Protection of Geographic Indication (GIs) refers to protection of products originating from a certain geographical area having special characteristics, qualities or reputation may be due to various factors, eg. natural factors such as raw material, soil, regional climate, temperature, moisture etc, or the method of manufacture or preparation of the product such as traditional production methods; or other human factors such as concentration of similar business in the same region, specialization in the production or preparation of certain products and the maintaining of certain quality standard. It should be noted that even if a product is protected as GI, it does not prevent anyone from producing it anywhere. The only restriction is that the product cannot be marketed using the name that has been registered as a GI.
The name can be used only by authorized users of the GI for their product or services.
In India, the legal system for GI protection is governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, which was enacted in the year 1999 and
is in force since September 2003. The Act has two key characteristics:
- Protection of producers against counterfeiting and misleading commerce
- Striking of balance between trademark and GI Protection.
According to this Act, once a GI is registered, any person claiming to be the producer of the goods designated by the registered GI can file an application for registration as an authorized user. Indian GI Act specifies the goods to be either agricultural goods or natural goods or manufactured goods that can qualify as a GI. Further, in the Indian Act,
if a producer applies for a GI for manufactured goods, he or she must make sure that at least one of the activities of either the production or processing or preparation of the goods must take place in the territory.
GIs are valuable property to producers from a particular geographical region. They basically have three criteria:
- They identify goods as originating in a particular territory or region or locality in that territory.
- They suggest the consumers that the goods come from an area where a given quality, reputation or
other characteristics of the goods is essentially attributable to their geographic origin.
- They promote the goods of producers of a particular area.
Examples of GI: Tirupati Laddu, Darjeeling Tea, etc.
GEOGRAPHIC INDICATIONS REGISTRATION PROCESS
Following are the various steps involved:
Step 1 – Filing of application
It is to be checked if the indication comes within the ambit of the definition of a Gl under section 2(1)(e). The association of persons or producers or any organization or authority should represent the interest of producers of the concerned goods and should file an affidavit how the applicant claims to represent their interest.
- Application must be made in triplicate.
- The application shall be signed by the applicant or his agent and must be accompanied by a statement of case.
- Details of the special characteristics and how those standards are maintained are to be provided.
- Three certified copies of the map of the region to which the GI relates are to be provided.
- Details of the inspection structure if any to regulate the use of the GI in the territory to which it relates are to be provided.
- Details of all the applicants together with address are to be provided. If there is a large number of producers a collective reference to all the producers of the goods may be made in the application and the G.I., If registered will be indicated accordingly in the register.
The applicant must have an address for service in India. Generally, application can be filed by (1) a legal practitioner (2) a registered agent.
Step 2 & 3 – Preliminary scrutiny and examination
- The Examiner will scrutinize the application for any deficiencies.
- The applicant should within one month of the communication in this regard, remedy the same.
- The content of statement of case is assessed by a consultative group of experts well versed on the subject.
- They will ascertain the correctness of particulars furnished.
- Thereafter, an Examination Report would be issued.
Step 4 – Show cause notice
- If the Registrar has any objection to the application, he will communicate such objection.
- The applicant must respond within two months or apply for a hearing.
- The decision will be duly communicated. If the applicant wishes to appeal, he may within one month make a request.
- The Registrar is also empowered to withdraw an application, if it is accepted in error, after giving on opportunity of being heard.
Step 5 – Publication in the geographical indications Journal
- Every application, within three months of acceptance shall be published in the Geographical Indications Journal.
Step 6 – Opposition to Registration
- Any person can file a notice of opposition within three months (extendable by another month on request which has to be filed before three months) opposing the GI application published in the Journal.
- The registrar shall serve a copy of the notice on the applicant.
- Within two months the applicant shall sent a copy of the counter statement.
- If he does not do this be shall be deemed to have abandoned his application. Where the counter-statement has been filed, the registrar shall serve a copy on the person giving the notice of opposition.
- Thereafter, both sides will lead their respective evidences by way of affidavit and supporting documents.
- A date for hearing of the case will be fixed thereafter.
Step 7 – Registration
- Where an application for a GI has been accepted, the registrar shall register the geographical indication. If registered the date of filing of the application shall be deemed to be the date of registration.
- The registrar shall issue to the applicant a certificate with the seal of the Geographical indications registry.
Step 8 – Renewal
- A registered GI shall be valid for 10 years and can be renewed on payment of renewal fee.