A scientist from Kerala has moved the Supreme Court challenging the grant of Indian patent for ‘Tirupati laddu’ with the tag of ‘Geographical Indication’ (a temple offering). R.S. Praveen Raj, working in the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, sent a letter in this regard to Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan with a request that it might be treated as a writ petition.

He said the matter was about “the prejudice caused to Article 25 of the Constitution and the violation of Sections 9(d), 11 and 9(a) of the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 in the action by the Controller-General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, Government of India and the Registrar of Geographical Indications to register Tirupati Laddu as “goods’ under the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

Mr. Raj said he was concerned at the potential devastation to the country “that is likely to happen if private appropriation of religious symbols is allowed.”

The conferment of the GI tag on Tirupati laddu would ban others from making and marketing laddus under the same name. “The GI status gives the Tirumala laddus a built-in legal protection and makes any infringement of the rights an offence.”

According to him, the “GI Act is meant for the protection of ‘Goods’ only and the Act defines ‘Goods’ as any agricultural, natural or manufactured goods or any goods of handicraft or of industry. Food stuff is also included in the definition under Section 2(1)(f) of the GI Act provided that such food stuff can be stocked, preserved and sold as goods.”

“Tirupati laddu cannot be classified as one among agricultural goods, natural goods or handicraft, leaving an option to schedule it under industrial goods. But it is quite hard for devotees to believe that temple offerings are equivalent to manufactured goods or commercially significant commodities.”

Mr. Raj said: “Allowing GI registration of goods produced by private entities would defeat the spirit of GI protection, which is meant for protecting, preserving and promoting collective community rights as opposed to private monopoly rights growth. The GI tag on Tirupati laddu also passes a wrong message to the public that temple prasadams are akin to ‘industrial goods’.”

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