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TRIPS agreement and importance of Geographical Indication

TRIPS AGREEMENT, IMPORTANCE OF Geographical Indication
TRIPS AGREEMENT, IMPORTANCE OF Geographical Indication

INTRODUCTION

A Geographical Indication or a GI tag is an indicator/sign used on a product originating from a specific geographical location or regional territory.

Geographical Indication signifies that the good derives its quality, characteristics and reputation from the region that it originates from and that its attributes and the place of origin are complementary to each other.

These attributes and qualities may be a result of the traditional methods of preparation specific to that region or the reputation that it enjoys in that particular locality. Such an indication gives assurance to people at large about the quality of the good and also signifies that the good possesses distinct characteristics as a result of its place of origin.

TRIPS AGREEMENT

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) refers to a multilateral legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that came into effect on January 1st, 1995.

This agreement ensures that the minimum standards for regulation of Intellectual Property (IP) is upheld by the government of nations that are a part of the WTO.

Before the TRIPS agreement came into existence, Intellectual Property Laws in most countries were regulated by national governments who created IPR policies within their national jurisdiction.

This regulating power allowed governments to have a certain level of flexibility while creating these policies and there was also an absence of strong enforcing agencies for IPRs. Therefore, the TRIPS agreement ensured the imposition of minimum standards for regulation and, the establishment of a powerful enforcement mechanism.

Section 3 Of Part II of The TRIPS Agreement

The provisions regarding Geographical Indication can be found in Articles 22 to 24 of Section 3 of Part II of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The three provisions briefly state:

  • Article 22 provides the definition of Geographical Indication and establishes the required minimum level of protection that need to be ensured for GIs identifying any given type of good. 
  • Article 23 offers a higher degree of protection for geographical indications (GIs) that designate wines and spirits. It also includes a built-in agenda for the negotiation of a multilateral system of notice and registration of GIs for wines, as well as additional regulations surrounding the use of such GIs in or as trademarks.
  • Article 24 allows for some exceptions for continued use of GIs for goods that do not actually originate from the geographic location that the GI is associated with. For example, when a phrase becomes generic, that enable the ongoing use of GIs for items not originating from the place linked with the GI.

Purpose of Identification

Geographical Indications have a similar function of identifying a particular kind of good just like Trademarks. The identification under GIs is based on the location of the goods from where they originate, unlike trademarks, which distinguishes the goods of one enterprise from another.

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For example, while TATA Tea is a trademark filed by Tata Tea Ltd., differentiating the tea it offers from those of other brands, GI Darjeeling Tea refers to the tea coming from that particular region in India.

Goods That Can be Identified

Article 22.1 of the TRIPS agreement states that the identification is for goods, but it does not explicitly state what kinds of goods.

Therefore, all categories of goods can be potentially identified under GIs, whether it be agricultural produce, food items, handicrafts or industrial products. 

Identification of The Geographical Origin 

The geographical origin identified by a GI could be the name of jurisdiction or territory. It could be a noun or an adjective. For example, ‘Swiss’ in Swiss Made for watches, identify the country associated with the GI.

The GI could be the name of a region: ‘Darjeeling’ (for tea produced in the city of Darjeeling, West Bengal in India), ‘Bhagalpuri’ (for mangoes only grown in the region of Bhagalpur, Bihar). It could also be a more limited area like a locality, for example, a town or a village. 

Relation Between the Good and It’s Geographical Origin

An essential requirement for a good to be identified by a Geographical Indication according to the TRIPS agreement is that the good must possess some quality, reputation, or another characteristic that it derives from originating in a particular geographic location.

This is to say, there must exist a direct link between the features of the goods and the place being identified by the geographical indication. For example, tea originating from one part of India may possess a certain kind of aroma, taste and colour as compared to tea from another part of the country.

These differences can originate as a result of the climate of a particular region or even the process of growing harvesting that is common to that region. 

Geographical Indications of Goods Act, 1999

The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 or commonly known as The GI Act, is an Act of the Parliament of India for the protection of geographical indications in the country.

Being a member nation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), India was obliged to enact the Act to ensure that the national laws and regulations regarding Intellectual Property comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. 

The GI tag protects the rights of those people who are either registered as authorised users or those who reside inside that particular geographic region, allowing them to use the recognised and popular product name. According to the data available on the official site of IBEF, India currently has 370 Geographical Indications. Darjeeling tea was the first product to receive the GI tag in India.

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Objectives Of the G.I. Act,1999:

There are three main objectives of the GI Act:

  1. The act prohibits unauthorised people from misusing geographical indications as to promote some good which are not in the purview of any Geographical Indication and to protect consumers from being deceived by such false promotion and claims.
  2. Establishes the laws governing the geographical indication of goods in India which protect the interest of the people yielding the goods earing the GI tags.
  3. It also promotes and increases the export of goods recognised by the Geographical Indication in India as after attaining such indication the good’s reputation and popularity in the market increases, making it more accessible to the world.

Difference Between Geographical Indicator And Trademark?

A trademark is a symbol that is used in the course of business to differentiate one company’s goods or services from those of other companies. A geographical indicator, on the other hand, is a mark used to identify commodities with distinct features that originate from a certain geographic region.

GIs are firmly linked to socio-economic development, along the lines of sustainability in nations rich in traditional knowledge, whereas trademarks are perhaps considered as a significant asset in terms of private business and economic assets.

Benefits and Importance of Geographical Indication Tags

Growth of Local Community or Region:

When a good attains a GI tag its recognition and demand automatically increase. Consequently, the region or community from where the good originates also gains some recognition. The increase in business activity as a result of the local good getting the GI tag increases the economic activity of the region overall. 

Enhances Economic Growth:

Geographical Indications contribute to the manufacturers’ and producers’ overall economic wellbeing. Furthermore, the marketing and promotion of GI-labelled products increase secondary economic activity in that region, which in turn improves regional economic growth.

Last but not least, the preservation of geographical indications generates a favourable image and reputation for a product in the minds of customers, as well as providing incentives and a higher return on investment to producers.

Provides Legal Protection to Authorised Users:

It provides the holder of the GI tag with the legal rights to prevent other unauthorised users who may not belong to the region from using their GI tags. They can exercise this right to ensure that any unauthorised users do not get away by initiating legal proceedings against them.

Increases Tourism:

After a product or good attains the GI tag it gains recognition from a wide audience who earlier may pr may not have ever come to know about that particular product.

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This recognition also spreads to the region itself and it motivates people to visit the region more, from where a particular famous product originates. Therefore, GIs help in growing the tourism industry of that particular region as well.

Rural Development Effects:

Geographical Indications arguably have the most positive and biggest effect on the development of rural areas from where a good may originate that attains the GI tag.

Traditional products produced by rural, marginal, or indigenous people over decades that have developed a reputation on local, national, or worldwide markets owing to their distinct unique traits are typically the goods that are given geographical indications.

GIs on products from such regions allows for the opportunity for widespread growth in the whole region. It helps in the creation of a supply chain structured around the good with the GI tag. It also leads to spill-over effects as the growth in economic activity in the region allows for new businesses to pop up and even other GI registrations. 

Protection Of Tradition and Environment:

One of the best outcomes that arise as a result of GIs, is the preservation of the natural resources on which the product is based which, consequently, promotes environmental protection.

The recognition and prestige that it brings along to the product bring a sense of pride for the indigenous people who produce the good or product using their indigenous and traditional methods and knowledge, incentivising them to preserve and continue those traditions.

Conclusion:

Geographical Indication assures quality and distinctiveness of a particular product, as a result of its place of origin. GI also guards the local culture and tradition against being exploited by other people who may not necessarily belong to that region but still use the GI in attempts of misleading them into believing that the said goods belong to a particular region, have a certain quality and are distinct.

A Geographical Indication tag creates a sense of pride in the minds of the manufacturer and consumer as it assures excellence in quality and a sense of guarantee or uniqueness and safety of rights to the parties involved in the production.

GI has been a means of great growth and recognition to people around the world, especially to the poor craftsmen and indigenous producers who put in their best efforts to maintain such quality that is known and retained worldwide.

A GI tab is an essential component to the IPR laws in the country that maintain the essence and originality of a product of certain features and characteristics. 

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