The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 seeks to provide better protection to the goods which have become distinctive in terms of quality or uniqueness by virtue of it being available only from a particular geographical area.
Over the recent past, Geographical Indications (GI) have emerged as a significant form of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issue in the Indian context. GI helps a community of producers to differentiate their products from competing products in the market and build goodwill around their products, often fetching a premium price. From consumer’s point of view, GIs act as a signalling device, which helps them identify genuine quality-products and also protect them against counterfeits. In view of their commercial potential, adequate legal protection of GIs becomes necessary to prevent their misappropriation. Although India has had in its possession a considerable number of products that could qualify for legal protection as geographical designators, the initiatives to exploit this potential begun only recently when the country established as sui generis system of GI protection with the enactment of ‘the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, coupled with the ‘Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Rules, 2002. The Act, which became operational with effect from 15 September 2003, was drafted as part of the exercise in the country to set in place national IPR laws as much in compliance with India’s obligations under the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) so as to take avantage of the ‘minimum’ standards of GI protection that the TRIPs sets out for the WTO members to comply with in their respective national legislations.