Senate committee clears Geographical Indications Bill

Updated 29 Jan 2020

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A cobbler prepares a traditional Peshawari chappal in his workshop. Over the years, without a GI Bill, Pakistan was unable to protect ownership rights of indigenous goods that have a specific geographical origin. Ajrak, Multani halwa and Basmati rice are some of the traditional products that have gained a reputation in the local, national and international markets due to their specific unique qualities.
A cobbler prepares a traditional Peshawari chappal in his workshop. Over the years, without a GI Bill, Pakistan was unable to protect ownership rights of indigenous goods that have a specific geographical origin. Ajrak, Multani halwa and Basmati rice are some of the traditional products that have gained a reputation in the local, national and international markets due to their specific unique qualities.

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce on Tuesday approved the much-awaited Geographical Indications (GI) Bill which aims to protect commercial heritage of the country’s products.

The Senate committee — led by its chairman Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi — will now present the bill before the Upper House of the parliament for its consent. The Bill will then be forwarded to the National Assembly for its deliberations.

The law was pending for the last 19 years due to differences between large lobbies leading to failure of market place regulation. The Ministry of Commerce has been working on the GI law since 2000. The draft has been vetted many times by the authorities concerned but no action was taken by the previous government.

In the absence of this law, international brands continue selling Pakistan-origin goods causing loss to government exchequer.

For example, Moroccan Ajrak skirts were sold by international retailer H&M earlier this year. Dolce & Gabbana introduced food processors bearing a striking resemblance to funky Pakistani truck art while Paul Smith launched Peshawari/ chappal.

In Pakistan, GI law can protect products including Hunza apricots, Charsadda (Peshawari) chappal, Multani halwa, Hala’s Ajrak, Sargodha’s kinno, Kasuri methi, Sindhri mango, Dir knives, Swat wild mushrooms, Nili-Ravi buffalo, Chaman grapes, dates from Dera Ismail Khan, Turbat and Khairpur, Pashmina shawls, etc.

The meeting was informed that GI law was implemented since 1989 in India while in Pakistan the first formal draft of the law framed in the year 2005. Under the law, India claim rights over 361 items so far.

The GI law has been adopted in almost 121 countries so far.

The committee was also informed that amendments are being proposed in patent law and copy rights law. The drafts laws will be shared after feedback from the stakeholders.

Geographical indication is a broad term which includes indications of source and appellations of origin. An indication of source means any expression or sign used to indicate that a product or service originates in a country, region or location where the product originated, such as ‘Made in Pakistan’.

The term of registration of an authorised user of a geographical indication will be for a period of 10 years from the date of filing of application for registration. This exclusive right over the use of GI will be extendable for another 10 years.

GI is an intellectual property right (IPR) which gives the right to a person over the creation of their minds for a certain period of time.

Member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) need to give protection to GIs under Article 22-24 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement.

Unless Pakistan provides GI protection, it cannot obtain the same for its own goods in other countries that have the GI Law. The GI Law covers a wide variety of products that include industrial, agricultural, horticultural and others.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020