Benefits of Official Registration of GIs

In India, Karnataka Tops with 32 GIs

Karnataka has notched the top slot among all Indian states with 32 GIs (Geographical Indications) according to the Trademarks & GI Registry attached to the Intellectual Property Office of India. Seven of those are agriculture-based GIs while the rest are of handlooms and handicrafts. Note that GIs are nothing but a sign that is used on a variety of goods/products (whether natural, agricultural or manufactured) that indicates the qualities, reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to their place of origin.

Benefit from GIs?

Since 2003, the Intellectual Property Office received 463 GI applications, of which 195 have been registered. Unfortunately only a handful could enjoy commercial success. There has been problem in creating economic value for Indian GIs largely because people are not aware of how to derive commercial benefit from the GI tag. Then, unlike trademarks, all producers who make their products in the place designated by a geographical indication and whose products share specified qualities enjoy rights over it. Moreover, there have been many instances of 3rd parties registering domains for certain renowned GIs with the intention of extracting money by selling these domain names to the rights holders.

All in all, there are several problems which crop up in case of a GI just like with trademarks. Thus, it is advisable that prior to planning entry in the market, GI tag right holders register their GIs as domain names [top level domain names (tLDs) including country coded top level domain names (ccLDs)]. Also, they should be ready to deal with problems of market penetration, the economics of launching products, the multiplicity of labels and mixed notions of quality, and the threatening presence of substitutes and similar products. For that reason, adopting traditional marketing strategies to enhance the distinctiveness and attractiveness of their products is a tested measure. Thus, if right holders issue press releases, publish cautionary notices and advertise the geographical indication, it largely ensures protection of their geographical indication from any kind of third party violation.

Moreover, before applying for a GI with patent office, hiring a professional partner who is capable of conducting clearance search of the Register of Geographical Indications and common law searches (including the internet, market surveys, yellow pages, directories, etc.) is recommended. This is to ascertain whether any third party is not already using your geographical indication and if so, to what extent. Also, it is recommended to seek an alerts/watching search services to alert you regarding publishing of a deceptively similar GI (mark) that might be of concern to you.

Conclusion

All the producers of a product with a GI tag enjoy exclusive commercial rights to their geographical indications. Yet, if someone else violates their rights, it is possible to initiate an infringement action. To avert such a situation, registration of geographical indication is highly recommended. The certificate of registration is the prima facie evidence of its validity and no further proof of the same is required.

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