Mumbai: Tamil Nadu has emerged as the top Indian state to protect its natural products and industrial skills by filing the highest number of geographical indications (GI) since India established the system of protecting such intellectual property (IP) rights in 2003.

GI is an IP tag on natural and industrial products and traditional skills that is exclusively associated with a particular place of origin.

This not only protects the commercial rights to these assets but also helps the local community to reap their benefits.

Typically, a GI tag conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, essentially attributable to the fact of its origin.

Tamil Nadu has so far registered 24 geographical indications, which include the rights for the popular Kanchipuram silk and Thanjavur paintings. It has filed 26 more applications for geographical indications that are still pending, taking the total to 50.

Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra were joint second with 39 GIs (both registered and pending) till December 2014. Goa and Punjab claimed the least with two each.

India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999, and the law came into force with effect from September 2003.

A higher number of GI registrations from a state indicates the diverse resource pool and skills set that it can claim for exclusive commercial exploitation.

It also reflects the level of IP awareness in order to protect the traditional assets in the new IP-driven economy.

India’s GI registry, which is part of the office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, has for the first time updated the data on total GI registrations and filings in the country from September 2003 to December 2014 (the entire period for which the GI regime has been in effect).

Geographical indications have also been registered in India by foreign countries for tapping the local market. One of the most popular among such foreign assets registered in India is Scotch whisky, registered by the UK since 2009.

Although the Indian GI registry has a list of some 490 geographical indications, there are only nine from overseas. These include Champagne and Cognac from France, Parma ham from Italy, Tequila from Mexico, Porto and Douro from Portugal and the range of wines from Napa Valley in the US.

Some well-known products protected by Indian states include Darjeeling tea, Tirupati laddu from Andhra Pradesh, Muga silk from Assam, Goa’s Feni, Kashmir’s Pashmina wool, Mysore Agarbathi, Bangalore Blue Grapes, Alleppey Coir and Malabar Pepper.

A GI is registered for an initial period of 10 years, which may be renewed from time to time.

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