ISLAMABAD: After a delay of more than 18 years, the government has finally decided to table Geographical Indication (GI) Bill in the National Assembly to protect ownership rights of goods produced in the country.
Due to the absence of GI legislation, international brands continue selling Pakistan-origin goods such as Paul Smith’s Peshawari Chappal, Morrocan Ajrak and California Basmati, depriving the country to get premium on its GIs in international market.
A senior official in the commerce ministry told media that the cabinet committee for disposal of legislative cases has approved the draft of GI (Registration and Protection) Bill, 2019. “We will now table the legislation in the parliament after cabinet approval”, the officer said.
The bill identifies the products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or reputation attributable to their place of origin. These are generally traditional products that have gained a reputation in the local, national or international market due to their specific unique qualities.
The draft aims to recognise and protect these products through legislation allowing the community of producers to get a fair value of their commodities while preserving their unique identity.
The bill will help protect various products local to the country including Hunza Apricots, Charsadda/Peshawari Chappal, Multani halwa, Sindhi Ajrak, Sargodha’s Kinno, Kasuri Methi, Sindhri mangoes, Dir knives, Swat Wild Mushrooms, Nili-Ravi Buffalo, Chaman Grapes, Pashmina Shawls, etc.
Member countries of the World Trade Organisation are required to protect GIs under Article 22-24 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement.
Similarly, the commerce ministry has also finalised a draft of the GI (Registration and Protection) Bill, 2019, which will provide for the registration and effective protection of the GIs of Pakistan.
As per the proposed set up, application for registration of a GI will be filed by a government body representing the actors (producers, processors etc.) of the specific GI product. The application will be accompanied by a series of details from history, origin of the product to processing of the product.
The GI Bill entails that once a GI is registered, an infringement action can be initiated both by the registrant and by authorised users whose names have been entered in the register.
A registered GI is infringed by a person, who not being an authorised user, uses such GIs by any means in the designation or presentation that indicates or suggests that such goods originate in a geographical area other than the true place of origin of such goods in a misleading manner or uses a GI which constitutes an act of unfair competition.
The proposed bill also provides for both civil and criminal remedies in cases of infringement. The civil remedies include imposition of fines, forfeiture to government of all goods and things — means of which the offence had been committed, damages, account of profit, together with or without any order for delivery of the infringing label and indications for destruction or erasure.
The criminal remedies include imposition of fine or imprisonment or both. All suits for infringement shall be filed before Intellectual Property Tribunal. Appeal against the decision of the registrar shall lie before the High Court.
The bill specifies that a trade mark shall not be granted, if it contains a GI for goods and the products do not originate from the region in question.
GI Bill also recognises registration of a foreign GI. The civil and criminal legal remedies available under the GI Bill would facilitate business confidence among the producers and manufacturers.
A government advisory commission will be established for GI to advise Trade Development Authority of Pakistan or any other autonomous body under administrative control of Ministry of Commerce on matters including applications, code of practices, oppositions and appeals.
The Advisory Commission will be appointed by the federal government including members from the agriculture departments and textile Ministry etc.
The decisions of the commission will aim to protect the identity of each product, authenticity, strong link to the territory and its quality.
Moreover, the commission will ensure no producer or stakeholder is excluded from the formulation process of the code of practices (CoP) because of political or economic reasons and may even refuse the evolution of a product by modification in its code of practice if it only considers the economic considerations.
If a group wants to modify its CoP, the commission will take into consideration modifications in relation to the initial CoP.
Under the proposed set up for GI, the CoP will be a written document comprising of a set of activities to ascertain that an entity meets all quality requirements. The CoP will be completed using the knowledge of the producers of a GI product.
The preparation of the CoP is a time-consuming process due to possible conflict of interests between the actors and stakeholders of the delimited area. Therefore, mediation can play an important role in resolving the potential conflicts.
A Certification Body/Bodies will be mentioned by the applicant in the code of practices and the applicant will pay the certification body directly for certifying the GI product. The certification body will be accredited by the National Accreditation Board which examines and accredits conformity assessment bodies according to international standards.
In the case of government body applying for a GI will request the certification authority mentioned in the CoP to certify the product. The certification body will in turn forward the product to a laboratory for different type of analysis.
If the product fulfils the criteria specified by the certification body, a certificate will be issued to the government body which will be attached with the application for registration of a geographical indication.
A group of persons from the certification body will also visit the government body before granting certificate in order to ensure transparency.
Afterwards, another group of persons of the certification body will be tasked to analyse the findings of the first group of persons and decide whether to grant the certificate or not.