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The Politicization Of The US Patent System

The Washington Post story, How patent reform’s fraught politics have left USPTO still without a boss (July 30), is a vivid account of how patent reform has divided the US economy, preempting a possible replacement for David Kappos who stepped down 18 months ago. The division is even bigger than portrayed. Universities have lined up en masse to oppose reform, while main street businesses that merely use technology argue for reform. Reminiscent of the partisan divide that has paralyzed US politics, this struggle crosses party lines and extends well beyond the usual inter-industry debates. Framed in terms of combating patent trolls through technical legal fixes, there lurks a broader economic concern – to what extent ordinary retailers, bank, restaurants, local banks, motels, realtors, and travel agents should bear the burden of defending against patents as a cost of doing business.


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    Seeking GI Protection For Feni, An Indian Brew With A Strong Whiff

    Published on 9 April 2008 @ 2:27 pm

    Intellectual Property Watch

    By Frederick Noronha for Intellectual Property Watch
    GOA, INDIA – Feni, liquor distilled from cashew apple, is a traditional drink from a small state. Centuries after it was first used in its native Goa, the alcohol is seeking to branch into new markets and attract more drinkers. Officials here believe the geographical indication route could hold promise, an effort that appears to reflect an awakening in India of the economic possibilities in exclusive intellectual property rights.

    A geographical indication (GI) gives exclusive right to a region (town, province or country) to use a name for a product with certain characteristics that corresponds to their specific location. GIs are currently the focus of some debate at the high-level negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

    Goa is a 3,700-square kilometre former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. Less than five centuries ago, the Portuguese brought in the cashew plant here from Brazil.

    Today, Goa is the only known place that uses the low-value cashew apple to churn out a strong-flavoured, unique-tasting alcoholic brew. Cashew apple nectar is fermented, then heated in a cauldron and the condensation collected.

    Warwick University principal investigator Dwijen Rangnekar leads a project on Localising Economic Control through GIs. In Goa, they are working on Feni.

    He explains: “As evident from products like champagne, Scotch whiskey and tequila, GIs focus on the triple relationship between a product, its special qualities and the geographical territory of origin.”

    Proponents of GIs argue that it can act as a “tool for development,” a means of promoting rural development, and even a tool to gain market access.

    Likewise, GIs can preserve local know-how and natural resources – thus preventing the standardisation of food, contributing to social cohesion, and playing a positive role on local and national identity.

    GIs in India

    Rangnekar said geographical indications are a recent intellectual property right, introduced by the 1994 WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). In December 1999, the Indian Parliament passed the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act. GIs are administered by the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks who is also the Registrar of Geographical Indications, in Chennai, South India.

    Under Indian law, a GI originates from a definite geographical territory and can be used to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods. Manufactured goods should be produced or processed or prepared in that territory. Any GI-designated product should have a special quality or reputation or other characteristics.

    “So far some 61 products have come up to claim GIs in India,” India’s Director of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion T C James told Intellectual Property Watch.

    He said these include the famed Darjeeling tea, traditional textile items from different parts of India, and a number of agricultural products that were known to come from particular regions.

    India’s government has put out a list of “examples of possible Indian geographical indications,” including Basmati rice, the Kanchipuram silk saree, the Alphonso mango from coastal western India, the Nagpur orange, traditional leather-based footwear Kolhapuri chappal, and savoury snacks like the Bikaneri Bhujia and Agra Petha.

    Any association of persons, producers, organisation or authority can apply for a GI in India. The applicant must represent the interest of producers. Once granted, GIs are valid for 10 years, and then need renewal. Registration is seen as “affording better legal protection to facilitate an action for infringement,” a background paper from the University of Warwick argued.

    The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) attests that geographical indications are “understood by consumers to denote the origin and the quality of products.”

    Many of them have acquired valuable reputations which, if not adequately protected, may be misrepresented by dishonest commercial operators, says WIPO.

    Challenges for Feni Supporters

    But more than the GI issue, in Goa, Feni is fighting a battle for survival on economic and other grounds. It faces sharp competition from other factory-crafted liquors, problems of adulteration, and the poor price its small-time distiller gets for it.

    “There was nobody to lay down standards, and nobody to test the standards” in the case of Feni, said Air Commander (Retd) P K Pinto of the Goa Chambers of Commerce and Industry. GCCI has played a key role in lobbying since 2001 for a GI for Feni.

    One of the biggest problems is Feni’s classification as a “country liquor” by the official Excise authorities. This means it cannot be legally exported to other states of India, placing the odds against it, especially in times of growing market competition from other liquors.

    Feni has long been considered a “poor man’s” drink, though now tourists and visitors have taken to it. The question remains whether GIs will come to the rescue of such products. Tiny Goa is still struggling to get the application process right.

    Frederick Noronha may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. Siva Palayathan says:

      Very interesting article. this is a very good example of how IPR can help “small men and women” as well as traditional production rise and thrive in the midst of industrial enterprises iwth greater clout in the same sector. Africa very much need an inventory list like India. This is practical and far from the usual semantic and rhetorical squabblings. Can anybody possibly help push such an gaenda in favour of poor Africa in a systematic and coherent manner? Thanks in advance.

    2. Swarup Kumar says:

      Dear Sirs,

      The comments made and the issues raised in this piece are commendable.

      In fact, India is among the few developing countries, which has raised its toast for this relatively newer variant of intellectual property right and went ahead with registration of geographical indications of Indian origin including, geographical indications like Darjeeling for tea, Alphonso for mangoes, Pochampalli Ikat for textiles, Chanderi for sarees, Kancheepuram silk for textiles, Kashmir Pashmina for shawls, Kondapalli for toys, Mysore for agarbattis and Assam for the golden-yellow Muga silk.

      However, merely registration of GIs does not necessarily ensure the survival of the unique products in the back drop of commercialization and Industrialization. Goan Feni is a case in point. What has to be ensured essentially by the authorities is that such unique products do not loose their niche market and are protected against anti-competitions. Further, the role of advertisements and organization of trade fairs cannot be ruled out as well.

      On the part of the group/region which has succeeded in securing GI protection, they have to ensure that the exclusive quality of their product which enabled them to achieve the status, should under no circumstance be compromised. Since GI in contradistinction to trademarks and patents is a community right, the group of people from particular region owning the rights have to ensure that the basic intrinsic quality of their product is not lost of diluted.

      Best Regards,

      Swarup

    3. v.Dinesh says:

      your way of informing the people about geographical indicators is fantastic. can you just reply the disputes that are going on between WIPO and INDIA.i am waiting for your reply sir.


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

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    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

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