All about geographical indication status

G V Joshi
The Thanjavur Veena – one of the most ancient and revered musical instruments of South India – is all set to receive the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. According to Dr Chinnaraja. G. Naidu, of Geographical Indications Registry, based at Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The application for GI Tag for the Thanjavur Veena is being examined in depth and that the formalities in respect of registration of Geographical Indication status is expected to be complete very soon.
The application for GI Tag for the Thanjavur Veena was submitted by The Thanjavur Musical Instruments Workers Co-operative Cottage Industrial Society Limited, in June 2010.
The Thanjavur Veena is a modified Sarawati Veena, made in Thanjavur.
It is about 1.22 metres in length. It has a large, round body with a thick, wide neck, the end of which is carved into the head of a dragon.
There are two types of Thanjavur Veena – Ekantha Veena and Sada Veena.
Ekantha Veena is carved from a single block of wood, while Sada Veena has joints. Both the types of veenas are beautifully painted and carved and this makes them unmistakably distinct and elegant from other veenas like Rudra Veena and Mohan Veena.
The creation of the Thanjavur Veena is unique to the artisans who live in and around the town of Thanjavur, in Tamil Nadu. The town is also famous for the Brihadeshwar temple or Big Temple, Saraswati Mahal Library and Thanjavur paintings.
A GI tag is used to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods originating in a particular area. GI tags are indications, which identify a product originating in the territory or a region or locality in a territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
Most commonly, a GI tag consists of the name of the place of origin of the goods. For example, “Champagne,” and “Cognac,” are geographical indications designating the specific region in France where alcoholic drinks sold under these names are made.
The GI differs from a Trade Mark in that a trade mark is a sign which is used in the course of trade and it distinguishes goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises, while a GI is used to identify goods having special characteristics originating from a definite geographical territory.
While registration of GI is not compulsory, it offers better legal protection for action for infringement. The registration of a GI is usually for a period of ten years. It can also be renewed for a further period of ten years each. If a registration is not renewed after a period of ten years, the particular item is liable to be removed from the GI register.
India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15 September 2003.
GIs have been defined under Article 22(1) of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement as: “Indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.”
The GI tag ensures that none other than those registered as authorised users (or at least those residing inside the geographic territory) are allowed to use the popular product name.
Darjeeling tea became the first GI tagged product in India, in 2004-05, since then more than 160 products have been added to the list.
Some other products are: Pochampally Ikat from Andhra Pradesh; Chanderi saree from Madhya Pradesh; Kotpad Handloom fabric from Orissa; Kota Doria from Rajasthan; Kancheepuram silk from Tamil Nadu; Mysore Agarbathi from Mysore, Karnataka; Aranmula Kannadi (metal mirrors) from Kerala; Solapur chaddars and terry towels from Maharashtra; Mysore silk from Karnataka; Kullu shawl and Chamba Roomal from Himachal Pradesh; Mysore sandalwood oil and soap from Karnataka; Coimbatore wet grinder from Tamil Nadu; Mysore traditional paintings from Karnataka and the famous Tirupati Laddus. The list is very long.
One more item waiting for getting GI tag is Kodagu’s (Coorg -Karnataka) honey known for its characteristic flavour and aroma. A GI tag for the region’s honey may well earn the district and its industrious beekeepers a place in the global market.
Another item to get a GI tag soon is Meerut scissors, made out of metal scrap by a community in Meerut, (U.P.), which is “the only scissor cluster in India” and which has been making the product for more than three centuries. The first pair of scissors was made 360 years ago by one Asli Akhun.
Today, there are 250 small-scale scissorsmaking units in Meerut, employing 70,000 people directly and indirectly. Known for their sharpness, the scissors are used at home and by industrial garment manufacturers. They can be repaired, unlike other scissors that are thrown out after use.
The GI tag will make a difference to the makers. No one else will then be able to copy Meerut scissors or misuse the made-in-Meerut tag on their handmade scissors.
Silky ‘Pattamadai pai’ mats from Tirunelveli and Chettinad Kottans (baskets) from Kanadukatthan in Tamil Nadu are the new products that have obtained the geographical indication GI tag. Pattamadai pai (mat) weaving is done by Labbai Muslim weavers with korai grass grown on the banks of river Tamiraparani in Pattamadai, a small village in Tirunelveli district.
Kottan is the name given to the unique form of weaving baskets, typically in Chettinad. Earlier, women wove colourful baskets to perfection, as they were lapped up by the rich Chettiars community, who gifted them or used the baskets to adorn their homes.
GI tag may be granted to for Nachiarkoil brass lamps. The production of these ornamental lamps is mainly done by local artisans who have domicile in and around Nachiarkoil in Thanjavur district. Geographical Indication tag has also been sought for Dindigul locks, which are unique to the areas around Dindigul in Tamil Nadu.