India has joined hands with Switzerland to seek a special dispensation for items other than wines and spirits which are accorded protection under geographical indications as per Article 23 of the Agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
Geographical indications serve in identifying a product as originating from a particular territory where certain characteristics are attributable to its geographical location.
India wants items like Basmati rice and Darjeeling tea to be accorded special dispensation under geographical indications so that they get the same protection as that provided to wines and spirits. Commerce department officials said that a joint proposal is being submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"Switzerland has sought completion of negotiations for establishment of multilateral register for items other than wines and spirits. In addition, we are seeking higher protection for other items," said an official. "There has to be concomitance of the two countries on the issues and they should be resolved before the next ministerial," he added. The proposal of India and Switzerland comes in response to the stand taken by a group of WTO members including the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, Guatemala and Paraguay which had raised concerns over extension of geographical indication to items other than wines and spirits.
They had argued that an extension to other items would result in higher costs to members, which would be detrimental to consumers and affect trade.
However, India and Switzerland are arguing that there would be no additional cost involved in the extension of the provision.
They also claim that an extension in the scope would not result in the creation of a new protection mechanism. The two have also argued that an extension does not require the establishment of a new legal or administrative protection regime.
The purpose of the extension is not to benefit those members with a large number of geographical indications at the expense of a few but to create a level playing field in the TRIPS Agreement for all geographical indications enabling all members and their products to benefit.