Jan 2, 2009

Business - India objects to Pakistan’s move over Basmati rice

Sandeep Joshi

NEW DELHI: India has strongly objected to Pakistan allowing its farmers’ organisation to register basmati as a trademark. Apart from moving the Sindh High Court, India has decided to put on hold all initiatives with Pakistan for a joint registration of ‘Geographical Indication’ (GI) for basmati rice in Europe, accusing its neighbour of breach of trust.

Talking to The Hindu here, Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh confirmed that the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), under the Commerce and Industry Ministry, had moved the court Sindh High Court in Pakistan against the trademark right given by the Registrar of Trademark, Karachi, to Basmati Growers Association of Lahore, for Basmati rice.

Informing that the case would come up for hearing later this month, Mr. Ramesh said this is a serious breach of trust and unethical on part of Pakistani authorities to take such a step when India and Pakistan were talking to jointly market Basmati and apply for its intellectual property rights (IPR). “We have now decided to put on hold joint registration of GI for Basmati in Europe for which the Commerce Ministries on both sides had formed a joint working group (JWG),” he said.

Mr. Ramesh said the JWG had already held two meetings; the last one being at Islamabad a couple of months ago where Pakistan had suggested that 2009 be observed as ‘Year of Basmati.’ The third meeting was planned in India in the next few months, which has now been put on hold.

“We have now decided to actively safeguard our special agricultural products worldwide through APEDA that has been recently empowered by passage of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2008, aimed at protecting IPR of special agricultural products including Basmati,” he added.

Leads to mistrust

The Minister further said such acts of Pakistan only lead to mistrust between trading community of both nations and create obstacles in the growth of Indo-Pak trade. “We have already decided not to actively pursue issues related to commerce and trade till Pakistan hands over culprits of Mumbai terror attacks. If Pakistan wants better relations with us, it will have to act fast against all those working against India’s interest,” he added.

Talking about the new Bill, Mr. Ramesh said it would help protect IPR of special agricultural products and check misuse of famous products and brands from trademark infringement by foreign traders and manufacturers.

Recalling the famous cases of copying Basmati brand by the U.S. firms by naming rice grown in Texas as ‘Taxmati’ and in Kansas as ‘Kansmati’ which were successfully contested by the Indian Government, Mr. Ramesh said APEDA would immediately take up the case of Basmati rice and file applications for registration of trademarks or grant of patent.

“Similarly, APEDA would also take up cases related to other special agricultural products like Ponni rice grown in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Nagpur oranges, Hyderabadi ‘biryani’ and Benarasi ‘paan’,” informed Mr. Ramesh, adding that APEDA has already managed to get GI for 104 products, starting from Darjeeling tea in 2003.


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