By Apoorv K.C & Alan Dev

On May 13th 2016, Arun Jaitley announced the much awaited Intellectual Property Rights Policy.[i] The policy was released by the Government of India, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (hereinafter ‘DIPP’). The Policy aims at creating awareness about the importance of IPRs as a marketable asset and also commercialisation of these IP assets.

The existing IPR laws have accorded much protection to IPRs such as patents, trademarks and copyrights and these IP Rights have been exploited a lot commercially. A less discussed and less commercially exploited IPR in this regard are the Geographical Indications (hereinafter ‘GIs’). In India Geographical Indication as an IP Right was introduced only after ratification of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by introducing the Geographical Indications of Goods(Registration and Protection) Act,1999 (hereinafter ‘GI Act’). Even then, several problems exist in the present IP regime, which hinders its growth as an IP Right like patents or trademarks.

The new IPR Policy introduces a fresh outlook towards the GIs, which is an area of strength and optimism for India, where it has accorded protection to a number of hand-made and manufactured products, especially in the informal sector.

The following suggestions to protect, commercialise and regulate GIs have been made by the new policy:

  • Campaigning — A nation-wide promotional program to improve the awareness about the benefits of IPRs and their value to the rights-holders is envisaged under the policy. The policy identifies the need to reach out to the less-visible IP generators and holders, especially in the rural and remote areas. The owners of the Geographical Indications and the potential Geographic indications can be highly benefited by this, as the GIs are village and community based. The policy also emphasises on creating awareness regarding the rich heritage of India which includes our GIs. Another important feature of the policy is the tailor-made campaigns. The policy realises that there is no ‘one size fits all’ method to reach out to the communities which are GI generators and holders.[ii] 
  • Encouraging Innovation — The policy seeks to encourage innovation in the agriculture and pisciculture sector through IP rights, including but not limited to GIs.[iii]  
  • Encouraging Registrations —The policy encourages the registration of GI through support institutions.[iv] Most communities in India who are potential GI generators lack knowledge, resources or the will to register their GIs. The policy intents to counter such problems.  
  • Maintaining Quality Standards —Unlike Europe where quality standards are prescribed for GIs, India lacks any such standards of quality. European Union recognises competitive advantage that GI gives to the producers and enable customers to make informed choices regarding the products they purchase. The policy intents to build a comprehensive quality control standard[v] as existing in Europe which provides for effective verification and controls at multiple levels in the supply chain, ensuring compliance with product specification before placing it in the market.[vi] 
  • Providing Marketability — The policy intents to provide a platform for IPR owners and users by acting as a facilitator between creators and users of IP. It also seeks to identify the opportunities for marketing GIs outside India.[vii]
  • Studying and Implementing Best Practices — The policy provides for support towards studying and implementing the best practices for promotion and commercialisation of IP.[viii] It also intents to create a Cell for IPR Promotion and Management(CIPAM) under DIPP to facilitate promotion, creation and commercialisation of IP assets.[ix]
  • Financial Support — The owners of GI often lack the capabilities to properly exploit the rights they have owing to lack of financial support. The policy aims at providing financial support by offering IP friendly loans through financial institutions like rural banks and cooperative banks.[x]
  • Simplifying Procedure — The policy provides for a lot of measures to simplify and fasten the existing procedures for applying and registering for IP Rights, including GI. Some of these are adherence to timelines, adopting best practices for filing, docketing and maintenance of records, accessibility of public records, creation of service oriented culture, periodic audit of processes and providing value added services, to name a few. [xi]

The policy, if implemented properly, has the potential to transform the GI structure prevalent in India. However, the success of the policy depends upon its effective implementation. The Union government, therefore, should follow it up with amendments to the present legislations and establishment of the support systems at the earliest.

Sources:

[i] Arun Jaitley Announces Intellectual Property Rights Policy: Highlights, NDTV (May 13, 2016), http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/arun-jaitley-announces-intellectual-property-rights-policy-1405846.

[ii] National Intellectual Property Rights Policy, 2016, p.9 [hereinafter IPR Policy].

[iii] Id. at 13.

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Latha R. Nair, Making India GI brand conscious, The Hindu, Mar. 17, 2016, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-article-by-latha-r-nair-making-india-geographical-indications-gi-brand-conscious/article8361576.ece.

[vii] IPR Policy, supra note 2, at 22.

[viii] Id.

[ix] Id. at 18.

[x] Id. at 23.

[xi] Id. at 18,19.

Image source : Photo by Dipendraniraula available at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Dipendraniraula#/media/File:Niroula%27s_Tea_Farm_1.jpg