The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999
The government of India enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act on December 30, 1999. It came into effect on September 15, 2003.
The Act provides for
the registration and protection of goods with ‘geographical indications’ (GIs)
as well as their authorised users. A GI registration identifies agricultural,
natural or manufactured goods as originating or produced in a specific region, where
the quality, reputation or other characteristics of such goods is attributed to
its geographical origin. Examples of India’s GI products
are Alleppey coir, Basmati rice, Banarasi brocade and sarees, and
The 27-page law aims to prevent unauthorised persons from producing GI-registered items and protect buyers from fraud. The Act applies across India.
What is the procedure for GI registration?
Any association of producers or organisation established under the law, that is representing the interests of the producers of a certain product, may apply for a GI registration for the said product or goods. The application must be made in writing and, along with the prescribed fee, submitted to the Registrar of Geographical Indications. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks shall be deemed as the Registrar.
The application shall include a statement of the good’s specific quality, reputation or other characteristics, which can be attributed to the natural or human factors in the geographical environment of its region of origin, or to the production, processing or preparation which takes place in such territory, region or locality. The document shall also specify the ‘class’ of goods to which the GI shall apply, the geographical map of the territory, region or locality in which the goods originate or are manufactured, as well as any other prescribed particulars.
The Registrar may accept the application and issue GI registration certificates with seals of the Geographical Indications Registry to the applicants and the certification’s authorised users. The product’s details will be entered in the Register of Geographical Indications and shall be kept at the head office of the Geographical Indications Registry. The Registrar may amend the register or a certificate of registration for correcting a clerical error or a mistake.
The Registrar may refuse the application or accept it subject to such amendments, modification, conditions or limitations, as they consider necessary. In case they decline an application, they shall record in writing the grounds for such refusal. The Registrar also has the power to withdraw the acceptance of an application before the product or authorised user is registered in case the application has been accepted in error.
How can a GI registration be opposed?
When an application for the registration of a GI has been accepted, the Registrar shall ensure that it is advertised in the prescribed manner. Any person may, within three months of the date of advertisement, oppose the registration through a written notice to the Registrar. This will be notified to the applicant within two months of the notice of opposition, and they may issue a counterstatement. If the applicant does not do so, they shall be deemed to have abandoned the application. The Registrar shall allow parties to be heard if they so desire before deciding on the matter.
How to be an authorised user of a GI?
A producer or manufacturer of a GI registered good can apply to be an authorised user of the tag. For this, they may submit an application to the Registrar in writing along with the prescribed fee.
How long is the GI registration of a product and authorised user valid for?
The GI registration of a product and the attendant rights of authorised users are valid for 10 years. The registration may be renewed through an application to the Registrar and the payment of prescribed fees, for another 10 years from the date of expiration or the last renewal of registration, as the case may be.
The Registrar shall send a notice to the registered proprietor or the authorised user before the GI’s expiration date. If the conditions of renewal are not complied with at the time of expiration, the Registrar may remove the geographical indication or the authorised user from the register.
What rights do the registered proprietors and authorised users of a GI have?
Registered proprietors and authorised users have the exclusive right to use GIs on products that are so registered. They have the right to obtain relief or compensation in case the GI is misused, as prescribed by the Act. GI registration certificates shall be valid and be admissible in all courts with no need for further proof or producing the original GI application.
When is it prohibited to grant GI registration to a product?
It is prohibited to grant GI registration to a good or product if the GI’s use is likely to deceive or cause confusion or is contrary to any law; if the product contains ‘scandalous or obscene’ matter or is likely to hurt the religious sentiments of any class or section of India’s citizens; and if the product is deemed to have a generic name or indication – among other cases.
What does the Act say about the right to appeal?
Any person aggrieved by an order or decision of the Registrar can appeal to the Appellate Board – established in accordance with the Trade Marks Act, 1999 – within three months from the date of the decision, giving reasons for the appeal.
What are some of the offences and penalties listed in the Act?
Any person who falsifies a GI or falsely applies it to goods shall – unless they prove that they acted without intent to defraud – be punishable with imprisonment for six months to three years, and a fine of at least Rs. 50,000 which may extend to Rs. 3 lakh. The court may, for ‘adequate and special’ reasons, impose a sentence of less than six months and a fine of less than Rs. 50,000.
The same penalty shall apply to anybody who makes, disposes of, or possesses any block, machine, plate or other instrument for falsifying a GI; or tampers with, alters or effaces an indication of origin which has been applied to a product in accordance with this Act.
Anyone who possesses with the intention for sale, or lets to hire, products with false GIs or those without the mandatory GI identification and requirements, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of six months to three years, and with fine of at least Rs. 50,000 up to Rs. 2 lakh.
In case the offence is committed by a company, the company and every person in charge of and responsible to it at the time of the commission of the offence shall be deemed guilty and punished accordingly. This shall be the case unless a person proves that the offence was committed without their knowledge or that they exercised all due diligence to prevent the offence.
Focus and Factoids by Bharti Patel.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
30 Dec, 1999