The 20th and 21st centuries saw a dramatic alteration in how different cultures throughout the world interacted with one another as a result of globalisation. The desire to have a particular product or artefact also grew leading to a market where products could be mass-produced and sold. While this sounds positive, it had its own negative consequences. When any object is mass-produced, the original item loses its value. This in turn not only affects the sale of such goods but also affects many families who are involved in the production of the item.
With this in mind, India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), established the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, which went into force on September 15th, 2003. The IP website defines “Geographical Indications” as “ Goods that are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refers to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country or place of origin of that product”. Such a name often carries a guarantee of quality and individuality, which is mostly due to the fact that it originated in the specified geographical place, region, or nation. Geographical indicators are considered an aspect of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under Articles 1(2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. As part of the Agreements closing the Uruguay Round of GATT talks, they are also covered by Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. 432 crafts and other products have been added to India's list of products with GI tags since 2003.
GI goods in India are given legal protection by the tag. Due of the legal protection it offers, it prohibits others from using a registered geographic indicator without permission and increases the export of Indian geographic indications. It facilitates requesting legal protection in other WTO members and aids in promoting the producers' economic prosperity. Every region is proud of something distinctive and special, and GI recognises and honours this distinctive character in relation to goods, locations, and manufacturing processes. As with trademarks, the reason for preserving these distinguishing indicators stems from the economics of information and reputation. A GI, on the other front, differs from a trademark in that a trademark is a symbol used in trade to differentiate one enterprise's products or services from those of other firms. A geographical indication, in contrast is used to identify items with distinctive features that originate in a certain geographical location.
The regulation classifies products into different categories and groups. Among the major categories are agriculture, handicrafts, natural goods, manufactured goods, textiles, etc. Among the 432 commodities, 137 are agricultural, 233 are handicrafts, and the remainder fall into other categories. Despite the greater number of handicraft products, agriculture exports and sales are on a rising trend. Darjeeling tea and basmati rice are India's two most important agricultural exports. "While Darjeeling Tea and Basmati Rice are the two popular GI-tagged agricultural products of India, which have ready markets across the globe, there are a host of GI-tagged products in various corners of the country, which have a niche but loyal customers and need to be marketed properly to reach more potential buyers,” the ministry says. According to March 2022 reports, GI-tagged items from India have found new markets in the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Bahrain, and virtual buyer-seller encounters have emerged as critical venues for improving market access. In response to the demand for 'Vocal for Local' and 'Atmanirbhar Bharat,' the Centre has been supporting trial shipments into new markets throughout the world through the Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA). To establish an export centre, the government has prioritised integrating farmer-producer organisations (FPOs), food-producer corporations (FPCs), and exporters with worldwide business groups. With the help of APEDA, the Center has been organising buyer-seller meetings, conducting awareness-building workshops, and promoting the distinctive GI Products from the North Eastern Region, such as Manipur Black Rice (Chak-Hao), Manipur Kachai Lemon, Mizo Chilli, Arunachal Orange, Meghalaya Khasi Mandarin, Assam Kaji Nemu, Karbi Anglong Ginger, Joha Rice, and Tripura Queen Pineapple. For the marketing of APEDA planned goods, VBSMs were organised from April 2020 to March 2021 with prospective importing nations such the UAE, Indonesia, Kuwait, Iran, Thailand, Bhutan, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and others. The export of goods with GI tags received special attention.
While GIs are performing well in the agriculture sector, one must not overlook the fact that India has a range of handicrafts that can be exported and a broad market for the same may be established if promoted effectively. The tremendous danger that counterfeit handicrafts and handlooms posed to the livelihoods of thousands of craftsmen was one of the reasons the GI Act went into force in 2003. Fake Pashmina shawls, carpets, sarees, jewellry, and even Ganesha statues with oddly shaped eyes were flooding the Indian market from both inside and outside the nation. With about seven million individuals, the handicraft industry is one of the most significant in India. From woodware, art metal wares to handprinted textiles,jewellry and glasswares, the nation produces a wide range of items. Female craftsmen account for more than 56% of the entire artisan population in India. There are 744 handicraft clusters in the country, employing about 212,000 craftspeople and selling over 35,000 goods. Among the prominent clusters are Surat, Bareilly, Varanasi, Agra, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Chennai, and Mumbai. The majority of manufacturing facilities are located in rural and small towns, and there is significant market potential in all Indian cities and internationally.
Because of its uniqueness and beauty, demand for Indian handcraft items has steadily increased in overseas markets. India's top handicraft export destinations include the United States, the United Kingdom, Latin America, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland. The United States is the leading purchaser of Indian handicrafts, accounting for 38% of total exports in 2020-21. The United States is a major purchaser of handprinted fabrics, zari woods, embroidered products, counterfeit jewellery, and shawls. Carpet exports to the United States were valued at more than $1.2 billion in 2021-22. The United Kingdom buys artwork, crocheted products, handcrafted handicrafts, wood wares, and imitation jewellery from India. The nation has also been a significant importer of handmade carpets from India. UAE has a significant market for handprinted fabrics, embroidered products, and art metalware. In addition to buying carpets for US$116.64 million in 2021–22, Germany is also known for buying handprinted textiles, imitation jewellery, needlework goods, and art metals.
One interesting handicraft to study is jewellery. Due to the rising popularity of jewellery, it is now simpler to sell low-cost imitations of expensive pieces that are only accessible to a select few. Although the market for jewellery grows as a result, traditional craftspeople are also impacted. The traditional motifs have been passed down from generation to generation and are firmly ingrained in the cultural identities of several groups that originate from diverse regions of the nation. Some well-known examples are the Meenakari jewellery that Raja Mansingh of Rajasthan introduced. The Mughals popularised jadau jewellery, which consists of gold decorations beaded with semiprecious stones and crystals. A simialr kind of traditional craft can also be found in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Kutch regions along with Temple jewellery from Tamil Nadu, Filigree jewellery from Kashmir, Tarakasi, etc which can be dated to as early as 5000 years back. They are classified as TCEs by WIPO, which stands for traditional cultural expressions. These forms of jewellery do not qualify for copyright protection since they lack a single owner, originality, and a specified date of production. GI is quite useful for collectively protecting the indication for an indefinite duration of time of such goods. Because of the nature of GI, only approved members of that specific community are permitted to make the aforementioned items, which if done by others would be an infringement under Section 22 of the Geographical Indications Act, 1999. However, there have been several loopholes in the past regarding the registration of jewellery under GI. These awards were awarded without making the appropriate linkages and interconnections between the article and its source of origin. To provide one example, the silver filigree from Karimnagar that was registered in 2006 had information in the journal that did not accurately reflect the features of quality, characteristics, or reputation of its point of origin. Likewise in 2007, the registration of temple jewellery in Nagercoil omits certain precise information that would have shown its connection to the origin, despite indicating that the majority of items were bought from Chennai-sourced raw materials. To protect jewellry under GIs, one would thus need to look more closely and segregate its components into distinct pieces and get the necessary legal recognition.