The registration of a Geographical Indication (GI) is not mandatory, but it offers several significant benefits within the framework of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Registration provides legal protection against the infringement of the registered GI, granting exclusive rights and safeguarding the uniqueness of the product. Furthermore, it enhances the demand for GI products by granting them individual identification on legal platforms and attracting media coverage, thus contributing to economic growth for the producers of goods originating from a specific geographic territory.
To register a product as a GI, there are several types of applications:
- Ordinary Application: This is for the registration of a GI in India.
- Convention Application: Used to register a GI already recognized in another country.
- Single Class Application: Encompasses the registration of goods belonging to a specific class.
- Multi-Class Application: Covers the registration of goods belonging to multiple classes.
The registration process for a GI begins with the submission of an application. The application must be filed in triplicate, and it can be submitted by the producers of the goods, an organization, or an authority acting as the agent of the producers. The application should be sent to the Geographical Indications registry located in Chennai.
The state Odisha and West Bengal was concerning the origin of the well-known sweet dish, “Rasgulla.” In 2017, the GI registry in Chennai granted West Bengal the Geographical Indication (GI) status for “Banglar Rasogolla” following an application submitted by the West Bengal State Food Processing and Horticulture Development Corporation Limited (WSFPHDCL). More recently, the GI tag was also awarded to Odisha for “Odisha Rasgulla,” claimed to be produced in the village of Pahala in Odisha.
The Registrar of the Chennai GI office granted the GI status to West Bengal’s “Banglar Rasogulla.” This decision was primarily based on the registrar’s satisfaction with the product’s uniqueness and adherence to the state’s age-old traditions. Odisha raised objections, claiming that the dish originated in Odisha. However, the registrar did not accept this argument, citing that the objections were not raised by the state in accordance with the terms of the Act, rendering the application non-maintainable.
Subsequently, an application was filed in 2018 on behalf of the State of Odisha by the Odisha Small Industries Corporation Limited (OSIC Ltd.) and Utkal Mistanna Byabasayee Samiti. On July 29, 2019, the registrar granted the GI status to Odisha for “Odisha Rasagola.” This decision involved a broader interpretation of the law established under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. Section 2(e) of the Act stipulates that a geographical indication can be provided to a product if its quality, characteristics, or reputation are attributable to its geographical origin and are unique. The uniqueness of Odisha’s Rasagola lies in its color, texture, and taste, distinguishing it from the West Bengal variant. Historical references in Odisha’s texts support the geographical origin of the dish.
Legacy is something that all Indians are glad for. Each state has its own language, customs, colors, importance, and heritage which they can’t think twice on any grounds. This is presumably the very motivation behind why both the states were profoundly associated with the sweet fight then.
In conclusion, the registrar’s decision to grant separate GI tags to both states for their respective versions of Rasagola is justified due to the distinct qualities and characteristics of each product. This step is essential for protecting the interests of both states’ food producers, preventing consumer deception, and ensuring economic prosperity. Additionally, the distinct names and differentiations help avoid potential conflicts between the two parties in the future. Therefore, the decision to grant the GI tag to Odisha in 2019 was appropriate and legally sound.
Bhavesh Jangra- Legal Associate.