A Geographical Indication (GI) is a sort of intellectual property that tries to define a product’s distinctiveness in relation to a location or a traditional mode of production. The distinctiveness of these items is a result of a combination of their value and quality, as well as the geographic peculiarities of the location where they are produced. A regionally marked product’s popularity is linked to its territory of origin, in the same way that a patented item’s image is related to its inventor.

Every area is proud of something distinctive, and GI celebrates and recognises this distinct individuality in goods, locations, and manufacturing processes. As a result, the GI is just a label on the commodity that shows that it originates from a certain geographic area. The economics of knowledge and reputation justify the protection of these distinguishing signals, just as they do for trademarks.

While the TRIPS Agreement was signed in 1995, there has been no specific law in place in India to safeguard geographic indications. There is no requirement within the TRIPS Agreement for other nations to grant equivalent security to a GI unless it has been secured in the country of origin. After the Basmati debate, the Indian government finally grasped the significance of its distinct geographical products and potential market. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act was passed in 1999 and took effect on September 15th, 2003. Unlike other forms of intellectual property, GIs are recognised as public property that can be applied for by any established organisation or authority. This legislation aims to simplify the restriction of unauthorised persons from exploiting geographical indications, protect customers from deceit, contribute to the economic stability of such items’ producers and also encourage goods carrying Indian GI in the overseas market. The famed Darjeeling Tea was the first product in India to receive the GI mark in 2004-2005, but since then, about 295 goods from various parts of the nation have been enrolled in the GI registration. Despite their legal acknowledgement, these individuals encounter significant obstacles in taking advantage of the prospective privileges of GIs. This is in line with Judges (2009)’s observation that “stacking up of laws” ought not to be mistaken for “building of corporate reputation”.

The advancement of GI serves as a local promotion strategy that will aid in the preservation of its heritage. This has the potential to add value to local rural populations in developing countries by generating goods that are firmly entrenched in history, culture, and location. “GIs maximise the added export earnings for the welfare of rural people,” adds Jacky Charbonneau, Head of Enterprise Competitiveness at the International Trade Centre. These are strong differentiators for items in both domestic and foreign markets, and they can provide businesses with a competitive edge. Consequently, something can be achieved unless substantial financial resources are available to develop and distribute GI goods. Therefore, emerging countries such as India require aid in implementing GIs as well as significant economic and technological assistance to assure GI stability.

Impact of GI

The actual effect of GIs is determined by whether or not manufacturers share in the advantages. The main issue in India would be that the dealers, not the producers, profit the most from the GI. To further understand this factor, let’s examine the situations of a few GIs.

Lucknow is known for its Chikankari. When one hears the term “chikankari,” the first thing that springs to mind is Lucknow. When people hear the term “rosogolla,” the first thing that springs to mind is West Bengal. Chikankari is a 400-year-old art form. Despite the fact that there are several versions of how this craft arrived in India, they all point to Lucknow as its genesis. According to one narrative, it was a wanderer who imparted the skill of Chikankari to a needy peasant. He was travelling through Lucknow when he became dehydrated and stopped to beg a farmer for water. He imparted the technique so that he would never go hungry again since he was so delighted with his generosity. The most prevalent version of its history is that it was brought to India by Empress Noor Jahan and that it was patronised by the Nawabs (Awadh’s local rulers).

Chikan was classified as a Geographical Indication (GI) in August 2008, empowering the government of Uttar Pradesh to take legal action against any firm producing Chikan outside of Lucknow and its surrounds. However, it is crucial to note that simply filing GI will not aid in the preservation and promotion of such a trade, nor will it bring any tangible advantage to the artists.

At over 26%, Uttar Pradesh produces the most significant percentage of handcrafted products in the country. In eastern UP, around 1.5 million people are engaged in handicrafts as well as weaving businesses, which generate about Rs. 18,000 crore in yearly revenue. Even with this, artisans continued to migrate since the federal and state governments have undertaken no substantial steps to brand and promote GI goods. Based on an ASSOCHAM poll, machine-made Chinese items that are close to 30% cheaper and manufactured faster are proven to be detrimental to this age-old skill. This has a negative impact on the lives of approximately five lakh individuals who work in the unorganised sector. Chikan makers in Lucknow make up much less than 5% of the total. The chikankari sector is extremely disorganised and has been encountering considerable problems owing to poor market knowledge on export trends, possibilities, and pricing, shortage of raw materials, shortage of appropriate funding, and increased competition against mills and large factory items, stated Mr DS Rawat, general secretary for ASSOCHAM. To address these issues, ASSOCHAM correctly advised that the government, in conjunction with the private sector, promote integrated enterprise expansion by establishing local institutes for training skills, product adaptation, vocational courses, and entrepreneurial development. Dedicated marketplaces, stores, and accessible displays of Chikan items must be established in a few nations.

Firozabad glassware, a recognised GI from Uttar Pradesh, suffers from the same fate as Lucknow chikankari. It was given a GI label in 2011. Firozabad’s glass has a long heritage spanning back to the Mughal dynasty. Invaders frequently carried glass objects to India around this time. They gathered the fragments and kept them in a furnace called “Bhainsa Bhatti” when the glass goods wore out. New bangles or other glass products were created from melted glass. This was the start of Firozabad’s famed glass business.

The business, which began with the production of bangles and tiny bottles, has grown to include a plethora of glass items such as vases, candleholders, decorative lights, and bulbs. Glass-making using ancient processes passed down through ancestors is a family venture in town. It is one of the largest makers and exporters of glass products, with about 500 small-scale glass manufacturers contributing 70 percent of India’s total glass output and employing over 150,000 people all around the region.

Conventional glass blowing and melting processes are still used at Firozabad’s glass factories. The quality is carefully examined to guarantee that no damaged or shattered pieces make it to the ultimate wrapped box. Even if high-quality items are produced here, the production costs are expensive, which has significantly impacted the sector. This sector has experienced a severe downturn owing to a significant decline in demand for glass items, which can be attributed to inexpensive Chinese glassware. Furthermore, as a result of the introduction of technology under the guise of upgrading, as well as the government’s natural gas strategy, lakhs of people employed in such businesses were laid off. The Centre for the Development of the Glass Industry is not aggressive in delivering services such as training skills, professional training, and so on. As a result, it has failed to fulfil the goal for which it was established.

The Role of GIs in Poverty Lifting 

The basics of geographical indicators for poverty alleviation include two things: Firstly, geographic indications are essentially commercial indications that serve a similar function to well-known brands. A specific agricultural product or regional speciality might have significantly more value if it is recognised as a geographic indicator product.

Secondly, geographic markers provide the message to customers that a certain product’s quality, reputation, or other features are mostly due to its geographical source. This underlying informational function of the regional indicator represents enhanced quality and image assurance, enabling the items to outperform similar products in a competitive market. And such beneficial traits have been validated and supported by authorities, allowing them to bear a geographical designation.

As a result, when paired with poverty alleviation, spatial indicators may be useful in at least three ways. To begin, there is a need to increase industrial accumulation and achieve economies of scale. Standardised production procedures for agricultural goods can advise on farmers’ agricultural productivity while also lowering production costs. Secondly, to create a brand effect and boost agricultural product competitiveness. As an outcome, farmers no longer need to be concerned about product sales. Lastly, to make maximum use of the rural workforce in order to rejuvenate rural growth in the economy and establish a long-term mechanism for promoting farmers’ earnings, which is beneficial to long-term poverty reduction.

Conclusion: Although spatial indicators have made significant efforts to target poverty alleviation, there are still a few areas where they might be improved. First, we need to determine where spatial indicators and targeted poverty eradication intersect precisely. Despite their legality, geographic indications have decided that they are strongly tied to agriculture and favourable to its growth. However, there is still an absence of a coordinating framework to preserve geographical indications in certain regions, and knowledge of its monetary and societal benefits in poverty eradication is insufficient. To maximise the influence of geographical indications in assisting poverty eradication, it is critical to increase collaboration among various sectors and encourage a close relationship between the preservation of geographical indications and poverty eradication assistance.

Second, we should create a method for valuing geographical signals in order to lead them toward beneficial economic and social outcomes in poverty reduction and prosperity. Assessment of geographical indications is beneficial in showing the brand’s recognition intuitively. The objective evaluation technique may also assist in the healthy and sustained evolution of geographical indications.

Last but not least, we should continue to reform our institutions in order to construct a more effective, consistent, and integrated governmental institution accountable for geographic identification, inspection, and protection, not just to reduce poverty but to develop an effective as well as complete geographic indication framework incorporating Indian features to make our connected goods internationally competitive.

The GI Act of 1999 has a significant influence on the socio-economic aspects of developing nations like India. Nevertheless, the GI Act of 1999 isn’t thorough enough to check for the interests of artisans and craftspeople and their misuse. Consequently, it is possible to conclude that GI protection by itself is insufficient to protect a product or its makers. This GI procedure needs the backing of formal institutions policies and legal safeguards. This necessitates a determined effort on the part of both the government and the manufacturers.

The government has also launched a number of measures to encourage rural artisans and give people a worldwide platform to advertise their wares. One of the government’s initiatives is Digital India. The craftsmen will benefit from this project since they will be able to display and sell their items directly to their customers without the intervention of a third party. They will also be able to earn a lot of money since they will not have to pay any commissions to other parties when selling their final items. Even if the government has begun an excellent project, it is insufficient. Because the majority of these artisans are illiterate, the government must raise awareness and educate them about the advantages of this effort so that they can thrive.

In addition, the government should provide specific incentives to smaller rural and semi-urban craftsmen in order for them to have access to worldwide markets. Furthermore, the government should grant export incentives to these craftsmen in order to keep them viable in the global market. This would not only help to conserve the GI, but it would also assist the craftspeople financially. They should be provided subsidies for the procurement of raw materials in addition to the export subsidies since this would significantly lower manufacturing costs. In addition, the government should give free legal aid to these artists so that they can preserve the centuries-old craft that has been transmitted down through the generations from being abused. We must seek to create and enhance producing organisations and institutional frameworks, as well as ensure that a robust national legal regime protects the GIs.

Disclaimer: The present article intends to provide general guidance on the subject, and you can also consult us in your specific case.

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    Khadeeja Zaidi is an undergraduate student studying B.A.LL.B (Hons) from the Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. Khadeeja aspires to be an expert in Cyber Law, Intellectual Property Rights and Technology Law. Along with her academics, Khadeeja is fond of writing blogs, posts, and articles highlighting contemporary issues revolving around Cyber Space and Intellectual Property Law.