India and European
Union have embarked on a bilateral trade & investment agreement, which
envisages liberalization of trade in Goods, Investment & Service and higher
protection for Intellectual Property Rights including Geographical Indications.
The details of the agreement are being worked out.
The geographical indications as
intellectual property rights have assumed importance in the negotiation of this
bi-lateral trade and investment agreement as India is insisting on EU to extend
the protection to non-food items as well under its domestic regulation
protecting geographical indications. EU provides protection to mainly food
items as GIs.
According to sources, European Union wants India to extend protection to hundred of its food items originating in the 27 member block.
For India the list is diverse and includes food as well as handicraft items.
India wants GI protection for a number of handicraft items like Kanjeevaram
sarees, chikankari and kantha work, and bidri pottery as
machine made handicraft items from other countries is posing a big threat to
the exports which has made it important to ensure protection of traditional
indications, often used on food products, can be used to identify any product
such as Czech crystal, Swiss watches, Indian carpets etc. that may be
associated with a specific geographic place. In general, geographical
indications are intended to designate product quality, highlight brand identity,
and preserve cultural traditions.
The use of geographical indications allows
producers to obtain market recognition and often a premium price. With the
increased internationalization of food and product markets, geographical
indications have become a key source of niche marketing. Geographical
indications are also often associated with non-monetary benefits such as the
protection of knowledge and community rights
The underlying concern of European Union
for the protection of its wide array of food products is to stop them from
becoming generic or acquiring a generic status. Names having a common usage in
one region give rise to controversies when they are found protected in another
Some may claim that the geographic names,
which have become commonly associated with the food products, should not belong
exclusively to a specific group of producers in a specific geographic location
as consumers expect these names to identify a class of products that can be
produced in many locations. On the other hand, proponents of geographical
indications argue that the products associated with the name have a certain
quality that derives from the geographic region and specific production process
used. Thus, the protection of the name helps prevent the development of a
generic association thereby preserving the ability of the product to be made in
the traditional manner.
While the arguments about the value and
necessity of legal protection for the names of food products may be disputed,
it is clear that there are foods that do contain qualities that derive from
their geographical origin.
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