Section 2(1)(e) of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, (hereinafter referred to as “Act”) defines ‘geographical indication’ as an indication that identifies goods, agricultural, natural, or manufactured, as originating in the territory of a country, region, or locality in that territory. These identifications are based on quality, reputation, or other characteristics that are easily attributable to their geographical origin. It is further explained that the name of the country or the region or locality shall also be considered as the geographical indication if it relates to a specific geographical area and is used upon or in relation to particular goods originating from that country, or region, or locality. Some examples of the Registered Geographical Indications as per the office of the Controller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks are Sojat Mehendi – Rajasthan, Coorg Arabica Coffee – Karnataka and Marathwada Kesar Mango- Maharashtra, Puneri Pagadi – Maharashtra, Paithani Sarees and Fabrics- Maharashtra.
The Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, states the procedure for the registration and protection of geographical indications relating to goods specified under Section 2(1)(f) of the Act. The Controller-General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks appointed under Section 3(1) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999, shall be the Registrar of Geographical Indications.
Step 1: Filing of application
As per Section 11 of the Act, the applicant is required to file an application to represent their interest in triplicate and must be signed by the applicant or his agent. The application is to be made along with the Statement of Case in triplicate. Section 11(4) of the Act states that every application shall be filed in the office of the Geographical Indications Registry within whose territorial limits, the territory of the country or the region or locality in the country to which the geographical indication relates is situated. According to Rule 23(2) of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002, the application made for registering a geographical indication is made in Form GI-1. Three certified copies of the map of the region to which the GI relates should also be attached with the application for registration. As per Rule 23 of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002, the registration application must satisfy the following conditions:
- The indication must be defined with sufficient precision so that the right to obtain relief in respect of infringement of geographical indication can be determined.
- The graphical representation must be able to stand in place of the geographical indication without the need for supporting samples.
- It must be practical for the persons inspecting the Register or reading the Geographical Indications Journals to understand from the graphical representation what the geographical indication is.
- Application for a three-dimensional geographical indication shall not be acted upon unless the application for registration contains a statement to that effect.
- If the application for registration specifies a specific colour combination, it shall not be acted upon unless the application contains a statement to that effect and specifies the colours.
The contents of the application for registration are specified under Section 11(2) of the Act. They are as follows:
- A statement stating how the GI serves to designate the goods as originating from the concerned territory of the country or region or locality in the country, in respect of specific quality, reputation, or other characteristics which are due exclusively or essentially to the geographical environment.
- The class of goods to which the geographical indication relates shall apply.
- The geographical map of the territory in which the goods are being produced or manufactured.
- The particular appearance of the geographical indication stating details as to whether it is comprised of the words or figurative elements or both.
- The particulars of the producers of the concerned goods proposed to be initially registered.
As per Rule 32 (6) of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002, the applications should also contain affidavits, standards benchmarks, mechanisms used in its production, mechanisms ensuring its quality, integrity, and consistency, and particulars about the requirement of special skills. Furthermore, the full name and address of the association of persons or organizations or authorities representing the interest of the producers of the concerned goods and particulars of the inspection structure, if any, to regulate the use of the geographical indication in respect of the goods for which application is made in the definite territory region or locality mentioned in the application are also meant to be attached.
Step 2: Examination of application
As per Rule 33 of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002, the Registrar shall examine and scrutinize the application and the attached Statement of Case to check if it meets the requirements of the Act and the Rules. For this, he shall ordinarily constitute a group of not more than seven representatives, of which he shall be chairman, to ascertain the correctness of the particulars in the Statement of Case which shall ordinarily be finalized within three months from the date of constitution of the group.
Step 3: Decision of the Registrar
As per Rule 34 and 35 of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002, the Registrar has to communicate any objection he has to the application. If he has any objection to the evidence provided with the application the Registrar shall communicate such objection or proposal in writing to the applicant. If within two months, the applicant does not change his application according to the conveyed objection or apply for a hearing, the application shall be dismissed.
If the applicant wishes to appeal, he may within one month from the date of the receipt of such communication make a request to the Registrar. Where the applicant has no objection to the changes specified by the Registrar.
As per the provisions of Section 15 of the Act, the applicant may make amendments before or after the acceptance of his application but he would not be allowed for the same after the registration is done.
Step 4: Notice of opposition
As per Section 14 of the Act, Any person can file a notice of opposition within three months (extendable by another month on request which has to be filed before three months) opposing the Geographical Indication application published in the Journal. A copy of such notice is served to the applicant by the Registrar. The applicant has to submit a counter-statement within two months of receiving such notice. If the applicant fails to do so, his application will be deemed to have been abandoned. If he does file a counter, the same is to be served to the opposition. The case is to be decided after fixing a date of hearing by the Registrar.
Step 5: Publication in the geographical indications Journal
As per Rule 38(2) of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002, an application for the registration of a geographical indication shall be published in the Geographical Indication Journal within three months of the application for registration. The Registrar may put the published Geographical Indication on the website after putting out a notification in the Journal.
Step 6: Registration
Section 16(1) of the Act states that when an application for a GI has been accepted, the Registrar shall register the geographical indication. The registered date of filing of the application shall be deemed to be the date of registration.
Section 16(2) of the Act empowers the Registrar to issue to the applicant a certificate with the seal of the Geographical Indications registry.
If the registration is not completed within 12 months from the date of application, as a default made by the applicant, the Registrar shall consider it as abandoned after giving the applicant a notice, as per the provisions of Section 16(3) of the Act.
The object of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, is to provide for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods. The Central Government, by exercising the powers conferred by the Act, may make Rules by publishing them in the Official Gazette. The Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002 indicate the procedure for registering and protecting geographical indications.