14/12/2023-Members’ Voice (I): The Indian Govt published the draft rules to amend the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002, by Ashish Kanta Singh, Partner, K&S Partners

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry published the draft rules to amend the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002 (hereinafter referred to as “Rules, 2002”). The draft was published in the Gazette on October 17, 2023, and made available to the public on its website on October 27, 2023.

The Ministry intends to amend the table in the First Schedule of the existing Rules, 2002 which lays down the fees structure as per Rule 10(1). Primarily, there has been a reduction in the fees prescribed for submission of several forms in the Rules. These mainly pertain to those relating to filing of a GI application, registration as authorized users and for grant of additional protection of goods.

The proposed amendments to the Rules, 2002 are a welcome move as it is likely to encourage more entities to file applications for protection of GIs. However, there are larger important issues that must be addressed by way of amendments in the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (hereinafter referred to as the “GI Act, 1999”), including amendments in the provisions of the Act corresponding to the proposed amendments in the Rules, 2002.

Firstly, the GI Act, 1999 must ensure that the producers are a part of an informed consultation process prior to filing an application so that they are on the same page as the body filing the GI application. This consultation process will ensure that the producers are aware of the benefits of GI registration which would enhance their willingness to cooperate in the post-registration protection mechanism of the GI. Secondly, provisions to ensure quality control of the goods under a registered GI must be included in the GI Act, 1999 by way of a multi-layer inspection system and sanction mechanism upon failure to control the quality. Thirdly, provisions for assignment or transfer of a GI from the registered entity to another entity must be included to adjust for situations where the registered proprietor is unable to continue administering the registered GI.

Lastly, the provisions for registration of authorized users must be omitted as the same proves to be a financial and procedural burden both on the part of the authorized users as well as to the GI Registry especially for GIs that concern a large number of users, such as Basmati. Being a public register of defined characteristics of registered GIs, the GI Register can serve as a record to verify if a given product is legitimately entitled to be protected as a GI. All those who conform to the specifications listed in the register must be naturally entitled to use the registered GI without resorting to formal registration of themselves as authorized user. Moreover, the registered proprietor of the GI may be allowed to maintain the list of the authorized users instead of the GI Registry by also providing them with criminal remedies under the law against any unauthorized users which is currently available only to the authorized users.

The above suggested amendments to the GI Act, 1999 will close the gaps in the GI protection ecosystem to fully protect registered GIs as well as all the concerned stakeholders.

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