ISLAMABAD: A draft law on geographical indications (GIs) is lying with the government for the last 15 years, and has yet to be finalised.

Pakistan may lose ownership rights of hybrid variety of super basmati rice if it fails to finalise the law promptly, sources said.

The sources further added that the country has yet to enact the law to register the super basmati as local GI which will provide our policymakers legal grounds to contest the issue of super basmati with India at an international forum.

The proposed law could also provide protection not only to rice, but also to other products, like apricot, Peshawari chappal, Multani halva, Hala’s ajrak, Sargodha’s kinno, Kasuri methi, Sindhri mango, Dir’s chakoo (knife), wild mushrooms of Swat, Neeli Ravi buffalo, Chaman grapes, etc.

The law will enhance visibility of several Pakistani export items in the international market as it will protect the ownership rights of goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess a quality, reputation or other characteristic.

Geographical Indications are place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify the origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products.

It is a concept of international trade which associates certain product to a specific location, thus identifying its originality and uniqueness. Such an indication to any product distinguishes it from the rest of same kind thus bringing premium to its price.

The draft GI law has since been vetted many times by the relevant authorities, but no action had been taken in this regard, said a source.

On Thursday, Commerce Minis­ter Khurram Dastagir Khan directed the officials of his ministry to initiate coordination with relevant stakeholders immediately which include Intellectual Property Organisation Pakistan (IPOP), Ministry of National Food Security and Research, relevant provincial departments and the private sector.

The minister admitted that some spade-work was done on the GIs law by the previous governments during the last decade, but it was not brought to its logical conclusion.

The government had established IPOP for legislation of similar kinds of laws to provide protection to the local products in the international market.

WTO members need to give protection to GIs under Article 22-24 of the TRIPs agreement.

Unless Pakistan provides GI protection to its goods by its law, Islamabad could not obtain GI protection for its goods in other countries that have the GI law.

The separate law would make Pakistan capable of filing such applications in other countries to protect its various GIs in those countries.

It was also proposed to set up a GI registry at Lahore or Karachi and appointment of an officer of the government as registrar, besides sub-registrars and assistant registrars as necessary for its prime office and sub-offices.

According to an official statement, commerce minister said that his ministry will enact a new GIs law to bring distinction to indigenous Pakistani products.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2015

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