PROTECT OUR ROOTS - TIME TO KNOW A LESSER KNOWN IPR, THE GI
Dr. Neelima Bogadhi, LL.M PhD
Celebrating a Wedding!!!!! Are you about to shop? Then your family members might have already started thinking that it is better to shop in Kanchipuram for pattu sarees or travel to Varnasi for Banarasi sarees. Meanwhile, someone might come and say why not Uppada Jamdani or Pochampalli Ikat and on the way you can even visit Mangalagiri for cotton sarees too. A foodie out there comes up saying lets get Kakinada Kajaa, Bandar laddo and also the Bengal rasgola for the wedding dinner etc. These are the regular conversations which go on in every family which is going to host a wedding. Wedding or no wedding one or the other in the family wants to own a saree of a particular place to enjoy the pleasure of enjoying a ferment of unique beauty and even proudly display to others who look at it with great fascination. Or a family member may be refusing to let the annual summers go without tasting Banginalpalli mango. This is a regular scenario in every household with differing choices. Many of us even travel to different places for obtaining the unique products.
I even remember my grandmother advising our close relatives who were to host a wedding to buy sarees from the place where they were weaved. As a kid I never knew the reason behind it but now I clearly understand the significance underlying her words. Visiting the particular place for the unique products was done to ensure originality of the products. Though now a days everything is available in every place but still we feel the genuineness of the products only when we buy it from the place of production. Be it textiles, handicrafts, food or any other manufactured product it draws our interest to products which are named after their place of origin. Naming the product with the place of its production or origin is not new to us, it is as old as our culture and tradition is. Probably my grandmother didn’t really know that she was supporting local culture and tradition by buying the original products, she was only concerned about the sarees to be original with all the quality and uniqueness they are meant to have.
From early times to the modern times there is always a special interest in products which indicate their place of production. This is so because people in certain territories are specialized in making certain products or the natural conditions of the territory are such that their natural products naturally possess a special quality. Thus while you may want Veena you may not want any Veena but want to have only Veena manufactured in a place called Bobbili to play music on. Likewise, the ‘Darjeeling tea’ .The word Darjeeling itself reminds us of the quality and the natural aroma of the tea leaves cultivated in tea plantations of that place.
There is special demand for unique products originating from some territory. In the olden days brick makers used to mark the place of origin on the bricks to ensure the quality of the bricks. The demand for such quality ensuring products increased rapidly and thus the trader producers of such products mark or advertise the place of origin of the products for fetching extra premiums. As the demand for the unique origin based products increased counterfeit products also started entering the market. These counterfeit products derive unfair earning by falsely projecting what they are not really. A friend of mine has recently purchased a Kashmiri carpet, she was so happy looking at it and taking pride of owning a woven Kashmiri carpet until she realized that she has purchased a duplicate carpet thinking it was a Kashmiri carpet. It was really an emotional feeling that she was deceived and the quality of the carpet was so low when compared to the original one in spite of spending an extra expense on it. Most of us also must have gone through such experience and most of us might not yet realized that we are using a duplicate product. This is the main reason why we all like to buy the unique products from the place where they are produced. I happened to know about the duplicate products personally when I visited the village Uppada in Andhra Pradesh for a research work, there I have seen Uppada sarees which are world famous for their colours and the hand weaving technique which is used to weave the sarees.
They were number of weavers and shops in and around the village weaving and selling Uppada sarees. After spending days in the village and having talking with different groups of people I came to know that not all the sarees are handwoven and that many of them were sarees produced on the powerlooms. The powerloom sarees were passed in the name of the Uppada hand woven sarees. Only people with expertise knowledge in textiles can differentiate between the original and the duplicate.
To my surprise I understood that I was lost in my grandmother’s theory of buying products in the place where they are produced as I am shocked to realise that duplication is happening in the origin itself. It is highly disappointing for the consumers who go all the way or even to any other market with hope of owning the unique product. As consumers we are in a big state of confusion as the product we are not sure if we are purchasing are genuine products originating from the said place of production with necessary special qualities or not.
What about the original weavers who have inherited the hard earned art from generation to generations. The plight of the weavers is all the more disappointing, The goodwill they acquired from generations and the economic benefit is passing off to the duplicate producers. Not only is this happening to the weavers of Uppada but to most of the local communities who produce unique products in a specific region using age old techniques, art, culture and tradition which is traditionally passed on from generation to generations. Poor craftsmen produce goods with great skills and hard labour. Yet they are the loosers because their good will is being encashed by duplicate producers. The duplicate producers sell at cheap costs to attract consumers because they could produce the goods with commercial technology and not the original human skills.
The products which carry the names of the place of their production are actually ambassadors of our local culture. The makers of such products should be given due recognition and protection by safeguarding the production interests of the local communities One should believe that to be able to grow as a society, it is important for us to take pride in our identity and to know where we come from. And that sense of identity only comes when people start to consciously recognize and appreciate it. I truly believe that identity of India lies in its roots, the artisans, craftsmen, weavers and the farmers in rural areas. These local and traditional communities should be protected from such counterfeit products stealing their revenues. And it is necessary and urgent to support and protect the knowledge of the local communities. Now the important question is- whether there is in India any legal protection for such unique products which will help the consumers to know the genuine products and the original producers will get the benefit of consumer patronization. Indeed India provides an intellectual property right (IPR) protection to these unique goods This is IPR is called Geographical Indication (GI).
We all know that Intellectual property refers to an idea or creation of mind and it is a legal entitlement which allows the holder to control its use. The element of creating unique products from the natural resources or age old knowledge or skill fulfills the requirement to constitute a form of Intellectual property right. And so the concept of geographical indication was categorized under the Intellectual property rights. Now a days we see not only the lawyers talking about intellectual property law but also many common men talking about Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks etc as IPRs. But people should be aware that IPR doesn’t just stop with patents, copyrights and trademarks. It includes other forms also one of which is the geographical indications. Most of the people do not even know that there is an IPR called geographical indications.
The conceptualization of Geographical Indications came into existence for protecting origin based unique products. The law provides a facility to register such goods. The law also ensures a community right over the particular good. (Further details regarding the legalities of GI will be discussed in my upcoming Articles). But unfortunately, the Geographical Indications(GI) has always been a lesser known intellectual property right in India.
Unfortunately Geographical Indications (GI) is not a very familiar concept in general public. Much bad fortune it is not even known to many producers of goods unique in their origin. In my research on Uppada Jamdhani Sarees which was granted the GI tag, I came to know that neither the people living nor the weavers of the saree knew that geographical indication status was granted to it. Some of the weavers say that they were granted a patent. They do not even know the purpose for the grant of the tag. Though there were number of power looms running in and around the surrounding villages duplicating the Uppada sarees, they do not know that the GI tag has been granted to them for protecting themselves from the counterfeit products. While I stayed for a few days in Uppada village, I also came to know that there are number of villages surrounding Uppada which had their own style of weaving techniques. Most of the villages had products which were GI potential but none of them knew anything about the advantage of getting geographical indications status for their product.
As of now economic viability of the GI products is very low when compared to the patented and copyrights goods and services. But in many European countries the GI tag of the products has been used to build brands throughout the world. In India there are different climatic conditions, wide range of natural resources and varied traditional knowledge passed over from generations to generations which are GI potential products. Unfortunately the GI potential products are produced by people from rural areas who are not properly educated or well informed about GI tag and it benefits. The products which have acquired the GI status are also not able to stop the counterfeit products from ruining the original demand of the products.
There should be awareness in the general public also of the GI tagged and GI potential products. The knowledge hidden in the GI potential products are the country’s identity and pride as they are depict our culture , natural resources, skills and traditional knowledge. We should have to think about patronizing our traditional products over the machine made; say for example using handlooms over the powerlooms fabric, purchasing wooden toys instead of plastic toys which are harmful to the kids as well as to the environment.
In my research I also came to know that many of the people involved in the traditional occupations are not willing to allow their future generations to continue their traditional occupation due to lack of proper importance, demand and returns from the market. Most of the locals have migrated from their villages to cities for greater financial benefits. If this continues we may loose our artisans and the pride of our country as our country is known for handmade products. As it is time that wider advocacy be given to GI concept. Let us give a serious thought on the importance of this lesser known Intellectual Property right which has a crucial national importance.
Dr. Neelima Bogadhi, LL.M PhD Asst Editor
Journal of Academy of Juridical Studies (JAJS)