Geographical indications (GI) refer to a type of intellectual property (IP) protection which identifies goods with a geographical region. The GI tagging is attributed in such a manner that quality, reputation and other salient features of the commodity are linked to the location of origin. The GI tag for a product can be used only by legitimate users and the residents of the territory of origin. GI tags may be obtained for agricultural products, handicrafts, textiles, manufactured goods, foodstuffs etc. The given GI tag may be in the form of a geographical name or a figurative representation or a combination of these two. The tag assigned to a product should convey its geographical origin. GI plays an important role in promoting the conservation of biodiversity among the rural populations1 .
GI is defined in Article 22.1 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement as "indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin". In general, a GI is recognized in the "country of origin" in which the area referred by the GI tag is located. The registered proprietors or authorized users of GI might include associations of persons or statutory authorities. The authorized users can prevent anybody from using the GI tag on products, which are not originating from the designated location. Thus GI helps to ensure comprehensive and effective protection to GI tagged goods1 .
In India, the Geographical Indications (GI) of Goods (Regulation and Protection) Act was passed in the 1999 to facilitate registration and protection of intellectual property in relation to goods. The Act defined GI under Section 1(e) as, "Geographical Indication in relation to goods, 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 of such good is essentially attributed 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 on locality as the case may be2 .
GI for agricultural products
Darjeeling tea was the first item to obtain a GI tag in the year 2004. As of now, more than three hundred items have been accorded with GI tags in India. Handicraft goods have received the highest number of GI among different categories of goods. This is followed by agricultural products especially fruit crops1 . Mango, citrus and banana have bagged the highest number of GI tags. Elite clones of fruit crops such as grape, pineapple, litchi, strawberry, guava, kokum, fig and custard apple have also obtained GI tags. Chilli followed by brinjal and onion have got the maximum number of GI tags among the vegetable crops.
The list of GI recipients includes tree tomato of Nagaland and a unique type of bean from Maharashtra. Among the plantation crops tea, coffee, coconut and cashew have also found their place in the GI list. Cardamom and pepper top the list among spice crops. GI tags were also given to elite clones of ginger, turmeric and bay leaf1 .
The ownership rights on natural resources and their by-products can be safeguarded by GI tags. The provision of GI tags can help to promote rural commercial ventures by means of wider access to markets. However, the GI tagged products should be promoted with the help of adequate marketing strategies in order to exploit the economic potential of GI. The GI tagging enables the product to acquire a niche market due to its linkage to a particular locality. Hence, the promotional efforts should be directed towards development and maintenance of favorable consumer perceptions about this niche acquired by the product1 .
Unethical marketing practices may undermine the purpose of GI tagging in the absence of an effective post-GI mechanism. This is a major concern, which needs to be addressed to achieve the intended purpose of the GI Act. The GI tags need to be supported by a strong enforcement mechanism both in domestic and export markets. In most cases, the farmers or producers do not have sufficient resources or expertise to defend or promote the GI tagged goods. Hence, there is a need to protect the GI stakeholders from unfair competition. Also, the farmers are dependent on intermediaries for access to markets. The actual benefits arising from increased brand visibility may be exploited by the intermediaries rather than the farmers1 .
GI for foodstuffs
Many foodstuffs have been granted GI tags in India. The list of GI tagged foodstuffs include Tirupathi Laddu, Bikaneri Bhujia, Hyderabad Haleem, Ratlami Sev, Bandar Laddu etc.3 India's rich culinary diversity encompasses many unique foodstuffs across the country. There was a recent controversy regarding the origin of the famous sweet 'rasgulla'4 . As of now, the states of Odisha and West Bengal have obtained GI tags for their own versions of the sweet.
However, GI tagging of foodstuffs raises certain issues, which need to be addressed. It is debatable whether a foodstuff becomes entitled for a GI tag by the mere addition of a geographic prefix. Conversely, the mere presence of a geographic prefix will not make a food stuff a GI. For example, the sweet 'Mysore pak', is not made exclusively in Mysore region but everywhere in southern India. The recipe of the sweet is the significant feature here and the addition of geographical prefix does not endorse any other qualities or characteristics associated with the concerned region4 .
There is only a thin line which separates a recipe and a GI tag. A foodstuff can be made anywhere in the world if the recipe is known. On the other hand, a food stuff entitled for a GI tag must historically originate in a particular location alone. It should also possess certain characteristics or a reputation attributable to the geographical region. Ideally the consumer of the GI tagged foodstuff should be able to associate it with the region of origin and should be able to clearly differentiate it from food stuffs of similar kind4 .
GI is an important tool for protecting the IP rights associated with agricultural products and foodstuffs originating in specific geographical regions. In recent times, there are considerable efforts made by various institutions and agencies in India for ensuring legal protection for Indian GI. Further, adequate promotional strategies are needed to popularise GI tagged products and to derive benefits from its commercial potential. The unique cultural aspects of rural communities associated with GI needs to be highlighted1 . GI tagging of foodstuffs should be restricted to those foodstuffs which are historically produced only in a specific region and are not the same when produced outside the region. Also, generic recipes for food stuffs should not be granted GI tags as they can be replicated anywhere in the world4 .
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