Reaping benefits of authenticity tags

The growing list of Assam’s traditional products with the Geographical Indication tag signifies the rich cultural heritage of the state.
Reaping benefits of authenticity tags

 The growing list of Assam’s traditional products with the Geographical Indication tag signifies the rich cultural heritage of the state. Building and publishing the list of authorized users of the authenticity tags in the state is the next crucial step to achieving the desired objective. Promoting GI-tagged products in national and international markets can push demand for authorized users from the relevant geographical areas. The central government earmarked Rs. 75 crore under the Intellectual Property Rights Policy (IPR) 2016 for three years from 2022-23 to 2024-25 for undertaking initiatives and activities aimed at creating awareness and promoting registered GIs and more registration. Increasing the amount is essential as the list is growing, bringing in more authorized users in areas where the products originate and are manufactured. The government informed Parliament that the IPR policy of 2016 places strong emphasis on the promotion of GIs across the country, and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry set up the Cell for Intellectual Property and Management (CIPAM) to undertake focused action on issues related to IPRs, including GI. The CIPAM has also been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting IPR awareness campaigns across the country in schools, colleges, universities, and the industry; training and sensitization programmes for enforcement agencies and the judiciary; coordination for effective enforcement of IPR rights; and studying and facilitating the implementation of best practices for the promotion and commercialization of IPs within the country. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999 provides special protection under a legal framework for the registration of geographical indications relating to goods and the prevention and protection of the intellectual property rights granted to a registered geographical indication against fraudulent use. Along with building awareness on the importance of GI among farmers, artisans, traders, dealers, academia, and students, it is also important to educate them on how to invoke the legal protection of the commercial interests of authorized producers and prevent distortion of the product by fraudulent users of GI. This requires decoding the complex legal provisions for laypeople, who are key stakeholders in the manufacturing of GI-tagged products. Consumers are also key stakeholders in the promotion of GI-tagged products, as they always look for authentic products. Due to a lack of awareness about the authenticity of a product in the absence of any identification logo, often consumers end up purchasing a similar product manufactured by people who are not the owners of the intellectual rights of the products and for whom it is not a traditional product. The use of the GI logo for each recognized traditional product is crucial for boosting confidence among manufacturers, traders, and consumers. The authorities concerned are ensuring the assessment of GI-tagged products according to the standards set in the GI registration in the laboratory, and issuing certificates of quality for the assessed products is critical to assure consumers of quality control. Authorized manufacturers strictly adhering to quality standards at every stage of production, right from the procurement of raw materials to processing to the finished products, must be monitored so that the primary objectives of protecting intellectual property rights in all aspects of the preservation of a rich cultural heritage are not diluted. This can be ensured through random checking of production and sale centres and initiating legal action whenever any violation of the GI Act is found. When the number of authorized users of the GI logo among artisans and traditional manufacturers increases, monitoring against violations of the GI Act and against any fraudulent use will automatically increase. Such authorized users getting easy access to a wider national and international market is critical to the sustainability of the production of authentic traditional products. Financial institutions, exporters, and industry associations must play a crucial role in handholding the authorized users of the GI logo to facilitate market linkage. Without remunerative prices for their products, even the authorized users will not be keen to continue, and the purpose of granting GI recognition will be lost as it will allow fraudulent users to flood the markets with cheaper and unauthentic products. The grant of the GI tag to Assam’s unique Muga silk in 2012 created excitement about the golden thread bringing prosperity to traditional Muga cocoon producers and weavers in the state. After more than a decade since then, identifying the key challenges of the GI logo to promote genuine Muga silk products will be useful in addressing similar issues with respect to other traditional products with GI tags. The declining number of Muga looms even after getting the GI tag point towards issues related to the promotion of the authenticity logo to benefit the primary stakeholders who have been traditionally engaged in the cultural practice and remain unaddressed. Lessons learned from such experiences should be used to ensure that GI tags do not remain limited to documentary exercise and benefit traditional practitioners.

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