India’s quest to get Basmati registered as Geographical Indicator faces hurdle as Madhya Pradesh wants its inclusion

India’s fight to safeguard the typical identity of basmati rice name, fought in part through a registering for a geographical indication protection by state-run export registration agency APEDA, is facing obstacle in Madhya Pradesh.

What is the issue of registration of Basmati rice as Geographical Indicator?

India wants to give Basmati rice the tag of Geographical Indicator (GI) and get it registered in country’s Geographical Indications Registry (GIR). Initially, APEDA’s geographical indication application, filed five years back, sought to cover just Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. However, recently GIR allowed a plea by Madhya Pradesh (MP) for its basmati producers to be covered under the GI tag. Five representatives of basmati producers in Madhya Pradesh had also made the request.

Who have filed the petition for inclusion of basmati producers in MP to be included under the GI tag?

Those who have filed the plea include the Madhya Pradesh government, the Madhya Kshetra Basmati Growers Association, Narmada Cereals, Daawat Foods, SSA International, and Madhya Kshetra Basmati Exporters Association. They want APEDA’s application to include Madhya Pradesh, mainly areas such as Morena, Bhind, Gwalior, Sheopur, Datia, Shivpuri, Guna, Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore, Hoshangabad, Jabalpur, and Narshinghpur.

Why they are demanding this?

As per the applicants, MP produced about 4.5 lakh tonne of basmati (about 4 lakh tonne of which was exported) in 2009. There are concerns that the non-inclusion of their state will affect the lives of farmers. The litigants want to protect the interest of the producers of basmati in the state.

What is the opinion of experts on this issue?

Some experts believe that accepting the demand of MP is not good as it would set wrong precedent and other states may follow it asking for their inclusion too.

What is the role of Geographical Indications Registry (GIR)?

GIR is responsible for the administration of laws relating to Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. Geographical Indications of Goods are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country or place of origin of that product. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country.

  •  Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPRs.
  • They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which was part of the Agreements concluding the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.
  •  India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection)Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15th September 2003. 
What is a Geographical Indication? 
  • It is an indication
  • It originates from a definite geographical territory.
  • It is used to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods
  • The manufactured goods should be produced or processed or prepared in that territory.
  • It should have a special quality or reputation or other characteristics
Benefits of Geographical Indication
  • It confers legal protection to Geographical Indications in India
  • Prevents unauthorised use of a Registered Geographical Indication by others
  • It provides legal protection to Indian Geographical Indications which in turn boost exports.
  • It promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods produced in a geographical territory.
Who can apply for the registration of a geographical indication?
  • Any association of persons, producers, organisation or authority established by or under the law can apply:
  • The applicant must represent the interest of the producers
  • The application should be in writing in the prescribed form
  • The application should be addressed to the Registrar of Geographical
  • Indications alongwith prescribed fee.
Registered proprietor
  • Any association of persons, producers, organisation or authority established by or under the law can be a registered proprietor.
  • Their name should be entered in the Register of Geographical Indication as registered proprietor for the Geographical Indication applied for.
Authorised user
  • A producer of goods can apply for registration as an authorised user
  • It must be in respect of a registered geographical indication
  • He should apply in writing in the prescribed form along with prescribed fee
  • An authorised user has the exclusive rights to the use of geographical indication in relation to goods in respect of which it is registered.
Who is a producer in relation to a Geographical Indication?
  • The persons dealing with three categories of goods are covered under the term Producer:
  • Agricultural Goods includes the production, processing, trading or dealing
  • Natural Goods includes exploiting, trading or dealing
  • Handicrafts or Industrial goods includes making, manufacturing, trading or dealing.
How long the registration of Geographical Indication is valid?

The registration of a geographical indication is valid for a period of 10 years.

Can a Geographical Indication be renewed?

It can be renewed from time to time for further period of 10 years each.

What is the effect if a Geographical Indication if it is not renewed?

If a registered geographical indication is not renewed it is liable to be removed from the register.

Infringement of the registered Geographical Indication

In following conditions, the GI is deemed to be infringed:

  • When an unauthorised user uses a geographical indication that indicates or suggests that such goods originate in a geographical area other than the true place of origin of such goods in a manner which mislead the public as to the geographical origin of such goods.
  • When the use of geographical indication result in an unfair competition including passing off in respect of registered geographical indication.
  • When the use of another geographical indication results in false representation to the public that goods originate in a territory in respect of which a registered geographical indication relates.
Infringement action

The registered proprietor or authorised users of a registered geographical indication can initiate an infringement action. 

Can a registered geographical indication be assigned, transmitted, etc.?

No. A geographical indication is a public property belonging to the producers of the concerned goods. It shall not be the subject matter of assignment, transmission, licensing, pledge, mortgage or such other agreement. However, when an authorised user dies, his right devolves on his successor in title.

Can a registered geographical indication or a registered authorised user be removed from the register?

Yes. The Appellate Board or the Registrar of Geographical Indications has the power to remove the geographical indication or an authorised user from the register. Further, on application by an aggrieved person action can be taken.

How a geographical indication is different from a trade mark?

A trade mark is a sign which is used in the course of trade and it distinguishes goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. Whereas a geographical indication is an indication used to identify goods having special characteristics originating from a definite geographical territory.

Some facts about Basmati rice:
  • Basmati: Name derived from Sanskrit words meaning ‘the one containing aroma.’
  • India claims that it has been producing it from centuries.
  • India is the world’s top exporter of basmati rice; exports in 2012-13 accounted for 34 lakh tonne, worth over $3 billion (about. Rs 18,700) in today’s exchange rate.

Past Controversy: Absence of GI tag is hindering India’s basmati export to boost. Lack of legal protection for basmati, the aromatic long-grain rice commonplace in Indian kitchens, has also proved controversial. For instance, in 1997 US firm RiceTec was granted a patent on ‘basmati rice grains and lines.’ India contested the decision, and RiceTec had to eventually give up four claims and withdraw 11 out of a total of 20 claims. Subsequently, it was granted patents for rice strains that weren’t related to Indian varieties. So far, APEDA has spent over. Rs 7.6 crore on various world-wide lawsuits on basmati. There were still over 200 pending litigations in 50 jurisdictions in various countries.



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