Blockchain and GI Tags: For Enhanced Authenticity of Products

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Written by
Shivani Tripathi
Published on
June 6, 2023

Geographical Indications (popularly abbreviated as GI Tag), the 'messiahs' of farmers, weavers, and local traders stepped into India with the "Geographical Indications of Goods Act", of 1999. Since then, plenty of government entities have advocated for an increased number of registrations; providing a glimmer of hope to communities working to maintain the authenticity of the product originating from its defined region. GI tags were introduced in India to protect and promote the unique identity and reputation of products originating from specific geographical locations within the country.

In this blog post today, we'll do a detailed analysis of the concept of GI tags, products authenticity, their history, loopholes, and blockchain's role in bringing a huge change to the same. So are you ready? Let's get started right away!

From Darjeeling Tea to Pashmina Shawls

The introduction of GI tags in India has played a crucial role in preserving traditional knowledge, trademark, promoting rural development, and protecting the cultural heritage of various regions. It has also contributed to the economic growth of the country by facilitating market access, fostering innovation, and promoting sustainable agricultural and artisanal practices.

Geographical Indication (GI) tags are a form of intellectual property rights granted to products that have a specific geographical origin and possess unique qualities or characteristics. These tags help protect the reputation and authenticity of goods originating from specific regions. In India, the GI tag system is administered by the Geographical Indications Registry under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, of 1999.

Here are some examples of products in India that have been granted GI tags:

Darjeeling Tea

Grown in the hills of Darjeeling in West Bengal, this tea is known for its unique flavor and is highly prized. The GI tag for Darjeeling tea also helps support the local economy, trademark and the livelihoods of tea growers and producers in the region. It recognizes the distinct flavor and aroma profiles of Darjeeling tea, which are attributed to factors such as the region's altitude, climate, soil, and traditional cultivation and processing methods.

Do You Know? Darjeeling Tea was the first product in India to receive a GI tag.

Kashmiri Saffron

Saffron cultivated in the Kashmir Valley is renowned for its distinct aroma, flavor, and vibrant red color. It has been granted a GI tag to protect its authenticity. The unique climatic and soil conditions of the Kashmir region, along with traditional cultivation and harvesting practices, contribute to the high-quality saffron produced there. The GI tag for Kashmiri saffron helps in preserving the heritage and promoting the economic interests of the farmers and producers in the region.

Banarasi Paan

Banarasi sarees are traditional sarees made in Varanasi (formerly known as Banaras) in Uttar Pradesh. These sarees are known for their intricate designs, rich silk fabric, and zari work. The celebrated Banarasi Paan has been awarded the prestigious GI tag, acknowledging its unique qualities derived from its place of origin. As a result, over 1,000 farmers will now be registered and granted the GI Authorized User Certificate. The Banarasi Paan, renowned for its delightful flavor, is crafted using special ingredients and prepared in a distinctive manner, further enhancing its appeal and reputation.

Banarasi Silk Sarees

Banarasi silk sarees are woven in Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Kashi, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. These sarees are renowned for their intricate weaving, luxurious silk fabric, and elaborate designs, often incorporating gold and silver threads. The GI tag ensures that only sarees produced in Varanasi and neighboring areas, following specific traditional methods and using authentic materials, can be legally marketed as Banarasi sarees.

Pashmina Shawls

Meticulously crafted by underprivileged and destitute women from Kashmir, Pashmina shawls embody the epitome of skillful artistry. Each piece is meticulously handspun and expertly woven, resulting in breathtakingly delicate and visually captivating shawls. The GI tag serves as a testament to their exceptional quality, affirming that these artistic masterpieces are intricately handcrafted using the finest Ladakhi Cashmere fibers, ranging from 12 to 16 microns in thickness, skillfully spun by local women and meticulously woven by hand.

Blue Pottery of Jaipur

Blue Pottery of Jaipur is a traditional ceramic art form characterized by its distinctive blue and white designs. It is made using a unique technique and has received a GI tag. Blue Pottery is a traditional craft of Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan in India. It is known for its distinctive blue-colored glazed pottery, which is crafted using a unique process that involves using quartz and glass powders, multani mitti (fuller's earth), and a special type of gum to create the desired shapes and designs.

These are just a few examples of the many trademark ingenious products in India that have been granted GI tags. These tags play a crucial role in promoting and protecting the traditional knowledge, skills, and heritage associated with these products.

Objectives of GI Tags in India

Geographical Indication (GI) tags were introduced in India to protect and promote the unique identity and reputation of products originating from specific geographical locations within the country. The main objectives of GI tags are:

  1. Protection of Intellectual Property: GI tags provide legal protection to products that possess specific qualities, characteristics, and reputation due to their geographical origin. It helps prevent unauthorized use of the product name, imitation, or misrepresentation by others, both within India and internationally.
  2. Preserving Cultural Heritage & Authenticity: GI tags help preserve traditional and indigenous knowledge, skills, and practices associated with the production of specific products. By recognizing and protecting the geographical origin of these products, GI tags contribute to the preservation of India's rich cultural and traditional heritage.
  3. Promoting Rural Economy: Many GI-tagged products are produced in rural areas and are often associated with traditional and artisanal practices. By providing legal protection and promoting these products, GI tags help in sustaining and enhancing the livelihoods of rural communities, empowering local producers, and boosting the rural economy.
  4. Enhancing Marketability and Exports: GI tags enhance the marketability and commercial value of the products by establishing their distinctiveness and quality. It helps create a unique brand identity for the products and promotes them both in domestic and international markets. GI tags also contribute to increasing exports by differentiating Indian products from their counterparts in other countries.
  5. Consumer Awareness and Assurance: GI tags provide assurance to consumers regarding the authenticity, quality, and distinctiveness of the products. They enable consumers to make informed choices and protect them from deceptive or inferior products claiming to be the same.
  6. Product Tracing: Each step of the supply chain, from production to distribution, can be recorded on the blockchain. This allows consumers, producers, and regulatory bodies to trace the entire journey of a product, verifying its origin and ensuring compliance with the GI standards.
Also Read: NFTs and Asset Tokenization: Understanding the Connection

Three-Fold Problems of GI Tags in India

The GI Act under scrutiny, while aimed at providing legal protection and regulation for trademarks and geographical indications (GIs), has faced criticism for several perceived shortcomings. Despite its intentions for ingenious products tracing, the Act has encountered challenges that warrant careful consideration.

Inadequate Policy Implications

The lack of comprehensive support for producers and stakeholders involved in the production and promotion of GI products may hinder the development and growth of these industries. Adequate support measures, such as funding, marketing assistance, and capacity building, are essential for maintaining and enhancing the competitiveness of GI products in the market.

Post-Production Control

Post-production control refers to the monitoring and regulation of the production, processing, and distribution of products protected by GIs. It ensures that the products meet the specific quality standards associated with their geographical origin. Without robust post-production control measures, there is a risk of unauthorized use, misrepresentation, or dilution of products carrying GIs. This can undermine the integrity of GIs and affect the livelihoods of producers who rely on the reputation and uniqueness of their regional products.

Lack of Scientific Rigor

The credibility and effectiveness of the GI system rely on the accurate identification and authentication of products based on their geographical origin and unique qualities. Without a strong scientific foundation, there is a risk of erroneous GI-tagging, which can lead to consumer confusion and undermine the integrity of the system. It is important to ensure that the GI-tagging process is based on sound scientific principles to maintain the trust and reliability of GI products in the market.

Blockchain for GI Tags: What's the Deal?

GI (Geographical Indication) tags are used to identify products that originate from a specific geographic location and possess unique qualities or characteristics due to their origin. These tags help protect the intellectual property rights associated with traditional knowledge, skills, and cultural practices of a particular region.

Blockchain technology is a decentralized and immutable ledger that records transactions and information in a transparent and secure manner. When applied to GI tags, blockchain can provide several benefits such as :

  1. Authenticity Verification: Blockchain can ensure the authenticity of GI-tagged products by creating a tamper-proof record of their origin, production processes, and supply chain. This helps consumers and authorities verify the genuineness of the product.
  2. Transparency and Traceability: Blockchain enables the recording of every transaction or event related to a GI-tagged product, from its production to distribution. This transparency allows consumers to track the entire supply chain, ensuring fair trade practices and preventing counterfeiting.
  3. Intellectual Property Protection: By integrating GI tags with blockchain, the rights of producers and communities associated with a specific geographic area can be protected. The decentralized nature of blockchain ensures that the ownership and authenticity of traditional knowledge and cultural practices are preserved.
  4. Consumer Trust: Blockchain technology can increase consumer trust by providing a transparent and auditable system for GI-tagged products. Consumers can access information about the product's origin, quality, and manufacturing processes, fostering confidence in their purchases.

While blockchain has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of GI tags, its adoption in this context is still in the early stages. Various initiatives and pilot projects have explored the integration of blockchain with GI tags in different regions, such as for wine, cheese, and handicrafts. However, the implementation and widespread adoption of blockchain for GI tags require collaboration among stakeholders, including producers, regulatory authorities, and technology providers.

Final Words

With this article, it is apparent that the integration of blockchain technology with GI tags presents a promising solution to protect and promote traditional products and cultural heritage. By leveraging the immutable and transparent nature of blockchain, producers, and consumers can have enhanced trust and confidence in the authenticity and origin of these products. The use of GI tags not only safeguards the rights of artisans and communities but also ensures that consumers receive genuine and high-quality goods.

Furthermore, the blockchain-enabled GI tag system can facilitate global trade, enabling these unique products to reach wider markets and contribute to economic growth. As we move forward, it is crucial to continue exploring and implementing innovative technologies like blockchain to preserve and celebrate our diverse cultural heritage while fostering sustainable development. Through this convergence, Banarasi Paan, Pashmina shawls, and countless other treasures of our world can continue to captivate us with their richness and authenticity for generations to come.

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