Nature and purpose of a geographical indication

Generally speaking, geographical indication, a form of intellectual property, is nothing but an indication identifying the source or appellation of origin of relevant product or service. It is an important method of indicating the origin of goods and services. In principle, geographical indication may describe the origin and peculiar characteristics of a service.

Example: Champagne from France, Tobaco from Cuba, Basmati Rice from India and Pakistan

It is significant to note that, the Paris Convention did not use the term Geographical Indication. Instead, it used the terms;

Appellations of origin: It indicates the name of the country or the place from where the product actually originates and the characteristic qualities of such products are exclusively due to the geographical environment including the natural or human factors or both. Quality and the characteristics of the products or services has to be exclusively attributable to the geographical environment.

Example: Aranmula Kannadi, Kanchipuram Saree, Kolhapuri Chappal, etc.

However, Hyderabadi Biryani failed to obtain the GI protection.

Indications of source: It indicates the origin of the product or services from which the product or service is specifically originated.

Example: Made in India, Made in USA, Made in China, Made in Japan etc.

Geographical indication may also highlight the specific qualities of any products or services which are due to human factors that can be found in the place of origin of products or services such as specific manufacturing skills and tradition. Aranmula Kannadi is one of the best examples for the same.

Though geographical indication is a geographical name of a country or a region, it may also include any personal name, as long as such a name is easily recognized by the general public as an indication of the geographic origin of the product.

However, some nexus between the place of origin and the product or services should exist, even in case of mere indication of source. Else, the public would understand the same as a classy trademark and not as an indication of the place of origin.

In other words, for an indication to function as a geographical indication there must be a link between some characteristics of the goods and the particular region where it was produced. Such a link must inform the consumers of some important characteristic of the product that will influence their decision to purchase such goods or services.

Similarly, agricultural products typically have qualities that derive from their place of production and are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil are also protected under geographical indication. Darjeeling tea is one of the best examples for the same.

Geographical indication can be used as a tool for promoting local economy. Unlike trademarks, geographical indications are not an individual property for the use by the owner alone. It permits any user of producer of such region to use the geographical indication.

Many geographical indications have obtained valuable reputations which, if not adequately protected may be misrepresented by dishonest commercial enterprises. Thus, false use of geographical indication by any unauthorized parties is detrimental to consumers and legitimate producers.

Paris Convention on Geographical Indication

There is no special provisions in the Paris Convention for the protection of indication of sources or appellation of origin. It establishes that an indication of source cannot be used for goods which originates from different geographical area or locations.

TRIPS agreement on Geographical Indication

By virtue of Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement provides that interested parties must have the legal means to prevent the use of geographical indication identifying products for products not originating from the place indicated by the geographical indication.

This article applies even where the public is not being mislead, there is no unfair competition and true origin of the goods are indicated OR the GI is accompanied be expressions such as kind, type, style, imitation or the like.