The draft Geographical Indication Act, 2013, which has got approval by the cabinet recently, is designed to protect products of Bangladeshi origin, many of which are renowned the world over. The proposed act would ensure the quality of Bangladesh’s traditional products and protect against indiscriminate replication.
What is geographical indication (GI) and how would the law work to protect the intended products?
“Geographical indication” is a fairly new concept introduced by the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) in its TRIPS Agreement. TRIPS, which stands for Trade Related Aspect of Intellectual Property Rights, seeks to provide comprehensive and effective protection of items registered as geographical indication goods by WTO member states, and GI is one of six trade-related intellectual property rights provided under the agreement.
Geographical indications identify any item that originates in a given territory, or in a region or locality within that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic associated with the product can be essentially attributed to its geographical origin. Some examples of GI products from Bangladesh are Comilla’s “roshomalai,” the “kachagolla” from Natore, Porabari’s “chomchom,” the “monda” from Muktagacha and the much-loved “jamdani” sari of Dhaka. There are many other products from Bangladesh that may fall under GI attributes so it might not be possible to provide a complete list of products at the moment.
The GI Act, 2013 would establish a mechanism for registering products of local origin to ensure protection against any fallacious claims by other nations or territories. The law would ensure that products from other countries would also be protected in a similar way if they are identified and recognised as GI products belonging to those countries. In Bangladesh, the law would entail the establishment of a GI wing under the Department of Patents and Trademark, which would be entrusted with the responsibility of protecting products registered under GI.
The act entails detailed directions to clarify who may apply to register any product, the application process to register and if there is any opposition to an item being registered, then how that would be processed. It deals with procedures to appeal against any decision of the registrar, cancellation or rectification and how errors should be corrected. Under the proposed act, a product registered under GI would be protected for up to 10 years from the date of registration.
The proposed act also provides for means of dealing with any related offences and penalties for those offences. In case the persons or associations who apply to register a product do not have the rights of ownership over the GI products or if there are attempts to register or misrepresent any items, then persons or associations responsible could be fined up to Tk200,000 or face imprisonment for a maximum of three years or both.