This article is written by Vasundhara Thakur, pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho.
The Indian textile industry is one of the ancient and leading textile industries across the world. Owing to the authentic and traditional essence of Indian textile it has become quite popular among not only Indians but from people all around the world. Although being an unorganised industry, it plays a vital role in the development of the Indian economy and a major source of tourist attraction and revenue generation.
This article focuses on the protection of the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in textiles, its protection, registration procedure, administration of GI, benefits of registration, rights & obligations of a GI holder, registered GIs in the Indian Textile Industry and its validity thereof.
Earlier, under the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act 1958, a geographical name, except in certain cases, is considered prima facie not distinctive and is registrable only upon evidence of distinctiveness. However, after the enactment of The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (hereinafter referred to as ‘The Act’) which came into force in September 2003 and a new concept of geographical names free from the concept of distinctiveness was introduced which is called as Geographical Indication. The Act was enacted to protect the distinctive goods of India by providing registration and safeguarding such goods/products from infringements. It has been enacted with compliance to the international standards and under obligations of TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) under Article 22-24 of Part II Section 3 of the agreement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Geographical Indication or GI is defined as an indication used to identify the goods, whether natural or manufactured goods emanating from a particular area or territory known for a particular quality or characteristics of the goods which are defined under Section 2(1)(e) of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 whereas, Section 2(1)(f) of the Act specifies the goods which can be registered as GI i.e. agricultural, natural, handicrafts, industry, manufactured goods and foodstuff. Some of the popular examples of GI in India are Kangra Tea from Himachal Pradesh, Nilgiri tea from Tamil Nadu etc.
GI proved to be a significant aspect when it comes to the Indian textile industry. With the changing economic structure of the world, the textile industry has also been affected and came into the limelight. Continuous evolving and expansion of business across the globe has made it necessary for the textile market/industry to protect its indigenous identity & to safeguard from infringers and/or false users taking advantage of the local and ancient weavers who have been working in maintaining the heritage and rich culture of Indian textile and handloom crafts. Being an important sector to flourish the Indian economy, the Textile and handloom industry needs significant protection both in domestic and international markets.
Some of the examples of textile GI in India are Pochampalli saree from Andhra Pradesh, Mysore Silk from Karnataka, Muga Silk from Assam, Kanjeevaram Sarees from Tamil Nadu, Paithani Saree & Fabrics from Maharashtra, Orissa Ikat from Odisha, Chanderi Sari from Madhya Pradesh, Bhagalpur Silk from Bihar, Banarasi Sarees & Brocades from Uttar Pradesh, Phulkari from Punjab, Kullu Shawl from Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir Pashmina from Jammu & Kashmir.
Arani Silk, Kovai Cora Cotton, Salem Silk from Tamil Nadu, Molakalmuru Saree, Navalgund Durries from Karnataka, Nakshi Kantha, Solapur Terry Towel & Chaddar from Maharashtra are some of the latest GIs in the textile industry.
The textile Committee was set up under the Textile Committee Act, 1963 by the Indian Parliament. It is a statutory body with perpetual succession, administered by the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. Section 3 of the Textile Committee Act provides for the establishment of a textile committee while Section 4 specifies the functions of the committee whereas, Section 5 provides for the power of the committee. The main object of the committee is to ensure the quality control of textiles and textile machinery for internal consumption and the purpose of export. Also, its functions are to encourage research in technological advancement, scientific and economic, to establish standards for materials of textiles & textile machinery, packaging and establishing laboratories for testing, providing training, inspection & examination of the quality of textile and textile machinery, to promote export, collecting of statistical data and to advice the Central Government in matter thereof.
Its headquarter is situated in Mumbai with 29 other major offices and 18 textile testing laboratories including 9 eco-parameter testing laboratories.
Geographical Indications can be protected by registration. The Act provides for the registration of a GI and confers certain rights on the registered proprietors and provides for the remedies against infringement of such rights by third parties. The Act also provides for opposition to the registration as well as rectification, correction and amendment of the register. There shall be two registers called Part A and Part B. Part A contains the particulars of the registered proprietor of the particular GI including the goods for which it is registered and other particulars prescribed under the rules. Part B of the register will consist of the particulars of the user/s of the registered indication as may be prescribed under the rules. As specified under Section 6(1) and Section 7 of the Act.
- Ikat design of Pochampally: Pochampally in Andhra Pradesh is famous for its unique Ikat design which became the first Indian traditional craft to be registered as a GI in December 2003 in which half of the population of Pochampally was dependent on handlooms. Almost after a year, the proprietors of GI found that a retailer in Hyderabad was selling sarees produced by a Mumbai based manufacturer under the false GI of Pochampally. After filing the complaint the retailer and manufacturer accepted the case of infringement and agreed to a settlement by giving an undertaking not to sell any products in the name of Pochampally.
- Banarasi Brocades and Sarees: ‘Banaras brocades and sarees’ GI application was filed by 9 organisations viz. Banaras Bunkar Samiti, Human Welfare Association (HWA), joint director industries (eastern zone), director of handlooms and textiles Uttar Pradesh Handloom Fabrics Marketing Cooperative Federation, Eastern UP Exporters Association (EUPEA), Banarasi Vastra Udyog Sangh, Banaras HathKargha Vikas Samiti and Adarsh Silk Bunkar Sahkari Samiti. When the sale of “Kela saris’ made of sub-standardize raw material flooded the market with the name of ‘Banarasi Sarees’, the support came out from Indian NPOs as well as the organisations like UK-based Find Your Feet, Department for International Development and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) India in securing the GI status. They had been quite instrumental in helping India gain the GI tag and have taken several efforts to sustain the heritage weave to the nation. According to the GI certificate, Banarasi silk products fall under four classes (23-26) namely silk embroidery, textile goods, silk brocades, silk sari and dress material. The most important aspect of the GI certification is that no brocade or sari made outside the six identified districts of Uttar Pradesh, India can legally be sold as Banarasi sari and Brocade. The certificate states that henceforth only saris produced in Varanasi, Azamgarh, Chandauli, Jaunpur, Mirzapur and Sant Ravidas Nagar (Bhadohi) will be considered Banarasi saris. The certificate covers silk brocades like Amru; textile goods not covered elsewhere such as bed and table covers; silk sarees and dress materials such as jamdani, jangla, jamawar tanchoi, tissue, cut work, ‘butidar’ and silk saris.
The registered proprietor of the Geographical Indication must be an association of persons or producers or any organization. The users of the registered indication are producers of the goods for which the indication is registered. The registered proprietor authorizes the producer of goods to use the registered indication under appropriate conditions. Assignment or transmission of a registered geographical indication is prohibited.
Any association of persons or producers or organisers can file the application for registration of a Geographical Indication specified under Section 2(1)(e) and satisfies the criteria enumerated under Section 9, at the specified office of the Registry of Geographical Indication by mentioning the principal place of business in India and following the procedure specified as specified by the Registry and the details as set out in the format provided here.
Geographical Indication once registered, stays valid for a period of ten (10) years, which is subject to renewal after the payment of renewal fees for a further period of ten years. However, if the registered authority fails to get it renewed after ten years, then the GI gets lapsed and deemed to be GI for a period of two (2) years. Also, it is important to get a renewal because the user of GI will not be able to use it after the termination of registration of the registered owner.
As GIs allows registration to multiple proprietors and authorised users, it provides collective rights to all the registered entities like the exclusive right to use the GI in relation to the registered goods. It allows the registered authorities to use the GI by printing on packages, like letterheads, affixing in goods/products, putting on labels & watermarks, to display on electronic and social media platforms.
These rights are non-transferable in any manner (licensing, will, mortgage, pledge or sale) however, they are heritable. Also, the registered owner and authorised user warrants that the goods/product are genuine that have acquired GI by proper registration.
The Government of India has established a ‘Geographical Indication Registry’ in Chennai which has jurisdiction throughout India where GIs can be registered. It is a statutory organisation set up for the administration of the GI Act for protecting and registering GI relating to goods, in this case, the ‘textile’. The ‘Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks’ which is also the ‘Registrar of GI’ is responsible for the administering of the GI Act in India. Any foreign entity can file an application for registration of their GI in India in compliance with the provisions of TRIPS.
While filling in registration it will be beneficial for the authorised authority to get their GI registered with a logo, as it will help in distinguishing and identifying the product of a particular producer and/or manufacturer. It will eliminate the chance of misappropriation of the geographical indication. So far six (6) logos have been registered as GI out of 65 handloom products. It will create awareness among the consumers to check the correct product/goods of a particular GI.
Unlike trademarks, GI is assigned to a group of people, associations and not to any individual entity. It specifies the origin of a product/goods, its characteristic and geographical location/place of production and/or manufacturing. The Geographical Indications of Goods Act is designed to protect the use of goods (like textile) and their geographical names from infringements by others and to protect the consumers from any confusion or deception through the process of registration of indication by law to safeguard the interest of traders & manufacturers of indigenous textile and handloom arts & crafts industries and to spread awareness among the consumers while creating a global market by promotions and exports of such textiles while keeping up the traditional value of Indian Textile Industries globally while safeguarding the interests of Indian weavers by providing an identity to make their products/ goods from infringers giving assurance to the weavers to produce/weave/manufacture more.
- Ipindia.gov.in, https://ipindia.gov.in/writereaddata/images/pdf/geographical-indications-registration.pdf.
- Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protect) Act, 1999, Act of Parliament, 1999, https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/1981?view_type=browse&sam_handle=123456789/1362.
- Fibre2fashion, Geographical Indication in Indian Handloom Sector, (July 2019), https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/4228/geographical-indications-in-indian-handloom-sector.
- Textile Value Chain.in, Importance of GI Index in Textile Industry, (Jun 25, 2018), https://textilevaluechain.in/in-depth-analysis/articles/textile-articles/importance-of-gi-index-in-textile-industry/.
- The Trade And Merchandise Marks Act, 1958, Acts of Parliament, 1958, thttps://indiankanoon.org/doc/1005493/.
- Textilecommittee.nic.in, http://textilescommittee.nic.in/about-us.
- Textile Committee Act, 1963, Act of Parliament, 1963, https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/1550?locale=en.
- Civilsdaily.com, List of certain GI Tagged Handloom Textile Products, (Nov. 30, 2019), https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/pib-list-of-certain-g-i-tagged-handloom-textile-products/.
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