India-Pakistan showdowns, whether in sports or political
relations, are always newsworthy. This time there was a change in
the battleground and the reason for the showdown was the claim over
'BASMATI' rice as Geographical Indication (GI) by both the
countries. The Indian body Agricultural and Processed Food Products
Export Development Authority ('APEDA') filed an application
for protection of BASMATI rice as a GI for certain regions in India
this, was opposed by the Basmati Growers Association, Pakistan
A notice of opposition was served upon APEDA and accordingly the
due procedure of filing counterstatement to opposition; following
which, the BGA was directed by the Assistant Registrar of
Geographical Indications to file evidence in support of opposition.
There was a delay on behalf of BGA in filing the evidence in
support of opposition, this fact was admitted by BGA itself. The
APEDA filed an interlocutory petition contending that BGA had not
filed the evidence within the stipulated time period under Rule 44
of the GI rules, 2002. It was also claimed that the affidavit filed
by BGA was not in compliance with the prescribed format and
therefore, the Opposition filed by BGA ought to be dismissed as
'abandoned'. It was further stated by APEDA that compliance
with rule 44 of the GI rules was a mandatory requirement and
non-compliance would result in the opposition being considered as
abandoned. The APEDA succeeded in its claims against BGA before the
Assistant Registrar of GI and hence an appeal was filed by BGA
against APEDA before the IPAB.
The IPAB compared this provision of the GI rules with the
Trademark Act rules since, the procedure for filing an opposition
to an application for registration (of trademark and Geographical
Indication) is similar. Rule 50 of the Trade mark rules is
similarly worded as rule 44 of the GI rules and due to this reason
the IPAB took into consideration interpretation of various Indian
courts pertaining to strict compliance with rule 50.
The IPAB upon referring to various decisions concluded that the
compliance under rule 50 of the trademark rules (hence, also rule
44 of the GI rules) was mandatory and if the evidence of opposition
was not filed within the prescribed time the application would be
deemed to be abandoned. The IPAB further ruled that the GI act was
a special act and therefore it was necessary for parties to be
vigilant about their rights and procedure to be followed under the
Act. Since, the BGA had failed in adhering to the time frame
prescribed under the rules it was only correct that the opposition
be deemed as abandoned. The order of the Assistant Registrar was
upheld by the IPAB. This means that for now, Pakistan has missed an
opportunity to oppose the Indian GI application for Basmati rice,
it remains to be seen if this order of IPAB is challenged further
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