The Geographical Indications (GI) Registry has ruled that “there is no illegality in granting the tag for the prestigious product, Darjeeling Tea,” while dismissing a rectification petition seeking to remove the mark.

In its order, the GI Registry said: “Unless a geographical indication is protected in the country of its origin, there is no obligation for other countries to extend reciprocal protection. There is no illegality in granting the GI tag for the prestigious agricultural product, Darjeeling Tea.”

The geographical indication for Darjeeling Tea was registered in October, 2004. The GI registry has published the matter in its journal as per the procedure; the present petition for rectification was filed by Rajeev Saraf of New Delhi five years after the registration.

Seeking the removal of the Darjeeling Tea tag in the Register of the Geographical Indications, Mr. Saraf claimed that he was a user of various kinds of tea and faulted the examining process of the registration. He alleged that the Tea Board had no locus standi to file the application. Being a representative of stakeholders in Darjeeling tea export was not a qualification to become the proprietor of the registration and the registration contravened Section 11 of the Trademark Act. Further, the rectification applicant stated that the Tea Board was a commercial incorporation, not a non-profit body and the board did not have the authority to set the Act in motion.

However, the Tea Board vehemently opposed his application contending that the applicant had not given any reason as to why the rectification petition was filed after almost five years of registration.

The board said the extensive steps it had taken, including obtaining statutory protection for the ‘Darjeeling’ mark, have been central to the continued recognition, preservation and repute of ‘Darjeeling’ as a geographical indication within the country and abroad.

Upholding the registration, Chinnaraja G. Naidu, Assistant Registrar of Geographical Indications Registry, said the applicant was granted sufficient opportunity at the hearing, but he did not even turn up for the hearing and wasted the precious time of the tribunal by filing a playful application to harass the registered proprietor — the Tea Board.

Dismissing the application as a gross misuse of process of law, Mr. Naidu said the applicant was not entitled to gain relief and directed Mr. Saraf to pay Rs. 10,000 toward cost within a month.

He added that Geographical Indications was in the nature of collective community rights and the protection of a geographical indication has significant economic and social implications for a developing country like India, while at the same time protecting the cultural heritage represented by India’s wealth of well-known geographical indications.