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India's Geographical Indication Landscape

  • 27 Jan 2024
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Geographical Indication (GI) Tag, World Trade Organisation (WTO), GI Act, 1999

For Mains: Intellectual Property Rights, Protection of Traditional Knowledge

Source: DTE

Why in News?

India's Geographical Indication (GI) tags journey of over two decades faces challenges, with limited outcomes indicating the need for reforms in the registration processes.

What is the Geographical Indication (GI)?

  • About:
    • A geographical indication (GI) is a designation applied to products originating from a specific geographical area, indicating that the qualities or reputation of the products are inherently linked to that particular origin.
    • Article 22 (1) of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) defines GIs 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 geographic origin”.
      • In many EU nations, GI is classified in two basic categories Protected GI (PGI) and Protected Destination of Origin (PDO). India only has the PGI category.
    • This certification is also extended to non-agricultural products, such as handicrafts based on human skills, materials and resources available in certain areas that make the product unique.
    • GI is a powerful tool for protecting traditional knowledge, culture and can boost socio-economic development.
  • Legal Framework and Governance:
    • GI is governed under the Agreement on TRIPS at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
    • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 seeks to provide for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods in India.
    • Paris Convention emphasises protecting industrial property and geographical indications in Articles 1(2) and 10.
  • Status of GI Tags Registration:
    • Compared to other nations, India lags in GI registration. Till December 2023, Intellectual Property India received just 1,167 applications, of which only 547 products have been registered, as per the GI Registry.
    • Germany leads in GI registrations, with 15,566 registered products, followed by China (7,247), as per 2020 data with the World Intellectual Property Organization.
    • Globally, wines and spirits comprise 51.8% of registered GIs, followed by agricultural products and foodstuffs at 29.9%.
      • In India, handicraft (about 45%) and agriculture (about 30%) comprise the majority of the GI products.
  • Concerns Regarding the GI Tags in India:
    • Concerns with GI Act and Registration Process:
      • The GI Act, 1999 framed over two decades ago, requires timely amendments to address current challenges.
      • Registration forms and application processing times need simplification for easier compliance.
        • The current application acceptance ratio is only about 46% in India.
      • Lack of suitable institutional development hampers effective implementation of GI protection mechanisms.
      • Producers often struggle post-GI registration due to a lack of guidance and support.
    • Ambiguity in Producers' Definition:
      • The lack of clarity in defining "producers" in the GI Act of 1999 leads to the involvement of intermediaries.
        • Intermediaries benefit from GIs, diluting the intended advantages for genuine producers.
    • Disputes at the International Level:
      • Disputes, especially regarding products like Darjeeling tea and Basmati rice, indicate that GIs receive less attention compared to patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
    • Academic Attention:
      • Limited academic focus on GIs is evident, with only seven publications from India.
        • A recent surge in publications indicates growing academic interest, with 35 articles published in 2021.
      • European nations, such as Italy, Spain, and France, lead in GI-related academic publications.

What Can be Done to Realise the Potential of GI-based Products?

  • Government initiatives should incentivize producers at the grassroots level to boost GI numbers.
    • Laws should exclude "non-producers" from benefiting, ensuring direct benefits to genuine producers.
  • Technology, skill-building, and digital literacy among GI stakeholders are crucial for modernization.
  • Government agencies should collaborate with trade associations to organize exhibitions and promote GI-based products through various media.
  • Indian embassies should actively promote GI-based products to encourage growth in the foreign market.
    • Favourable international tariff regimes and special attention to GI products at WTO can boost global presence.
  • Integrating GIs with the One District One Product scheme can enhance promotion and market reach.
    • Developing market outlet schemes, especially rural markets (gramin haats), can boost GI product visibility.
  • Establishing testing laboratories at marketplaces is essential to ensure consumer faith in the quality of GI products.
  • Aligning startups with GIs and linking their performance with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can contribute to social development.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Years Questions (PYQs)


Q. Which of the following has/have been accorded ‘Geographical Indication’ status? (2015)

  1. Banaras Brocades and Sarees
  2. Rajasthani Daal-Bati-Churma
  3. Tirupathi Laddu

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (c)

Q. India enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 in order to comply with the obligations to (2018)

(a) ILO
(b) IMF
(d) WTO

Ans: (d)


Q. How is the Government of India protecting traditional knowledge of medicine from patenting by pharmaceutical companies? (2019)

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