The Practicality of GI
GI tags are awarded to the goods that originate and are attributed to a particular location given the fact that no other place produces conflicting goods. It ensures that nobody other than those registered as authorised users are allowed to use the popular product name. Essentially, the “qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product” are due to the place of origin. Because the qualities largely rely upon the geographical place of production, “there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.
Persons accruing the benefits:
The advantages resulting from GI tags accrue to producers of the product in the specified geographical region. As per Section 11(1) of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act of 1999, the following persons can represent the interest on behalf of the producers: A) Any Association of Persons; B) Producers; C) Any organization or authority.
In furtherance of the same the producers also include: A) Artisans and Craftsmen; B) Weavers; C) Farmers. These categories of persons are provided special attention since they are not fully aware of the benefits and the procedure of granting of GI tags. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) India office has over the years laid special attention over such categories of persons by adopting a community stakeholder approach in terms of instilling awareness amidst these categories.
The advantages of providing a GI are inter-related while they serve the purpose upholding the provisions mentioned within the Act. A GI tag, if provided protects the specific knowledge and ensures that it is culturally recognized by the general public.
Additionally, a GI tag also helps in recognizing the works of a community and entrusts them with specific set of rights regarding further production of the goods, on the basis of a location. A GI tag promotes fair competition by restricting counterfeit goods from being produced. If hand-crafted, locally tanned Kolhapuri Chappals are produced anywhere else, it would lose its relevance. Additionally, fake goods can be sold at premium prices which would hamper the rights of skillful labourers. That is one of the reasons why GI tag is provided as it helps the buyer in market to recognize the goods, subsequently leading to a fair trade process.
Economic Advantages: GI tags exponentially cater to providing financial and economic advantage to the geographical region in terms of granting necessary exclusive economic benefits to the region. The GI tags also help the poor artisans and craftsmen of the region to protect their goods from counterfeit products or bogus products being sold in the market;
A GI allows a genuine seller/producer to have a premium price of a good because it is recognized by the market differently. By selling counterfeit goods or just adding a prefix to increase the price of a good, allows the fake seller to make drastic profits. This hampers the rights of the original seller and reduces their margin in the longer run. Additionally, the buyer is not very active in judging the correct product. Because they are not aware of the original goods, they fall prey to fake sellers easily.
Granting a GI welcomes tough competition in one place and no competition at the other. For example – by looking at the tea gardens of Darjeeling, it is evident that there are many workers and labours that work and rely on the income from the specific industry. A lot of individuals rely on single location based industry similarly where a heavy population relies on one industry.
Are the local Artisans really benefited?
Even today artisans such as cobblers, blacksmiths and Carpenters engaged in the traditional trading mechanism of the “Barter System”. These local artisans peruse the barter system wherein they exchange their services with food grains and in rare cases sometimes with cash. However, these artisans and craftsmen face certain practical constraints in the nature of compensation or remuneration for their services. They have over centuries kept them isolated from the stiff competition and market dynamics and have primarily relied on the barter system by restricting their wages owing to good crop season in the villages. The peculiar relationship between GIs and Artisans have experienced a perennial transition in terms of the protection, economic benefits and development of rural areas in India. In order to realize a fair return for their creativity, it is quintessential for the artisans to devise a coherent and planned market strategy for effectuating their GI products into the market. This transition has lead them to enter non-traditional markets and owing to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the artisans have offered their services in an innovative manner. There are certain aspects through which the issue of remuneration of artisans has tried to been resolved: A) Geographical Indication Store: The Goa airport saw the first exclusive government owned GI tagged store in 2019 which showcases a mix of GI tagged products and prove to be economically beneficial for the artisans; B) Innovation in special offerings: The peculiar economic situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged some artisans to enter into the non-traditional markets by innovating their special offerings. The Cheriyal Painting GI holders have created face masks with themes like ‘Physical Distancing’ and ‘Hand Hygiene’, similarly, the Pochampally Ikat weavers have created masks involving an unique way which involves tying and dyeing the thread. C) Registration of GI: In order to realize the benefits arising out of the GI product it is imperative to get the same registered which the poor farmers and artisans are not aware of. The registration of the GI as enunciated under Section 11 (1) will mitigate and deter the incessant problem of “Free Riding” of the unregistered GI products of these artisans and craftsmen. The deterrence of the Free riding paradox not only helps the artisan in claiming benefits but will also safeguard the very sanctity and the reputation of the GI product.
GI Panchayath is an emerging concept in the field of Geographical Indication, this concept has been introduced by the Geographical Indications Tagged World Premium Products Pvt Ltd (GITWPL). Additionally, the organization has also set up a GI tagged store in Bangalore in India. For conceptual clarity, the GI Panchayath will be a body comprising of agricultural producers and artisans of a particular geographic region of those who register themselves as members of the Panchayath. The executive officers of the Panchayath will be commissioners of the organization itself acting as the administrative wing of the Panchayath.
Owing to the dynamic nature of the Intellectual Property rights, such dynamic concepts in the nature of GI Panchayath aim at changing the current paradigm of protection afforded to the artisans and agricultural producers. The principles of self-help, mutual aid and no political or religious involvement to be followed by the GI Panchayath promotes the Community Stakeholder development which is imperative for the conservation and preservation of Indian cultures and heritage.
Therefore, in my honest opinion, I think, the Government has taken various steps to provide the local artisans their due and to safeguard the natural and cultural heritage of the country, however, to provide a holistic solution, the traditional laws would have to be greatly amended.