A GI tag is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess origin-based qualities and reputation in the region. It enables the right holders to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not belong to the particular region and doesn't have the required quality and standards. Here we discuss the importance of GI Tags and how one can register for it.
History of GI tag in India:
GI is typically used in combination with conventional extraction, refining, and marketing, including product branding, for agricultural products. The GI tag, on the other hand, faces problems in terms of quality management, manufacturing process, distribution, and environmental standards and distribution. The GI may be a name of the place of origin, such as Payyanur Pavithra Ring, or an unnamed place of origin, such as Punjab's Phulkari embroidery. A segment on GI was included in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) in 1994.
Introduction of GI Act in India:
India, as a WTO member, enacted the GI Act, which took effect on September 15, 2003. It ensured that only approved users could manufacture, distribute, and sell goods with a geographical origin. The definition of GI can be found in Section 2(1)(e) of the GI Act, which specifies the types of goods that can be classified, namely agricultural, natural, and manufactured goods that originated or were manufactured in the territory of a country, area, or locality within that territory. In 2004-2005, Darjeeling tea was the first commodity in India to earn a GI tag. Since August 2020, 370 products have been registered as GI in India.
Why are GI Tags Important?
The value of a GI is based on the rights of GI holders to use the indication for the purpose of meeting quality requirements and maintaining the uniqueness of the location. When an applicant obtains a right over a sign that constitutes GI, the right of holders is obtained, according to the conditions and limitations set forth in the registration. The right to prohibit third parties from manufacturing goods that do not reach the specified quality level or use the same technique as is necessary to meet the GI standard. For example, a producer of Salem Fabric may impose restrictions on other producers within or outside Salem’s (Tamil Nadu) geographical boundaries which do not adhere to the GI Act's code of practice and norm.
It also gives the holder the right to sue for infringement and recover damages incurred by the infringement on the condition that the holder obtains GI registration under Section 21 of the GI Act. Except in the event of the death of an authorised holder who rendered the mark inheritance as given under Section 24 of the GI Act, the register cannot be transferred, mortgaged, authorised, or assigned.
Infringement is described in this Act as goods made in a location other than the place of origin, as well as unfair practises or competition. Section 18 of the GI Act allows for the registration of a GI tag for a period of 10 years, which can be extended at any time. Under Section 39 of the GI Act, if the holder of a GI falsely applied or falsified any indication, tampered with the originality of the product, made or had in his possession dye, blocks, or machine to use in falsifying GI, he may be sentenced to a term of not less than 6 months, but not more than 3 years, and a fine of not less than INR 50,000 but not more than INR 2 lakh.
Procedure to apply for registration of GI Tag:
The GI tag is registered under the GI Act on the grounds set forth in Sections 11, 13, and 16 of the GI Act:
Some important factors to be considered about GI tags:
- Any individual, group of persons, producer, or organization approved by or under the law to represent the interests of such producers of such goods may file an application with the Registrar of GI.
- The application must include efficiency, design, reputation, or any other important factor such as the geographical climate, manufacturing method, natural and human factors, map of the production territory, presence of geographical indication (figurative or words), and a list of manufacturers, as well as the fees required.
- The preliminary examination for any deficiencies will be carried out, and if any are discovered, applicants must respond to the deficiencies within one month of receiving the correspondence.
- The registrar has the authority to approve or reject an application for GI registration. If the registrar refuses the application, the reasons for non-appearance must be given. Within two months, the applicant has the option of filing a response. After a re-refusal, the applicant has one month from the date of the refusal to file an appeal.
- Upon approval of an application, the registrar can publish it in the GI Journal.
- The registrar will issue the certificate of registration to the applicant and registered users if the application is not opposed.
- If the applicant fails to complete the registration process within 12 months of the date of application, the registrar may, after giving notice to the applicant, abandon the application unless it is completed within the period stated.
The significant underlying factors of GI prove to be a determining condition for passing the requirements needed for certificate approval to the applicant or approved users. Section 9 of the GI Act defines the following requirements that must be fulfilled in order for GI to be granted:
Who can authorize GI Tags in India?
- The use of GI should not deceive or create confusion or contrary to the law in force.
- It must refrain from obscene subject matter.
- It should not hurt the religious sentiments or beliefs of the people in that location
- It must entail a generic name or indication and therefore, entitled to be protected in the country of origin or fallen into disuse. However, the determining factor for identifying generic names must be ascertained from all factors including the situation of the place or region in which names originated and area of consumption of the goods.
- It must not falsely represent that such goods originated in another country, region, or locality although the goods belong to the country of origin.
The Registrar of Geographical Indications shall be the Controller-General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks appointed under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, or the Central Government can appoint such officer with the same designation to discharge the functions of Registrar. Furthermore, the register for documenting the recorded GI with the proprietors' names, addresses, and descriptions, approved users' names, addresses, and descriptions, and other matters relating to registered geographical indications (under Section 6 of the Act).
Part A will provide registration for GI, and Part B will provide registration for registered users. The registrar may identify the products in whole or in part, and the GI may be registered in relation to a specific country, territory, or locality. The registrar has the right to issue an alphabetical index of product classifications.
Technology-driven innovation now necessitates e-marketing and online payment from the comfort of your own home, as well as the use of a cell phone to order goods at any time and from any location within a week. With the aid of an online portal, you can get everything shipped to your door, including GI Tagged items.
The GI tag has proven to be a significant intangible property with a long-term effect on people's perceptions of product quality in relation to the country, area, or locality of origin. It offers benefits such as legal protection for the product, the prevention of illegal use of the product, the provision of a quality and standardized product, and the growth of product economic stability in national and international markets.
Furthermore, the GI tag must be given after a thorough examination of historical and empirical evidence, and in the event of a dispute over the place of origin, the responsible authority may either grant ownership to either states or none at all. The aim of granting GI approval is to ensure that resources are fully used for the best possible use of services and products in the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of GI products. Such a Geographical Indication (GI) Tag allows for improved competitiveness, efficiency, and national prestige in the international market.
However, there is always a possibility of a misuse, in the sense that certain unauthorized retailers, distributors, or producers create duplicate and unlawful sale, delivery, and thereby deceive and distort the quality and goodwill of the licensed product in the market. This includes deceptive trade practices, which are in violation of the Consumer Protection Act, Trademark Act, Indian Companies Act, Competition Act, and other laws. As a consequence, it is imperative that this act be enforced and governed quickly and strictly in order to maintain originality.