Due to the lack of Geographical Indication (GI) legislation, Pakistan has not been able to get premium of its GIs in international market and protect the products legally that have been usurped there, such as Paul Smiths Peshawari Chappal, Moroccan Ajrak and California Basmati. Official sources revealed to Business Recorder that currently there is no GI law in Pakistan, although a lot of products have the potential to be protected under the GI regime, including products such as Basmati rice, kinnow, mango, cutlery, Ajrak, etc.
Geographical Indications (GIs) identify 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 recognition and protection of these products through legislation allows the community of producers to get a fair value of their commodities while preserving their unique identity. However, due to the lack of GI legislation, Pakistan has not been able to get premium of its GIs in international market and legally protect the products that have been usurped there, such as Paul Smiths Peshawari Chappal, Moroccan Ajrak and California Basmati.
To harness the potential benefits of the GI system for exports and protect unique Pakistani products, an early and effective GI legislation in line with the best global practices is required in the country.
Sources said that in order to protect unique Pakistani products, Ministry of Commerce and Textile with prior approval from the federal Cabinet drafted the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Bill 2019 after having a series of consultations with different stakeholders from the public and private sectors. The proposed bill has also been vetted by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
After getting permission from the Prime Minister being minister-in-charge of the Commerce Division, the summary along with the draft Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Bill 2019 has been submitted to the Cabinet Division for presenting it before the Cabinet Committee for Disposal of Legislative cases.
Member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and signatories of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement need to give protection to GIs under Article 22-24 of the TRIPS agreement. Unless Pakistan provides GI protection, it cannot obtain the same for its own goods in other member states that have the GI Law.
The proposed legislation is required to promote "made in Pakistan" products while ensuring products' quality standards (Basmati Rice, Sargodha Kinnow, Sindhi Ajrak, Peshawari Chappal etc).
To claim exclusive GI registration of basmati rice, the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan has long been demanding the government to enact sui generis GI law as Indian basmati rice has been fetching more prices in the European market as compared to the same products of Pakistan. Sui generis GI law is essential to trade in the EU market and to prevent Pakistani products from being re-packaged and re-designed by international market and sold at higher prices with their own brand.