Shouldn’t a ‘geographical territory’ protect its name and earn royalty from all legal users of its famous Geographical Indication to boost its income and take legal action against misuse or IPR violation?
“Sweet news for us all. We are very happy and proud that #Bengal has been granted GI (Geographical Indication) status for Rosogolla”, tweeted CM Mamata Banerjee, recently on winning the GI for Rosogolla. She had good reasons to rejoice. For the past two years, West Bengal and Orissa had been bitterly battling to own the sweet Geographical Indication (a technical expression of what we call here Original Source Brand) of Rosogolla.
Indian State of West Bengal ideally must earn royalty from all those individuals or organisations who use the product descriptor ‘Bengali Rosogolla’ on their products and marketing communication. After all, if GI has been assigned to Bengal, it means all the heritage quality association and price distinction must be factored in with the famous Bengali sweet, therefore, the rationale to charge a royalty for every usage during a given period. If done, even if there are protests, it will garner massive revenue for the state and the welfare of its people especially workforce deployed in sweets business.
Of late, there is new interest and enthusiasm to recognise and own intellectual property rights in the form of geographical indications. GI is the distinctive territorial marker to make the federal ‘Make In India’ campaign a real success. After all, the national pride in ‘Make In India’ must pay back respect to the definite geographical territory for originating an agricultural, natural or manufactured product.
Recently Khichdi (a rice & pulses preparation) was proposed to be India’s national food. There is no doubt that it truly finds its humble yet honourable place in all food sub-cultures of India but every territory in India could also possibly fight over GI rights for Khichdi. Not only for khichdi but for all interesting original GIs, there is merit in resolving territorial or sub-cultural claims to own, protect, monetise national intangible assets. This is the larger opportunity for India hence the proposed campaign to promote GI with a slogan call like ‘Make In India’ is a must-do initiative.
Indians in different part of the country have grown up seeing and consuming their own ‘source brands’ like ‘Bikaneri Bhujia’, ‘Agra ka Petha’, ‘Aligarh Locks’ , ‘Meerut’s Scissors’, ‘Mathura’s Pede’, ‘Jalandhar’s Hockey’, ‘Kashmir’s Pashmina Shawls’ and ‘Cricket Bats’, ‘Darjeeling’s Tea’, ‘Kota Doria’, ‘Mysore Silk’, ‘Kullu Shawls’, ‘Madhubani Paintings’, ‘Malabar Pepper’, ‘Coorg Green Cardamom’, ‘Kutch Embroidery’ and several more. The GI list will be really long as more and more regions will claim their right to distinctive ‘origin’ quality marks. India has finally realised the power of ‘source branding’ in distinction marketing quite like the western capital markets.
Souvenir brand value of GIs as geographical markers of memories has been in our lives since time immemorial. Since ancient times, travellers have brought specialities from the places of origin and sold on premium. Unfortunately, we have not valued our name to the extent capitalist value their own names.
In fact, India has learnt a hard way after huge controversy & long legal war against a US company to finally win the patent of Basmati rice. Which is why it is high time now that Indians safeguard their respective village or town or cultural region’s heritage famous products. Protection of GI value will ensure quality perception, distinction and potential premiumisation.
Imagine the potential income of district Bikaner if royalty income is charged for the use of, currently generic & commoditised, expression ‘Bikaneri Bhujia’ by packaged food manufacturers and hundreds of salty snacks marketers. Besides royalty, protection of GI (IPR) for Bikaneri Bhujia by district Bikaner administration (thereby State of Rajasthan and Union of India), brand equity of ‘Bikaneri Bhujia’ will grow leading to higher margin possibility in domestic and international markets. Likewise, in all sectors of national income agriculture, services, manufacturing etc., our export revenue can be grown by stronger GI regime. However, the key to success is the corruption free and swift execution of the GI legislation.
This has enormous opportunity for brand marketers & exporters too. Remember Florida oranges or Washington State apples or California almonds price difference over other almonds e.g. Urban Platter ‘California Almonds’ @INR 1150 per Kg or Mamra Almonds @Rs 3000 per Kg over ordinary almonds @Rs 500 per Kg. Of course, there is product quality difference but ‘branding & marketing of Californian Almonds’ has helped many trademarks sell imported almonds at a price premium worldwide.
From India, we have freely distributed the asset value of ‘Yoga’ without charging the world any royalty. We continued to live with belief that knowledge & intellectual property including name grows if freely distributed. Now that we are increasingly globalised with capitalist minds and their world trade practices, it is high time we first recognise the value of our geographical territory’s name, fiercely & legislatively protect its value, and grow the value by investing in those names. Monetisation will follow soon by state legislative and executive bodies and use the royalty revenue for the protection of Indian heritage that’s locked up in our villages, craft and centuries-old culture.
Before it is further delayed, one must realise & exploit the power of fame marketing.