Treasures linked to geography

CIPAM team

Talking about Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) with students has been the focus of this column for the past couple of months. We are confident that the readers, in their role as educators, realize the potential of IPRs such as Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Designs as measures of innovation for a country and also realize the significance of the same in the lives of our students.

This article however shifts its focus from private IP Rights to discuss a community IP Right known as Geographical Indication. A reflection of the diverse culture of our country can be seen in the numerous handicrafts, textiles, manufactured products, food stuff and natural products that have been with us as age-old traditions, passed on from one generation to another. Famous examples of such goods and products include Kathputlis of Rajasthan, Darjeeling Tea of West Bengal, Pashmina Shawls of Jammu and Kashmir, and Kanchipuram Silk of Tamil Nadu to name just a few. All these products are protected as Geographical Indications.

Understanding Geographical Indications
Geographical Indications (GIs) are an IP Right that extend protection to mainly agricultural, natural or manufactured products such as handicrafts and industrial items produced in a certain geographical area. Geographical Indications are a community right granted to rural and indigenous communities for their indigenous knowledge of these products.

India has a rich stock of products that are intrinsically linked to the culture and traditions of its communities. These are treasures that not only aid in supplementing incomes to our rural artisans, weavers, craftsmen and farmers but also significantly contribute in popularizing their geographic origin.

The economic potential of these goods is very wide and thus, to prevent the unauthorized use of the same and subsequently protect livelihoods of communities involved, GI protection is essential.

Introducing the subject to students
A good way to introduce the subject to the students can be through a small GI quiz. You may ask the students the following question – “To which states do these products belong – Madhubani Painting, Chanderi Saree, Darjeeling Tea, Pashmina shawl, Kinhal Toys, Patan Patola, Phulkari, Naga Mirch, Muga Silk, Feni?”. As the students correctly identify the home states of these goods, let them know that all these are known as Geographical Indications. These are invaluable to Indian heritage and culture and are mostly produced by rural communities of craftsmen, farmers and weavers. Each has an interesting process through which they are created and unique features attributed to them. The GI tag indicates a legal protection given to these communities by the government with regard to the goods produced by them.

Alternatively, you can show the students photos of various GIs and ask them to identify the same along with their geographic origin. A few examples are as follows –

Further to this, you can ask the students whether they know the first registered GI of India. It is the Darjeeling Tea which was registered in 2004!

For more information on various GIs of India, teachers may visit wahgi.ncog.gov.in.

Why should Geographical Indications be protected?
Geographical Indications extend legal protection to goods under the category of handicrafts, textiles, manufactured products, food stuff and natural products. The GI tag, when granted to such a product, assures its quality, uniqueness and authenticity. It also prevents unauthorized use of a registered GI by others. As an example, Darjeeling tea is one of the many registered GIs of India, and so those selling other varieties of tea under the label ‘Darjeeling’ can be punished.

The legal protection given to GI products has allowed the promotion of their exports. In India, the GI Registry, located in Chennai, is responsible for the registration of GIs. The registration and protection of GIs is based on sui-generis legislation, Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

GI logo and Tagline: A mark of authenticity
The GI logo acts as a certifying mark that is used to identify all registered GIs irrespective of the categories. The tagline (Invaluable Treasures of Incredible India) represents the spirit of Geographical Indications of India and is helpful in effective branding and promotion of GIs. This also helps in engaging more people on the subject of GIs and making them aware of the benefits of a GI tag.

The logo and tagline were crowdsourced through a contest published on www.mygov.in. Over 1200 entries from across India were received from which the logo and tagline were chosen!

Geographical Indication v/s Trademark – What’s the difference?
Geographical Indications identify products that arise from a particular geographical area/region and possess certain characteristics. A trademark on the other hand is used during a course of trade and distinguishes various goods and services from each other. Thus, a Trademark identifying a business of say, biscuits that are manufactured all over India, cannot be granted a Geographical Indication tag.

Another point of difference is that Geographical Indication is a right granted to a community whereas Trademark is a private right.

Now that students are familiar with Geographical Indications, you may use the following activity to conclude the discussion with them. Share a list of registered GIs with the class for their reference (this list is available at www.ipindia.nic.in/registered.gis.htm). Now ask the participants to:

  1. imagine a celebrity/person of historical importance/fictional character whom they wish to invite home for dinner and the reason why they would like to invite that person.
  2. what meal would they serve to their guest? The meal must include the following
    • A drink
    • A fruit
    • A main course
    • A dessert
  3. What parting gift would they offer the guest and why?

The meal and the gift must be registered Geographical Indications!

Geographical Indications might not be directly related to most students. Even so, this knowledge can still encourage them to empower communities involved in creating such traditional crafts that they may come across. We all can contribute to the promotion of GIs by gifting these beautiful handmade creations to our friends, relatives and loved ones on important occasions and festivals. India’s treasure trove of GIs is so huge that more than 350 GIs have been registered till date. There is an abundance of options to choose from!

For more information and online resources to talk to students on the subject, teachers can visit the website www.cipam.gov.in.

The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM), is set up under the aegis of the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. CIPAM addresses the identified objectives of the National IPR Policy. If any school is interested in organizing an IPR awareness session for their students, they may write to [email protected].

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