Get Ready For "2nd GI Tag War" On RICE...
Do you eat rice?
If YES. Do you know it's the geographical origin? Do you know it's uniqueness?
To answer all such questions, Intellectual Property (IP) Law provides the concept of GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION (GI Tag). GI tag is basically an assurance that the product (agricultural, natural, or a manufactured) is originating from a specific geographical area due to which it possesses unique characteristics and qualities.
There are around 16 GI tags on rice in India:
1) Navara Rice from Kerala
2) Palakkadan Matta Rice from Kerala
3) Pokkali Rice from Kerala
4) Wayanad Jeerakasala Rice from Kerala
5) Wayanad Gandhakasala Rice from Kerala
6) Kalanamak Rice from Uttar Pradesh
7) Kaipad Rice from Kerala
8) Basmati Rice from (Punjab / Haryana / Himachal Pradesh / Delhi / Uttarkhand / Uttar Pradesh / Jammu & Kashmir)
9) Ajara Ghansal Rice from Maharashtra
10) Joha Rice from Assam
11) Ambemohar Rice from Maharashtra
12) Gobindobhog Rice from West Bengal
13) Tulapanji Rice from West Bengal
14) Katarni Rice from Bihar
15) Boka Chaul Rice from Assam
16) Jeeraphool from Chhattisgarh
In this list, one more rice is coming from Maharashtra. "Wada Kolam rice", grown in Wada taluka of Palghar district. But interestingly Wada Kolam rice ignited the 2nd GI tag War on RICE.
Before, moving into the details of the 2nd GI tag War on RICE. Briefly, I will share the status of the 1st GI tag War on RICE.
The 1st GI tag War on RICE started between the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh and Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). Now, it has reached up to Hon'ble Supreme Court wherein the war is between Govt. of Madhya Pradesh and GI registry. As the GI registry found that Govt. of Madhya Pradesh failed to prove the "Basmati cultivation" with supporting documents. So, the MP government cannot claim their rice as Basmati rice.
Now, back to the details of the emerging 2nd GI tag War on rice. 2 separate applications were filed by 2 different applicants on different dates for acquiring the same GI tag. Firstly, on 3 July 2020, the GI Application No. 693 was filed by an NGO named as Wada Kolam Va Bahuuddeshiy Sheti Utpadan Sahakari Sanstha Maryadit.
Secondly, 20 July 2020, the GI Application No. 695 was filed by Krushi Veg Seeds (I) Pvt. Ltd. The second applicant claimed themselves as a consortium group of local farmers. The other surprising thing about the second applicant is that they have filed a patent application (Application No.-201921016045) with Title of invention "WADAKOLAM - IMPROVED PADDY SEED". The second applicant reiterated his patent claims as the uniqueness of the Wada Kolam in his GI application.
In accordance with Section-11(1) of GI Act, 1999 "Any association of persons or producers or any organization or authority established by or under any law for the time being in force representing the interest of the producers of the concerned goods, who are desirous of registering a geographical indication in relation to such goods shall apply in writing to the Registrar.....".
So, based on Section-11(1), it can be interpreted that GI right or the GI tag is the only IP right which is not for an Individual, industry, or company. So, in legal terms, it will be worthy to follow these 2 GI applications to understand the essence of TRUE GI applicant. In economical and societal terms, these 2 GI applications have already invoked the 2nd GI tag War on rice. So, it will be interesting to see whether the real producers of Wada Kolam rice get any benefits out of this war or not.