Tagged – and tied – to geography

Gaurav Sikka & Manisha Kushwaha

Most of us have heard of Darjeeling tea, Banarasi saree, and Lucknow chikankari. As the names of these products indicate, they belong to a specific geographical region and have the attributes and characteristics particular to these regions. This is known as Geographical Indication (GI), a certification of the product from a certain region which is unique in its own way.

Understanding Geographical Indication
The term ‘geographical indication’ is a relatively new concept introduced by the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994. The concept has its origin in 19th century Europe and has considerably evolved since then. The practice of using other closely related frameworks existed even in pre-industrial times. Frameworks such as ‘appellations of origin’, ‘indications of source’, ‘designations of origin’ and ‘protected geographical indications’ used names of places and distinctive signs for a variety of products as ‘indications of geographical origin’ (IGO). IGO is an umbrella term used to denote the aforementioned words which specify that a product has a particular geographical origin. GIs are the collective rights owned by the community of a particular geographical region.


TRIPS defines a GI as any indication that identifies a product as originating from a particular place, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of the product are essentially attributable to its geographical origin. GIs serve to recognize the essential roles played by geographic and climatic factors and/or human know-how in the quality of certain products.

The Indian GI Act (1999) defines GI as, “‘geographical indication’, in relation to goods, and this 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(s) 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.”

The need for GIs
GIs help in dealing with the problem of information asymmetry in the market between buyers and sellers. The consumer’s lack of information about the quality and genuineness of a product leads to them being exploited, paying more for the product. The producers, on the other hand, suffer loss due to unfair competition with fake products. Thus, GI acts as a signalling device that helps the producers to differentiate original products from competing fake products in the market and enables them to build a reputation and goodwill around their products. This could often fetch a premium price, benefiting both the producer and the consumer. Effective implementation of the GI Act will guard the rights of the producers against fake, cheap, and low quality products.

Gaurav Sikka is a faculty at Department of Geography, Aditi Mahavidyalaya, University of Delhi. He is also pursuing PhD in geography from the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. He has presented papers at International conferences in India and abroad. He can be reached at gaurav_sikkaa@yahoo.co.in.

Manisha Kushwaha is pursuing her PhD at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali (Punjab).

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