|The 'Sandur Lambani Embroidery' has joined the elite group of 'Darjeeling Tea', 'Mysore Silk', 'Kancheepuram Silk', 'Banaras Sarees and Brocades' and 'Feni'. It was granted the status of 'Registered Geographical Indications' on Sept. 03, 2010, by Shri. P.H. Kurian, I.A.S., Registrar of Geographical Indications. The Geographical Indications (GI) is one of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) under the Indian laws, just like patents, trademarks, designs, etc.
With this registration, about 300 craftswomen of the Lambani tribe located in and around Sandur (a taluk in Bellary district, which was earlier a princely state) will benefit by this GI Registration. 'Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra' (SKKK), a NGO supported and promoted by Sandur Manganese and Iron Ore Ltd. (SMIORE) and The Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation (KSHDC) running its business activities under the trade name 'Cauvery', together have jointly supported the GI endeavour. The legal assistance and expertise was provided by the author of this article.
Sandur Lambani Embroidery is unique not only because of its stitches but also because of the natural dyeing and printing which is done by these craftswomen. The print design used in printing which has been influenced by the elements of nature, makes this GI look different and unique than the other Lambani craft groups.
The artisans of 'Sandur Lambani Embroidery' can now encash on this GI as its unique selling proposition (USP) in various marketing and advertising activities in India and abroad. Further, any organisation or individual interested in taking the benefit of GI Registration of 'Sandur Lambani Embroidery', will now have to register themselves as an 'Authorised User' under the GI laws. Else, it would be considered as 'illegal' to sell these handicrafts under the name of the said GI. Such 'unauthorised' use will result in a jail term ranging from 6 (six) months to 3 (three) years or paying a fine between Rs. 50,000- and Rs. 3 lakh.
The GI Registry encourages the producer groups themselves to come forward for such community registration. The actual producers / farmers / artisans, if not members of a formal group, can first form a legal entity such as a society or an association of persons, to avail the benefits of the GI registration. Due to the interest taken by some forward thinking Bureaucrats and certain Government Officials, several government bodies have come forward and have been granted registration of GIs in our state such as The Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation Ltd., the Department of Horticulture, Govt. of Karnataka, The Commissioner for Textile Development and Director of Handlooms and Textiles, Govt. of Karnataka, etc.
Karnataka, is the leading state in the number of Registered GIs (so far about 31 have been registered and Sandur Lambani Embroidery is Karnataka's 29th GI). Some of the GIs which are already registered in Karnataka are: Channapatna Toys and Dolls, Bidriware, Mysore Rosewood Inlay, Mysore Traditional Paintings, Kasuti Embroidery, Ilkal Saris, Navalgund Durries, Ganjifa Cards, Karnataka Bronzeware and Molakalmuru Saris. The rest relate to agricultural and horticultural products, most famous of them being Coorg Orange, Nanjanagud Banana, Mysore Jasmine, Monsooned Malabar Arabica Coffee, etc.
In spite the efforts made by the State Government and Government Agencies, there is not much awareness in the state regarding the already Registered GIs and post registration activities.
Under the Post - GI registration activities, to take benefit of this USP, the users of the Registered GIs have to register themselves as 'Authorised User' with Geographical Indications Registry, Chennai. Under the GI laws, the 'Authorised User' has to adhere to quality parameters that are proposed and implemented by the Registered Proprietor in order to use the GI tag, failing which, he cannot sell or market his product using the GI tag or name.
Hence, it would be in the business interest of the users, including individual producers / traders to apply for the GI 'Authorised User' tag and take full benefits thereof.
As on date, about 178 GIs have been registered and the Registry has received 385 GI Applications and the number is still counting. In India, every 10 kms. has a unique product whether it be an agricultural or horticultural produce or a handicraft item or a handloom or a food product. It is estimated that there are more than 5,000 GIs in India and we can surely surpass the number of products registered under the EU laws which are about 6000+. Few of the well known products from EU are Scotch Whisky, Feta Cheese, Champagne, Parma Ham, etc.
The main object of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 is three fold: Firstly, a specific law governs the GIs of goods in the country, which adequately protects the interest of producers of such goods; Secondly, to exclude unauthorised persons from misusing GIs and to protect consumers from deception and thirdly, to promote goods bearing Indian GIs in the export market." Thus, the GI registration helps in ensuring to maintain quality, reputation and uniqueness of the Registered GI Products.
Therefore, GI is a strong branding exercise if the GI user understands its long term implications. It is like a certification given for the product that it satisfies certain quality parameters and standards. 'Darjeeling Tea' is a classic example of how the whole community of 87 tea gardens have benefited from GI registration. Before registration, many countries were selling 'Darjeeling Tea' deceptively even when the tea was not procured from these specifically outlined gardens. The Tea Board of India moved in very quickly as soon as the GI law viz., 'The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999' was notified in the year 2003 and it became the proud owner of the first GI in India. Thereafter, to secure its rights and to stop deceptive marketing activities abroad, it took protection under GI laws in many countries.
Accordingly, if the Indian GI Registered products are being exported, to other countries, in order to prevent any counterfeit selling, it is important that the registered proprietor also seeks protection in such international markets. Most applicants hesitate to register such IPRs due to cost factors. However, an intelligent seller will probably look at it as a 'business investment' and not as a 'business expense' as he can then sell these registered GI products under a PREMIUM due to its genuineness, quality and authenticity.
Once the consumers are aware that they are buying a product which is GI registered, they will be able to appreciate the genuineness of the product from the exact source. In turn, they are encouraging not only the genuine sales but also supporting artisans / farmers get their rightful due. Such sensitisation can keep the arts and crafts alive. Thus an image of 'exoticness' is created around the product and these are presented as 'sparingly' available. Accordingly, this enables the producers to obtain premium prices for products that would otherwise be ascribed as mere commodities. This helps to eradicate counterfeit and imitations.
It is estimated that India is sitting on a wealth house of billions of rupees if it rightly exploits its GIs domestically and internationally. The point is how much is India ready with these handmade offerings, as they painstakingly take more time and effort. We need to gear up our artisans and farmers as quickly as possible before all this GI related activity loses its shine.