When India passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and
Protection) Act, 1999 ('The GI Act') in 2003, there was a widespread belief that
registering handloom product names under the Act would help revive the dying
Ideally, India should have registered hundreds of GI tags for its products after 10
years of its introduction. But the total GI-tagged products are only about 300.
What is a GI Tag?
A geographical indication (GI) tag is a trade name or sign that appears on specific products and corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin. The GI tag ensures that the product name can only be used by those who have registered as authorised users and live within the geographical territory.
The GI tag certifies that the product has distinct qualities that can be considered the intellectual property of that particular community. Darjeeling tea was the first GI-tagged product in India in 2003.
The goal of GI tagging is to identify the unique characteristics of a product, trace
its territorial significance, and provide statutory protection so that no counterfeit
goods flood the market and tarnish centuries of reputation.
When a product is granted GI status, its price rises in the international market,
boosting exports, and poor farmers/artisans in that region face less competition
from sellers selling counterfeit goods.
The protection of geographical indications benefits the weaver's overall economic prosperity. Furthermore, marketing and promotion of GI-tagged products boosts secondary economic activities in that specific region.
It acts as insurance or protection for rural manufacturing in developing countries
like India. The GI label is critical in building brand equity for these indigenous
producers. GI tags can provide numerous benefits to its weavers and help boost aregion's economy, paving the way for the development and growth of the
community that belongs to it.
The registered holder of the GI tag has all legal rights to prevent anyone from
using their GI tags who is not from the GI region. Restricting the spread of fake
copies in the market.
Last but not least, geographical indication protection fosters a positive image and
reputation of the product in the minds of consumers while rewarding producers
with incentives and higher ROI.
Issues with GI Tag in India
Unlike trademark branding, where it is easier to achieve consistent quality for
branded products through licencing agreements, GI branding is more difficult.
After a quality check on each piece, textile brands, for example, apply through
their respective proprietors or licensees.
The GI tag is attached to a Chanderi by the artisans, who are counted in the
hundreds or thousands. They could operate from their homes rather than factories.
These artisans are the actual owners of the GI and do not require licencing.
The Indian GI law is deficient. The GI journey in India has been asymmetrical.
It is a significant challenge for the handloom industry, which employs thousands of
artisans who produce the same product. The lack of quality control provisions
renders it a magicless wand.
Consistent quality of GI-tagged products will remain an illusion unless artisans are
guided from the start. They must be united and focused on the goal of GI
registration. GI registrations for handloom products or any other product are
pointless unless the gaps in the current statute are addressed.
Historically, weavers have migrated from their native regions for a better future.
They carry the nuances of their crafts with them when they migrate and nurture
them in their new environments. In such cases, it is a matter of evolved traditions
rather than a shackled process of loss of crafts or regional authenticity. Textile is a
living language that cannot be frozen in time or place. GI Tags for such migrated
weavers prove to be a hindrance rather than a facilitator.
The journey of GI Tagging in India has been an asymmetrical one. It gives art forms a legal protection from being copied
The government must take the necessary steps to make GI tagging advantageous
for its weavers. The government should investigate issues such as a lengthy
registration process, post-registration problems, and the enforcement of rules and
regulations. We will appreciate efforts to raise awareness and digital literacy
among our hard-working artisans and weavers.