This report pertains to the webinar conducted by IP Assisto on the topic Geographical Indication Goods and Development of Indian Economy. The esteemed speaker for the webinar was Mr. P Sanjai Gandhi, Advocate, High Court of Madras, President IPR Attorney Association and Nodal Officer, Geographical Indication Registration Product of Tamil Nadu. The lecture began with Mr. Gandhi laying emphasis on the development of the Indian Intellectual Property System into an international level. He then defined the ambit of intellectual property protected by GI, stating that that the aim was to protect the geographical origin of the goods. Products such as agriculture, handicrafts, handlooms, foodstuffs, etc., he further stated, have a specific quality or reputation or uniqueness linked to their actual origin and must have proper documentation showcasing the history of this link in order to obtain GI Registration. He qualified the same with the example of Darjeeling Tea, (registered in the year 2004-05 as the first GI of India), Tirupathi Laddoo, Thanjavur Paintings, etc. The speaker then detailed the registration process for obtaining such a GI.
One of the main points of discussion in the webinar was the integral link between GI registry and the development of the Indian economy. GI offers a wide array of protection and this assists economic development. GIs allow for the protection and promotion of small-scale industries in rural areas and the promotion of MSMEs. This is a much-required measure, allowing for assurance in uncertain conditions like the current global COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, GI protection allows for the persistence of the culture and the traditional processes of the original creators, not only creating a monopoly but also providing the original creators with the profits made off of the registered goods.
An important aspect of the lecture was the case study presented on Basmati Rice. The case in question was with relation to the US Patent office granting protection to Basmati Rice even though the highest quality of the product is produced in India. Basmati Rice does not have a set geographical origin, with seven states cultivating varieties of the rice. The Indian Government filed revocation proceedings and after a long-drawn process, the US Patent office accepted the revocation petition. Based on the directions of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, the GI registery issued GI certificate to seven states for the production of Basmati Rice to seven states where Basmati Rice is cultivated. Therefore, with appropriate IP protection, Inida is one of the largest producers of the world famous Basmati Rice.
The speaker then explained the importance of GIs, providing a four-pronged approach to the same. He stated that the protection was a strategy of territorial development, which ensured that the production of a certain type of good occurs within its specific origin area. Secondly, he continued, it protects the GI holder from unfair competition in the market by deterring other partiesl from illegally taking over the production of certain goods. Thirdly, he stated that GIs provide for a global brand-creating strategy, helping advertise the products that are original to a specific area. Lastly, GI registrations allow for the applicants to gain a monopoly over the production of certain goods for a specific period, giving them monetary advantage as well. He then discussed various state-specific GIs and the inherent differences that arose between such goods.
The next point of discussion was the utility of obtaining GI registration in India, to which he provided three points. Firstly, that GI registrations help in distinguishing between original and duplicate products; secondly, that GI registration allows for the development of rural areas around the country; and lastly, that it provides unconditional protection to the original developers of the product.
He then proceeded to provide the rules relating to relief against the infringement of GIs, inclusive of the explanation to Section 67 of the Act, and also spoke about civil action, injunctions, and claim for damages. He also spoke about the criminal liability incurred for infringing or violating the rights for GI holders by falsifying the goods that have obtained GI, and spoke of recourse under Section 38 under the Act. He added the penalties and offences under the Act, specifically under Sections 39 to 44.
He then spoke about the extended protections given to certain GI goods, such as wines and spirits under Section 22(2) of the Act. The speaker then called for the provision of special protections to other handicapped industries, like the production of handlooms and handicrafts.
He then detailed the scope of the ownership of GI, which cannot be classified as private property or licensed or assigned to others; it is rather considered to constitute public property. He then discussed the case of Scotch Whiskey Association v Golden Bottling Ltd, wherein the defendant began selling whiskey under the name Red Scot. Indian Courts held that the word cannot be used by Golden Bottling Company, since Scotch Whiskey is the owner of the same. The speaker finally detailed the growth of Indian GIs being registered internationally, much the same way foreign GIs are registered in India. International recognition in this regard, he stated, helps in the globalisation of businesses original to the country, providing a platform for these to be successful worldwide while raking in huge profits for the rightful owners of the said goods.
This was followed by a short question and answer session. Mr. Gandhi spoke for a duration of 1 hour 15 minutes. This webinar benifited the community of lawyers and law students across the country, since all the members of the audience were able to gain an in-depth understanding about the GI system in India.

Issued by IPR Attorney Association, Chennai

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