Geographical Indication Law in India

The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation

Geographical Indication Law in India

GI is a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin. A town, Region, or Country is a G I. The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.

Geographical indications are valuable to producers for the same reason that trademarks are valuable. Geographical indications serve the same functions as trademarks, because like trademarks they are: source-identifiers; guarantees of quality; and valuable business interests. Although, as mentioned above "geographical indications" are often associated with Europe, the U.S. system for protection of geographical indications can be dated to at least the Trademark Act of 1946.

One of the first GI systems is the one used in France from the early part of the twentieth century known as Appellation Origine Control (AOC). Items that meet geographical origin and quality standards may be endorsed with a government-issued stamp which acts as official certification of the origins and standards of the product to the consumer. Examples of products that have such 'appellations of origin' include cheese and many French wines.

Geographical indications law restricts the use of the GIs for the purpose of identifying a particular type of product, unless the product and/or its constituent materials and/or its fabrication method originate from a particular area and/or meet certain standards. Sometimes these laws also stipulate that the product must meet certain quality tests that are administered by an association that owns the exclusive right to licence or allow the use of the indication.GI is not strictly a type of trademark as it does not serve to exclusively identify a specific commercial enterprise, there are usually prohibitions against registration of a trademark which constitutes a geographical indication. In countries that do not specifically recognize GIs, regional trade associations may implement them in terms of certification marks.The consumer-benefit purpose of the monopoly rights granted to the owner of a GI also applies to the trademark monopoly right. Geographical indications have other similarities with trademarks. For example, they must be registered in order to qualify for protection, and they must meet certain conditions in order to qualify for registration. One of the most important conditions that most governments have required before registering a name as a GI is that the name must not already be in widespread use as the generic name for a similar product.

 GI are regulated locally by each country because conditions of registration such as differences in the generic use of terms vary from country to country. This is especially true of food and beverage names which frequently use geographical terms, but it may also be true of other products such as carpets, handicrafts, flowers and perfumes.When products with GIs acquire a reputation of international magnitude, some other products may try to pass themselves off as the authentic GI products.


A product’s quality, reputation or other characteristics can be determined by where it comes from. Geographical indications are place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify products that come from these places and have these characteristics (for example, “Darjeeling Tea”, “Assam Tea”, “Kashmir Apples” or “Bikaner Namkeens”)

In December 1999, the Parliament passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, which seeks to provide for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods in India. The Act is administered by the Controller General of Patents, Design and Trade Marks who is also the Registrar of Geographical Indications. The Geographical Indications Registry is located at Chennai.

Under the GL Act, it is an indication of origin of a definite geographical territory which is used to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods. Under the Act, the manufactured goods should be produced or processed or prepared in that territory as specified under the law and it should have a special quality or reputation or other characteristics. Some of the common examples of Geographical Indications are Basmati Rice, Darjeeling Tea, Kanchipuram Silk Saree, Alphanso Mango, Nagpur Orange, Kolhapuri Chappal , Bikaneri Bhujia, Agra Petha.

 It is important to note that, under WTO regime GI needs legal protection under the law. In it protection required under the TRIPS Agreement is defined in two articles.All products are covered by -

Article 22, which defines a standard level of protection. This says geographical indications have to be protected in order to avoid misleading the public and to prevent unfair competition.

Article 23 provides a higher or enhanced level of protection for geographical indications for wines and spirits: subject to a number of exceptions, they have to be protected even if misuse would not cause the public to be misled.

 PRODUCER CAN APPLY FOR GI UNDER INDIAN LAW According to the Act, any association of persons, producers, organization or authority established by or under the law can apply: . The applicant must represent the interest of the producers. The application should be in writing in the prescribed form and the application should be addressed to the Registrar of Geographical Indications along with prescribed fee as specified under the Act.

 REGISTERATION LAW (Geographical Indication)

According to the act, any association of persons, producers, organization or authority established by or under the law can be a registered proprietor, for example it can be Basmati Producers Association of India, Darjeeling Tea Producers Association, etc.In order to get legal protection their name should be entered in the Register of Geographical Indications as registered proprietor for the Geographical Indication applied for.

 A producer of goods in that area can apply for registration as an authorized user. He will be only entitled to use the registered Geographical Indication allocated for that area for specified product. In order to become registered user he should apply in writing in the prescribed form along with prescribed fee at the address specified under the act.According to the Act, the persons dealing with three categories of goods are covered under the term producer, they are: people dealing in agricultural goods includes the production, processing, trading or dealing, people dealing in Natural Goods like exporting, trading or dealing , and people dealing in Handicrafts or Industrial goods include making, manufacturing, trading or dealing.

Registration of GI is not compulsory. Like any other legal protection, registration provides better legal protection to facilitate an action for infringement by unregistered suppliers and protects the misuse of the GI. The registered proprietor and authorized users can initiate infringement actions against people those who are using GI without meeting the criteria under the law. The most important aspect of registered GI is that the authorized user can exercise the exclusive right to use the Geographical Indication. This improves the business prospects and profitability for producers and ensures desired quality for consumers.Under the act, an authorized user has the exclusive rights to the use of Geographical Indication in relation to goods in respect of which it is registered.


Under the Act, the registration of a Geographical Indication is valid for a period of 10 years. It can be renewed from time to time for further period of 10 years each. If a registered geographical indication is not renewed it is liable to be removed according to the provisions of the Act.


According to the Act, the registered proprietor or authorized users of a Registered Geographical Indication can initiate an action, when an unauthorized user uses a Geographical Indication that indicates or suggests that such goods originate in a Geographical area other than the true place of origin of such goods in a manner which misleads the public as to the Geographical Origin of such goods. It means when the use of geographical indication results in an unfair competition including passing off in respect of registered geographical indication. This includes when the use of another geographical indication result in false representation to the public that goods originates in a territory in respect of which a registered Geographical Indication relates.

It is important, to note that Registered Geographical Indication cannot be assigned, transmitted under the GI Act. In fact, a Geographical Indication is a public property belonging to the producers of the concerned goods; it can neither be assigned nor transmitted etc. under any contact or agreement related to assignment, transmission, licensing, pledge, mortgage or such other agreement.

It is important to note that when an authorized user dies, his right devolves on his successor in title, provided he is operating in that area. Under certain situations, the Appellate Board or the Registrar of Geographical Indications has the power to remove the Geographical Indication or an authorized user from the register.

Chitranjali Negi