When a product is known by the locality in which it is produced and such reputation rests on account of its special quality, texture or utility which is claimed to be inherent, it is called geographical indication.
Depending on the special colour, flavour or taste, it is distinguished from those produced elsewhere. Benaras silk sarees are reputed for their quality and durability. Similarly, Kondapalli toys have a reputation not just for their artistic depiction of epic characters, but also for the special type of wood—a light softwood (Givotia rottleriformis, known as Tella Poniki in Telugu)—that grows locally. Darjeeling tea has a colour, flavour and taste of its own. It shall not be naturally open to others dealing in other sarees, toys and teas to claim for them the origin and pass them off as Benaras, Kondapalli or Darjeeling.
Geographical indication is the property of the country and not of the people who claim to produce them. Hence, it is the government that registers the geographical indication with the Registrar of Geographical Indications. After it is registered, the government grants a licence to dealers of the registered localities to trade their goods under the geographical indication.
Licences may be granted to outsiders as well, where they will have to source the goods bearing geographical indications from the place and locality granted such geographical indication.
However, that is not the case for the same goods of the same quality adopting the same basic material as that of the original goods and produced under the same process. If, as claimed, basmati cannot be produced elsewhere than at the foothills of the Himalayas, it is not open to any other trader who claims he has produced the same rice in a different climate. Such rice as is produced in a different climate shall bear a different name, as in the case with Texmati, which is also a scented rice produced in the temperate zone of the US.
My family has been using the trade name Muddu Swamy, one of our ancestors. The shop property has since been divided. The elder member of the family has asked me to stop using the name Muddu Swamy. He claims that only he, being the elder, is entitled to the name. Now I want to register it as a trademark for my business. Can I obtain a registration without his consent?
Muddu Gopalkrishna, Anantpur
When the partition took place, you should have made appropriate provision for the use of the trade name. The Registrar of Trademarks may register the mark in your name, but on certain terms. Your case comes under “concurrent user”. The elder member of the family cannot restrain you from using the name Muddu Swamy, nor can you prevent him from using the same. In order to distinguish your business from that of the other, both of you may have to agree to alter the design of the letters or their format so that you can use the same name by creating some distinguishing features for the trademark. In cases of concurrent users as well as joint grant in two different names, the registrar has the power to issue certain directions and impose such conditions as he may deem fit to avoid confusion in the market. It is better, therefore, for both of you to agree to some modifications.
Otherwise, the registrar may freeze the trademark, which has become contentious, in public interest.
In case the shop which is divided between you deals in different types of goods, say, clothing in one part by you and machines in the other part by your relative, both will be entitled to get the same registration of the trademark, each relating to a different class of goods.
I am not a scientist, but a humble motor mechanic. My shop is located near a riverbed, and several lorries laden with sand pass by it. I see many of them suffer breakdowns. I am advised to patent a new device I developed by adding an additional gear so that the lorries may negotiate deep sand and steep gradients. I am afraid that if my neighbours adopt the same method, I may lose business. They are tempting my workers to reveal my invention. Please suggest how I can patent my new device and what the approximate cost will be.
Abdul Khadar, Godavarikhani
One need not be highly educated or a seasoned researcher to apply for a patent. Anybody who creates a new device containing an inventive step—even somebody who stumbles upon it by chance—can patent his or her invention.
Your case, however, of adding an additional gear is no invention. It is already a known device. That you are able to do it by yourself deserves compliments but on that account you cannot be granted a patent.
About your neighbours trying to get information from your workers, that cannot be prevented unless you enter into some written agreement with your workers that they should not divulge others the secrets of your trade and not leave your service, say, for two or three years after you have imparted to them the necessary training. As regards the expenses which are required for making an application for a patent, the fee payable on application is Rs1,000.
As a sugar-cane technologist, I found a certain chemical which, when added to the dry sugar cane pulp, turns it into ash. When this ash is mixed with manure, it acts as a very potent fertilizer. The local farmers usually burn sugar cane pulp and use it on their lands. The addition of the chemical mixture to such waste, together with bio-fertilizers, gives a new product. I want to know whether I can patent the product.
Unless you disclose to the controller of patents the nature and content of the chemical mixture, it is not possible for him to determine if there is any novelty in your claim. If what is claimed is only a burning agent, there may not be much substance in your invention. If what you say is a mixture and not a compound, you may not be able to secure a patent.
That sugar cane pulp acts as a fertilizer is a well-known ancient art and therefore, by itself, your modification may not be entitled to the grant of patent.
N.K. Acharya is an intellectual property rights attorney specializing in patents, trademarks, copyrights and design. Queries are welcome at email@example.com