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Nilambur teak set to enter elite club of products with GI tag
Feb 15, 2017

In news:

Nilambur teak, internationally known for its superior quality and elegant appearance, will soon be added to the list of Kerala produces with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

Nilambur Teak

  • Britishers who identified the superior quality of teak from Nilambur plantations and forests.
  • The region became the major supplier of quality teak in the world.
  • The timber which has superior mechanical and physical properties, aesthetic appearance, were taken to London and other parts of the world.
  • As its fame crossed the seven seas, Nilambur was christened the Mecca of Teak.
  • The Nilambur-Shoranur Railway line was laid for transporting the teak logs.

GI tag and Kerala’s other products

  • Vazhakulam Pineapple
  • Tirur Betel vine
  • Central Travancore Jaggery
  • Pokkali rice
  • ChengalikodanNendran, a banana variety.
  • Wayanadan rice varieties- Jeerakasala and Gandhakasala

What is GI

GIs indicate goods as originating in a specific geographical region, the characteristics, qualities or reputation thereof essentially attributable to such region. GI-branded goods possess a recall value amongst consumers who essentially attribute these characteristics, qualities or reputation to such geographical origin.

The GI tag is an indication which is definite to a geographical territory. It is used for agricultural, natural and manufactured goods. For a product to get GI tag, the goods need to be produced or processed or prepared in that region. It is also essential that the product has special quality or reputation. 

Origin of concept:

The concept of geographical indication has its origin in 19th century Europe and has considerably evolved since then. The current international framework is laid down in Article 22 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement which mandates member countries to provide for the protection of all GIs, where the obligation is for members to provide the ‘legal means for interested parties’ to secure protection of their GIs.

Significance of GI tag

  • GIs support and protect local production (as opposed to global production)
  • Generate local employment 
  • They are mostly untouched by industrialisation, originating in villages or small towns.
  • This identity helps in preventing misuse of a registered GI. 
  • The legal protection of GI boosts exports. GI tag not only helps the country’s export market but also helps in promoting economic prosperity of the producers.

Public property:

A registered GI is a public property which belongs to the producers of the goods. It cannot be used for licensing, pledge, mortgage etc. After the demise of the authorised dealer, his right can be exercised by the successor. It is not without reason that the place of origin is prefixed before the product, GI tag surely makes us proud of the various products of our country.

India and GI:

India enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) and has set up a registry in Chennai to register such names. Covering agricultural goods, manufactured and natural goods, textiles, handicrafts and foodstuffs, the GI Registry’s website lists 238 registered names as of March 2016. While the list has popular GIs like Basmati rice, Darjeeling tea and Pashmina shawls, many names on the list are lesser known or never heard of, despite being in existence for decades.

Problem of Present GI tag in India:

  • India’s GI Act does not lay much emphasis on inspection and monitoring mechanisms for GI protection. 
  • Quality associated with geographical origin is the hallmark of a GI and the current legal framework evidently lacks teeth to ensure it
  • Other important issues faced by GI producer bodies are market access and funding for enforcement and marketing.

GI and Make in India:

Despite the gradual rise in GI registrations, the role and scope of GIs in the Make in India programme has perhaps remained unnoticed in discussions. Considering that GI-branded goods can be made 100 per cent in India without the need for any foreign direct investment (FDI) and that they can promote socio-economic development of the respective regions (like their European counterparts), GIs are perhaps the most ideal IP rights to foster and realise a programme like Make in India.

Way forward:

  • Current Indian legal framework for GIs needs to be strengthened to address quality control and consumer expectations by insisting on multi-layered quality control systems as a precondition for registration
  • To preserve the consumer trust, the law should mandate: 

→ effective verification and controls at multiple levels in the supply chain, ensuring compliance with product specification before placing it in the market and 

→ Market monitoring of the use of the names to ensure legal compliance.

  • India must hand-hold producer bodies, look at successful models elsewhere and mould these to suit the ground realities of protection and enforcement in a developing country. Other important issues faced by GI producer bodies are market access and funding for enforcement and marketing
  • Quality of such products has to be ensured. It is necessary to preserve and maintain high quality in such origin-specific goods.

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