UK’s protection demand for GI products unresolved issue in FTA with India
India usually offers general protection for violation of GI rules, but the UK is seeking a higher level of protection, which is a pending issue in the FTA talks
The UK's demand for a higher level of protection for its GI products in the agricultural sector under the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with India seems to be an unresolved issue in the pact talks between the two countries, said an official to PTI.
India normally provides general protection for violation of GI rules, but the UK is seeking a higher level of protection, said the official, who did not wish to be named.
The UK wants a higher level of protection for its GI products from the agriculture sector under the proposed FTA with India. However, this remains an unresolved issue as the talks for the pact between UK and India are on to iron out differences.
British GI (Geographical Indication) products include Scotch whisky, Stilton cheese and Cheddar cheese. A GI is primarily an agricultural, natural or manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
Once a product gets this tag, any person or company cannot sell a similar item under that name. India normally provides general protection for violation of GI rules, but the UK is seeking a higher level of protection, said the official.
"Negotiations are going on between the two countries. There are some issues pending in the intellectual property rights (IPRs) chapter," the official added. According to experts, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the World Trade Organisation outlines an elevated level of protection for GIs.
Meaning of enhanced protection
This enhanced protection prohibits the use of a GI if the product does not genuinely originate from the designated area, regardless of whether the public is misled or the true origin is specified. This ensures complete protection of a GI, safeguarding its reputation under all circumstances. It also prohibits the use of terms like 'kind', 'style', and 'type' for products that fall under this protection. Currently, this higher level of protection is exclusive to wines and spirits.
GI is an intellectual property right. On this subject, under a free trade agreement, normally two countries include rules prescribed in the TRIPS and do not go beyond that.
Nilanshu Shekhar, founding partner at law firm KAnalysis, said Indian legislation does not differentiate between wines and spirits, and other products in terms of GI protection, and the decision to grant higher protection rests with the central government and varies based on international recognition.
India has been advocating for extended protection to other products beyond wines and spirits to prevent misuse of its labels like Basmati rice by other countries.
Protection for Indian products
"The UK's interest in securing higher-level GI protection for more products in the proposed FTA with India predominantly benefits its strong export segments of wines and spirits, dairy products etc. As FTAs are based on mutual benefits, India should negotiate firmly for the UK to offer similar elevated GI protection to Indian products to a higher range of Indian products too," Shekhar said. He said that this approach would create a more balanced and reciprocal trade relationship, potentially opening new markets and enhancing the global standing of Indian products. A higher level of GI protection for products like cheese will create problems for Indian companies, hence, New Delhi should not accede to the demand unless the UK is reciprocating equally in this or another department, he added.
Sharing similar views, expert on internal trade and WTO-related issues, Abhijit Das said: "If the UK is demanding a higher level of protection for its GIs, Britain must be willing to give a higher level of pro-action to our GIs as well. But, there could be some adverse consequences for cheese manufactured by Amul in India".
The famous Indian goods carrying GI tag include Basmati rice, Darjeeling Tea, Chanderi Fabric, Mysore Silk, Kullu Shawl, Kangra Tea, Thanjavur Paintings, and Kashmir Walnut Wood Carving.
Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal has recently stated that India and the UK are not working under any deadline for the conclusion of negotiations for a free trade agreement as both sides are discussing issues "slightly" complex in nature.
India and the UK launched the talks for the agreement in January 2022.
(With inputs from agencies)