Memory Hacks: Geographical Indication (GI) Tags in India

What is a Geographical Indication (GI) tag?

A name or sign used on certain products which coincides to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country) is a geographical indication (GI). The purpose of a geographical indication may act as admittance that the product possesses certain attributes, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain prominence due to its geographical origin.

For example –

Mysore silk is a unique handicraft from Karnataka.

A popular spice named Uttarakhand tejpatta used in this hilly region has been accorded a GI certificate making it the first product primitive to the state to have made it to this list.

Spices – Alleppey Green Cardamom under the agricultural sector from Kerala.  

Who accords and regulates GI tags?

Geographical Indications are covered as a component of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. At the International level, GI is governed by World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In India, Geographical Indications registration is administered by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force with effect from September 2003. The first product in India to be accorded with GI tag was Darjeeling tea in the year 2004-05.

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Significance of GI Tag

A geographical indication right facilitates those who have the right to use the indication to prohibit its usage by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. For example, in the purview in which the Darjeeling geographical indication is protected, producers of Darjeeling tea can omit the term “Darjeeling” for tea not grown in their tea gardens or not produced according to the norms set out in the code of practice for the geographical indication.

However, a protected geographical indication does not permit the holder to forbid someone from making a product using the same approaches as those set out in the standards for that indication. Protection for a geographical indication is usually procured by acquiring a right over the sign that constitutes the indication.

What are the benefits of Geographical Indication Status?

The GI registration confers:

  1. Legal protection to the products
  2. Prevents unauthorised use of a GI tag products by others
  3. Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits and is assured of the authenticity.
  4. Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demand in national and international markets.

For what type of products can geographical indications be used?

Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products.

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How are Geographical Indications protected?

There are three major ways to protect a geographical indication:

  • so-called sui generissystems (i.e. special regimes of protection)
  • using collective or certification marks
  • Techniques concentrating on business practices, including administrative product approval schemes.

These approaches comprise of differences with respect to critical questions like conditions for protection or the scope of protection. On the other hand, two of the modes of protection mentioned above namely sui generis systems and collective or certification mark systems, share some common characteristics, such as the fact that they set up rights for collective use by those who comply with defined standards.

Geographical indications are protected and preserved in various countries and regional systems through a wide array of approaches and often using a consolidation of two or more of the approaches defined above. These approaches have been developed in consonance with different legal practices and within a framework of individual historical and economic conditions.

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Role of GI in Rural Development

Geographical indications are mostly traditional products, produced by rural communities over generations that have gained prominence on the markets for their precise qualities.

The recognition and protection on the markets of the names of these products allows the community of producers to devote in maintaining these precise qualities of the product on which the reputation is built. This might also allow them to invest together in promoting the reputation of the product.

Some of the observed rural development impacts of geographical indications are:

  • Supply chain being structured around a common product reputation
  • Increased and stabilised prices for the GI product
  • Distributed through all the levels of the supply chain adds value
  • Natural resources can be preserved on which the product is based
  • Preservation of traditions and traditional expertise
  • Tourism can be boosted

Issues with GI tag

  • Off late, there has been a rise in disputes over the question of place of origin of the product under consideration. This gets aggravated due to lack of clear historical evidence. For ex: the disputes surrounding the origin of Roshogulla, a popular dessert, from eastern India. Both West Bengal and Odisha claim that the dessert originated in their own states. By ‘winning’ a GI tag, each state is looking to promote their own cultural and regional jingoism over the other.
  • This sort of unhealthy competition tends polarise the country on regional, cultural and linguistic lines.
  • Most states in their rush to corner as many GI tags as possible have forgotten to pay attention to enhance the value of products already having a GI tag. As a result, neither the local community not the customer is benefitting economically. This trend undercuts the very idea of GI protection to native endemic products.

Way Forward

  1. GI tag needs to be allotted only after a thorough historical and empirical inquiry.
  2. for products whose origin can’t be effectively traced, either none of the regions be provided with the GI tag or both the states should be given ownership.
  3. The focus of the states and the community needs to shift from mere certification for the sake of regional and instead divert all resources towards active promotion of the product and its respective industry.

GI Tags in India

As mentioned earlier, in 2004-05, Darjeeling tea became the first GI tagged product in India and 272 had been added to the list since then by November 2015. Over 270 more products have applied for the label.

Below is a list of Geographical Indication Tags (GI Tags) in India, arranged state-wise. This state-wise compilation is to aid an aspirant to memorize the cultural identities of a place faster.

State-wise compilation of Geographical Indications

Geographical-Indications-of-India-Part-1
Geographical-Indications-of-India-Part-2

Sample Questions:

  1. In which of the following categories is GI tag NOT applicable?
  1. Agricultural produce
  2. Handicrafts
  3. Textiles
  4. Farming practices
  • 1 only
  • 4 only
  • 2 & 3 only
  • 2 & 4 only

Ans: b

  1. Which of the following products have a GI tag?
  1. Bangalore Rose Onion
  2. Bangalore Blue Grapes
  3. Bangalore Masala Dose
  4. Bangalore Jasmine
  • 1 & 4
  • 3 & 4
  • 1 & 2
  • 2, 3 & 4

Ans: C

  1. GI tags are provided under the mandate of which international agreement?
  • Montreal Protocol
  • WTO TRIPS
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • Beijing Declaration

Ans: B

  1. What do you understand by Geographical Indication (GI) Tag? Discuss with examples the role of GI tag in advancing India’s cultural heritage. (200 words)

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