Europe Union and India both with their long and diverse cultural and traditional histories have advocated the importance of the preserving, sustaining, and strengthening their traditional products and goods. Geographical Indications (GIs) come to aid in this endeavour both socially and economically. GIs are seen as social empowering tools in the hands of small producers and artisans providing much needs rights to preserve their art and methods of the manufacture and further sustain passing of inter-generational knowledge over centuries. Additionally, GIs also have an economic and public interest role wherein they contribute to better tackle consumers asymmetries of information, providing them information not only about geographic origin of the product but also signalling the quality, raw materials and production techniques used to manufacture the product.
Both European Union and India in this sense opted for a sui-generis GI protection framework (in contrast with United States, which has argued and advocated a trade-mark framework to certification and authentication of goods.) to protect their niche products. Though there is a convergence in recognising the importance of GIs and the means of protection heritage products; the number of mutually protected GIs in-between EU and India tell a sad tale as registration are still low and challenges still remain.
EU GI Registration Challenges
Though European Union over 30000 GIs in force among its member states, there only has been a mere - 23 EU GIs registered in India primarily in the sectors of wine, spirits, and other beverages. The reason for this low registration is still unclear, however a cursory look at the timelines of most EU GI applications does provide us insights into the procrastinated or delayed registration process.
European GIs saw proactive push with various EU - GI applications being filed in the years 2011 and 2012. Nonetheless, post this early push, the procedures came to a standstill in 2015 for reasons not very clear.
However, since 2019, there has been new rigour in processing EU GI applications by the Indian GI registry and the said examination reports were communicated by Indian GI registry to all EU GI applications requesting them to file a detailed application described as under Sec 11(2) of the Indian GI Act and Rule (32) of GI Rules 2002, chiefly mentioning:
- Description and/or organoleptic characteristic of the product,
- method of production, processing or preparation and production, with inherent natural and human factors.
- details of the geographical environment and map of the geographical region,
- proof of origin of the product(historical records),
- details of inspection body or mechanisms to ensure standards, quality, and integrity of the product and
- any existing logos or other marks of the GI.
This fresh start in processing EU GI applications has reinvigorated processing of numerous EU-GIs which are presently being examined by the Indian GI registry or have been published in the official journals (publication phase). Spain has been leading the way by pushing for GI registrations with around 27 Spanish GIs examined and one advertised in the official journal.
Fast Track Registration Process through EU -India Agreement on GIs?
Though the journey of EU GIs in India has been slow and plodding, there seems to be new wind with the renewed trade negotiations between EU and India. Since June 2022, the EU and India started trade talks, to conclude a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), an Investment Protection Agreement (IPA), and an Agreement on Geographical Indications. In the earlier FTA negotiated between 2007-2013, provisions on GIs faced numerous issues given the divergence in protection mechanism offered for non-agricultural goods (India offers protection for non-agricultural goods whereas there no regulation offering union wide protection for craft goods in the EU). For India protection of its traditional crafts and artisanal goods was of importance given its socio-economic impact on its large population of artisan and the export potential such goods hold. On the contrary EU sought higher level of protection for its wines and spirits as offered by TRIPS under Art. 23 in India. There were also other disagreements on enforcement measures offered in both geographies which brought the talks to a halt in 2013.
With renewed thrust new FTA negotiations which re-started in June 2022 has proceed on positive footing with 5 rounds of negotiations until now (see here). Comprehending the importance of GIs both EU and India have divorced GIs from traditional Intellectual Property chapter of the FTA and a parallel standalone GI Agreement is being negotiated. This again is a positive sign as a separate stand-alone agreement would not be vulnerable to any happenings with the FTA.
Parallely, though internal to EU – Commission’s proposal for protection of Non -Agricultural GIs will minimize India’s concern of protecting crafts and artisanal products in the EU and thus provide further push to negotiate a mutually beneficial GI Agreement. Though the text of the EU-India GI Agreement is not public, given India’s stand in other FTA agreements being negotiated with exclusive provisions for mutual recognition of GIs, the present negotiation of EU-India GI agreement may be the best possible means to register EU GIs in a fast and efficient manner on lines similar to the ones concluded by EU with South-Korea, Vietnam, Japan and other countries wherein a list of GIs are annexed in the FTA agreements to be mutually recognised.
To conclude, EU GIs have trodden a slow path to registration in India, however, the renewed FTA negotiations and stand-alone GI Agreement provides a fast track means for both EU and India for mutual recognition of each other’s GIs and heralding new trade avenues and business prospects
 AS mentioned in the communication by Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino in Form GI-9C made on 13.08.2019. See files of Brunello di Montalcino, Registered GI on 14th September 2021. https://search.ipindia.gov.in/GIRPublic/Application/Details/366.
- Publication date
- 16 July 2023
- European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency