Sociology Index

Geographical Indications

A geographical indication is a sign used on products which corresponds to a specific geographical location, like a town, region, or country. The use of a geographical indication acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, and enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographically indicated origin. Geographical Indication is used to identify goods having special characteristics originating from a definite territory. A geographical indication for specialty food or drink may be generic. A geographical indication is not a trademark under Trademark Law because it does not serve to exclusively identify a specific commercial enterprise, and therefore cannot constitute a genericized trademark. The European Union has actively sought to restrict the use of geographical indications by third parties outside the EU.

The extension of protection for geographical indications is somewhat controversial because a geographical indication may have been registered as a trademark elsewhere. Internationally, Geographical Indications are covered as an element of intellectual property rights under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Both black tea and green tea have been produced in the Kangra Valley since the mid-19th century. Kangra tea was given the Geographical Indication status in 2005.

Geographical Indications are also covered under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The World Intellectual Property Organisation defines a Geographical Indications as “a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.”

Geographical Indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, handicrafts, industrial products, wines and spirit drinks. Darjeeling tea, Kullu shawl, Mysore agarbathi, champagne (France), Swiss watches etc are some of its examples. The Geographical Indications Act, 1999 (Indian Act) protects IPR claims arising out of the “geographical indications” in India. The protection of geographical indications has emerged as one of the most contentious intellectual property right issues in the realm of the World Trade Organization.

Assam Orthodox tea has recently been registered as a Geographical Indication in India. Assam is the single largest tea-growing region in the world. Orthodox tea refers to loose leaf tea produced using traditional or orthodox methods, which involves plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation and drying. CTC (Cut, Tear, and Curl) is a common method of processing black tea.

What is special about these five products from Himachal Pradesh in India?

Karsog Kulth: Kulthi or Kulth (horse gram) is a legume grown as a kharif crop in Himachal Pradesh. Kulth grown in the Karsog area of Mandi district is believed to be particularly rich in amino acids.

Pangi ki Thangi: It is a type of hazelnut which grows in Pangi valley located in the northwestern edge of Himachal. It is known for its unique flavour and sweetness.

Chamba metal crafts: These include items such as metal idols and brass utensils which, historically, were made by skilled artisans in the courts of kings of Chamba. There are efforts to revive the trade, and a plate made from a brass-like alloy and having carvings of gods and goddesses is still popular.

Chamba Chukh: It's a chutney made from green and red chillies grown in Chamba, and prepared in traditional and unique ways. The practice has largely declined in rural households of Chamba, but survives to some extent at the small-scale industrial level.

Bharmouri Rajmah: It's more specifically called the Kugtalu Rajmah, since it grows in the area around Kugti Pass in the Bharmour region of Chamba district. It is rich in proteins and has a unique flavour.

Himachal Pradesh government government in India seeks Geographical Indications for these products: “For the Chamba metal crafts, historical literature can help establish their unique characteristics and reputation. For the other four agricultural products, however, we will have to identify their distinctive genealogical characteristics. For this, researchers from the agricultural university at Palampur have been roped in,” said Nishant Thakur, joint member secretary of HP Council of Science, Technology and Environment.

Geographical Indications and Intellectual Property: A Legal And Economic Analysis - a thorough book by Michael Blakeney.

New Frontiers of Intellectual Property Law: Ip And Cultural Heritage - Geographical Indications - Enforcement - Overprotection (IIc Studies) - by Christopher Heath, Anselm Sanders, Anselm Kamperman Sanders.

Books On Geographical Indications

New Frontiers of Intellectual Property Law: Ip And Cultural Heritage - Geographical Indications - Enforcement - Overprotection (IIc Studies). by Christopher Heath (Editor), Anselm Sanders (Editor), Anselm Kamperman Sanders (Editor).

Geographical Indications and Intellectual Property: A Legal And Economic Analysis by Michael Blakeney.

Rajrathnam V P, Attorney/Advocate and IPR Consultant -