of indigenous people and local communities. The ownership rights on natural resources and their by-products need to be safe guarded. The produce achieves a niche market due to its linkage to a particular locality.

The COP-15 summit has adopted an historic bio-diversity deal aiming at “peace pact with nature”. The Kumming-Montreal Agreement is aimed at saving the lands, oceans and species from pollution, degradation and climate change. Indigenous rights were addressed , including areas covered by the 30 by 30 pledge(to protect 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030); safeguarding indigenous people’s right to remain stewards of land they use and ensure they are not subject to mass evictions

Some observations
Sub-Section (a) of Section (2) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 mentions “environment” as including water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro-organism and property.

Sub-Section (b) of Section 2 defines “environmental pollution” as any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be or, tend to be, injurious to environment.
  • Supply chain to be structured around a common product reputation
  • Increased and stabilized prices for the GI product. Separate HS Codes for the products so that they have their own unique identity
  • Distributed through all levels of the supply chain adds value to the product
  • Natural resources to be preserved on which the product is based
  • Preservation of traditions and traditional expertise
  • Boosting agri-tourism.
  • More number of FPOs/FPCs and other producer organisations should take the initiative in obtaining GI Tag for their produce (including fisheries) as it enhances the value of the product as well as ensures legal protection to the local environment
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