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Geographical Indications: Functions, Framework, and Jurisdictions

Geographical indications or commonly known as GIs are signs which specifically identify goods that have a specific geographical origin and therefore possess a  specific quality, reputation or any other such characteristic feature that is essentially attributable to that origin. GIs can be used for both agricultural and industrial products.

The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property does not use the term geographical indication; rather refers to indications of source and appellations of origin.

Patents, utility models, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks, trade names, indications of source, and appellations of origin are all covered by the Paris convention, which was enacted in 1883. The WTO Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement 1994 article 22) defines the term Geographical Indications as follows: 

“For the purposes of this agreement, geographic indicators are indications that place a good's origin in a member's territory, or an area or locality within that territory, when a particular quality, reputation, or other aspect of the good is fundamentally due to its geographical origin.”

Key Functions of Geographical Indications

  • It functions as a product differentiator: Geographical Indications function as product differentiators, which are useful to consumers as they pay increasing attention to the geographical origin of products. In most cases, what the place of origin suggests to a consumer is that the product tends to have a particular quality or particular characteristic associated to that place of origin. 
  • Contribution to development in rural areas: Geographical Indications can also contribute to development in rural areas. The right to benefit from a geographical indication generally lies in the hands of the local producers, and the added value that is generated by it applies to all such producers. In addition, they may bring value to a region not only in terms of jobs and higher income, but also by promoting the region as a whole. 
  • Acts as a means to preserve Traditional knowledge and Traditional cultural expressions: This is because products are identified by a geographical indication are often the result of traditional processes and knowledge which are carried forward by a community belonging to a particular region. 

Difference between Trademark and Geographical Indication

1.Often consist of name of place of the origin of the good, or to the name by which the good is known in that place. It Identifies a good or service to be originating from a particular company or owner.
2.May be used by all persons who, in the area of origin, produce the good according to a specific method of production. Often consists of a particular sign that may be used by its owner or another person authorized to do so. 
3.Cannot be assigned or licensed to someone outside that place or not belonging to the group of authorized producers.Because it is connected to a certain firm rather than a specific location, it can be licensed or assigned to anyone, anywhere in the globe.

For the protection of geographical indications, there are four major legislative systems. These frameworks are mentioned below: 

  1. The Paris Convention 1883: The Paris Convention was the first international treaty to include provisions relating to indications of source and appellations or origin as subject matter for industrial property. It stipulates that member states should ensure effective protection against use of false indications of source as well as against unfair competition (for instance, misleading the public as to the true origin of the good. 
  2. The Madrid Agreement and Protocol-1891 & 1989: The Madrid Agreement of False or Deceptive Indications of Source on Goods extends the protection afforded to false indications of source under the Paris Convention as well. 
  3. The Lisbon Agreement 1958: The Lisbon Agreement for the Registration of Appellations of Origin and their international Protection establishes an international system of registration for appellants of origin and requires contracting countries to protect registered appellations against any usurpation or imitation. 
  4. The TRIPS Agreement 1994: The TRIPS Agreement requires that all members of the WTO protect geographical indications, if their use would be misleading or would constitute an act of unfair competition. In the case of wines and spirits, the geographical indications for such products have to be protected even in the absence of confusion or unfair competition. 

Indian GI laws and Jurisdictions

In India, the main legislation governing GI registrations and goods is the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, along with the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002. 

According to Section 58(1) of the GI Act, the case of validity of the registration of a geographical indication being questioned would fall under the jurisdiction of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board.

Further, Section 66 (1)(c) of the GI Act states that the jurisdiction of hearing the cases of infringement will be any court inferior to a district court having jurisdiction to try the suit. According to Section 67 of the GI Act, injunctions, nominal damages, and profits damages may be awarded at the judge’s discretion, at the plaintiff’s request.

Further, as per Section 55 of the act, “no suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or is intended to be done in accordance with this Act.”

The Geographical Indications Registry in Chennai has comprehensive jurisdiction over the registration and application process for GI goods in India. The appellate jurisdiction lies with The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) which is also based in Chennai. The website of the IPAB is the only tribunal in India which has an international influence. 

Often people who are exposed to geographical indications and trademarks for the first time, indicate that geographical indications look very much like the idea of trademarks which were covered in the previous module. However, on further examination there are considerable differences between the two. 

Both geographical indications and trademarks are essentially distinctive signs used to distinguish goods or services in the marketplace and enable consumers to associate a good or service with a specific quality or reputation.

However, trademarks identify a good or service as originating from a particular company, while geographical indications identify a good as originating from a particular geographical place or name associated to a geographical place.

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Aayushi Chopra
Aayushi Chopra
Aayushi Chopra is a law student who is interested in creating content on education, lifestyle, law, health, and environment. She enjoys researching different topics and then expressing her views on them.

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