Geographical Indication is used to denote the name or sign, of the products which are from a particular geographical area or somewhat related to the origin like town, region or nation. Thus Geographical Indication gives the rights to its holder, and acts as the certification mark and also shows that the specified product consists of the some qualities and good reputation due to its origin from that specific location.
The Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement has defined the ‘geographical indications rights’ as the exclusionary rights for the indicator which identify the goods originated within the member nations territories, or area or region of that territory, where the reputation or other attributes of the goods is essentially related to the geographic origin of the place.
In India the geographical indications are regulated by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 and the Geographical Indication of Goods (Regulation and Protection) Rules, 2002. However registration of GI is not compulsory in India. The owner of the unregistered GI can also enforce the actions with the help of passing off against the infringer. But it is recommendable to register GI as the registration certificate acts as the prima facie (at first sight) evidence in the court at the time of any dispute and no additional evidence is required to proof the validity.
Recent case between R. S. Praveen Raj vs Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams raised the validity of G.I tag for ” Tirupati Laddu “.
R. S. Praveen Raj, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram and a scientist at NIIST (National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology), made a plea against G.I tag of “Tirupati Laddu” under section 2(f) of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 that the laddu does not fit the description of ‘goods’ as it is a sacred offering and not an ‘industrial good’.
Raj had argued that there was no industrial purpose here and granting monopoly to a single producer (Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams or TTD) would defeat the very purpose of GI and would be against Section 11(1) of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999. The applicant also stated that the grant would allow private appropriation of religious symbol and any infringement action against non-Hindu would result in communal disharmony. Thus, it would be violating Section 9(a) and (d). It could also set a precedent for similarly placed entities to claim rights over similar products, which, once granted, could be difficult to revoke.
The petition raises certain issues fundamental to the nature of G.I protection. The petition claims the following contraventions under the G.I Act:
Violation of Section 11(1) read with Rules 32(5) and 32(6)(a)&(f) as GIs are supposed to be collective community rights of protecting a group of producers. In the present case, TTD is the sole producer and beneficiary of the Laddu.
Violation of Sections 9(a) and (d) as the registration it is likely to deceive consumers