Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate
Supreme Court of India & Delhi High court
Partner: Vaish Associates Advocates
A geographical indication (GI) is an indication, whether in the form of a name or sign, used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possesses qualities or a reputation that are due to the place of origin. Geographical indications are valuable rights, which if not adequately protected, can be misused by dishonest commercial operators to the detriment of both the consumers and the legitimate users.
The TRIPS prescribes minimum standards of protection of GIs and additional protection for wines and spirits. Articles 22 to 24 of Part II Section III of the TRIPS prescribe minimum standards of protection to the geographical indications that WTO members must provide. India, in compliance with its obligation under TRIPS, has taken legislative measures by enacting the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, which came into effect on 15th September, 2003 and the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002.
As per the (Indian) Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 "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 goods is essentially attributable 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 or locality, as the case may be.
GIs have been used in India for a wide variety of products, such as Basmati Rice, Darjeeling Tea, Kangra Tea, Feni, Alphonso Mango, Alleppey Green Cardamom, Coorg Cardamom, Kanchipuram Silk Saree, Kohlapuri Chappal, Rasgulla etc.
By registering a geographical indication in India, the rights holder can prevent unauthorized use of the registered geographical indication by others by initiating infringement action by way of a civil suit or criminal complaint. Registration of the GIs in India is not mandatory as an unregistered GI can also be enforced by initiating an action of passing off against the infringer. It is, however, advisable to register the GI as the certificate of registration is prima facie evidence of its validity and no further proof of the same is required.
Registration of Geographical Indications
An application for the registration of a GI is to be made to the Registrar of Geographical Indications in the form prescribed under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (the GI Act) read with the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002 (the GI Rules).
Duration of Protection
A Geographical Indication is registered for a period of 10 years and the registration may be renewed from time to time for a period of 10 years at a time.
Infringement of Geographical Indications
The remedies relating to the infringement of Geographical Indications are similar to the remedies relating to the infringement of Trademark. Similarly, under the (Indian) Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, falsification of a Geographical Indication will carry a penalty with imprisonment for a term which may not be less than six months but may extend to three years and with a fine which may not be less than Rs 50,000 (approx. US$ 800) but may extend to Rs 2,00,000 (approx. US$ 3,000).
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