Geographical Indications (GIs) are one of the forms of intellectual property that authenticate the origins, quality, distinct characteristics, and reputation of a product attributable to a particular geographical region. GIs, as intellectual property rights not only protect the producers of such goods by preventing any unauthorised use but also enable customers to authenticate the distinctiveness of GI goods and promote economic prosperity. GI tags enhance the commercial value of such authentic goods and grant them recognition in national and international markets.
The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act was enacted in 1999 to govern the protection and registration of GIs in India. India boasts an incredible treasury of cultural and traditional heritage, which is eloquently embodied in such GI goods. As of May 2023, the country homes 478 GI tags, with states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh holding the most GI tags.
Darjeeling tea, Madhubani paintings and Silao khaja from Bihar, Kanchipuram silk sarees, Pashmina from Kashmir, Banarasi brocades, gulabi meenakari from Varanasi, Tirupathi laddu from Andhra Pradesh, Basmati rice from the foothills of the Himalayas, Nagpur oranges and Alphonso mangoes from Maharashtra, and phulkari of Punjab, are some of the renowned GIs of India. Each of these GIs, from textiles and handicrafts to agricultural produce and culinary creations, represents a unique connection of the product with its traditional history and geographical origins.
The GI system in India elevates such products to a global platform, thereby increasing their market value, and uplifting small artisans and rural communities. The system has empowered traditional knowledge holders, ensuring that they receive fair prices for their products, and helping them sustain their livelihoods.
The Indian Government continues to undertake numerous endeavours to safeguard these GIs through multifarious initiatives such as financial incentives to eligible agencies and awareness drives to promote GI goods and encourage registrations. The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) also issued Operational Guidelines for financial assistance for undertaking the initiatives for promotion of Geographical Indications (GIs) to help identify potential GIs across the country. These efforts verify the continual strides made towards ensuring that India’s exceptional heritage and traditional knowledge placed in these GIs are protected, respected and perpetuated.
There is no doubt that the geographical indications system in India has been instrumental in promoting and protecting the unique products of the country. The system not only ensures that the products retain their quality and reputation but also provides legal protection to such producers. It will also be an understatement to say that the Indian GI system plays an undisputable role in empowering local artisan communities, fostering Indian culture, and enabling consumers to experience the rich and diverse cultural legacy of India. It is, therefore, imperative for the government and stakeholders to continue to support and encourage the registration of new products for geographical indication, thereby contributing to the country’s economic growth and cultural richness.