Increase in coir products trade in and outside the country might often be laid at the doors of GI registration though it was not a major issue to be factored into the business of coir exports

What do Palakkad madhalam, Scotch whisky and Banarasi sari have in common? They have been united under the Geographical Indications Registration (GIR), a unique form of recognition of Intellectual Property Rights under the World Trade Organisation.

Madhalams are hand-held drums, the best of which are made in the Palakkad district of Kerala. They are a must in Kathakali ensemble, an integral part of Kerala’s culture just as Scotch whisky cannot be left out of a discussion on alcoholic drinks anywhere in the world.

However, the jury is still out on the benefits of GIR. Products ranging from silk sarees of Banaras to coir from Alappuzha; pineapple from Vazhakkulam in Kerala to chaddhar (bedsheets and spreads) from Sholapur in Maharashtra have had varying experiences.

The Chennamangalam Handloom Weavers’ Society was pleasantly surprised to see that the GI registration for its double mundu and set mundu roused so much interest in the Unites States that a group of expatriate Malayalis placed an order worth more than Rs. 3 lakh for the products immediately after the GI registration.

The secretary of the Society P. A. Sojan is hopeful that the art and craft of making dhotis in Chennamangalam’s unique way will get a new lease of life under the WTO regime, which recognises the traditions of production based on knowledge passed through generations to communities of artisans or agriculturists.

However, a senior official of the Coir Board says that GI registration has not taken Aleppey coir anywhere. The product was the second from Kerala to get GI recognition (2006). The official told a workshop on post-GI registration for selected craft indications of Kerala in the city on Thursday that coir product-makers did not warm to the idea of a generic recognition like Aleppey coir.

Increase in coir products trade in and outside the country might often be laid at the doors of GI registration though it was not a major issue to be factored into the business of coir exports, he said. Coir products exporters appeared to want GI recognition for their individual products.

The experience of Pochampally ikat tie-and-dye saris has entirely been different, said P. Nayak, Secretary of the Textiles Committee under the Union Ministry of Textiles. He told the session on Thursday that Pochampally sari-makers have increased their income by about 30 per cent since the GI Registration was received for the centuries-old ikat tradition.

So, said Dr. Nayak, Geographical Indications Registration helps provide a high level of protection to products and produce through its recognition of Intellectual Property Rights, which is different from both copyright and patents.

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