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The process to get Geographic Indication (GI) registration of two famous Bangladeshi products, Comilla’s dessert Rasmalai and textile Khadi, has started. Comilla Deputy Commissioner Jahangir Alam has said the district administration has chosen the products and started to find their original producer. “We have started discussions with the producers,” he told bdnews24.com on February 14th.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a Geographical Indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a particular geographic origin, possess, qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. GI indication of goods acts as the “claim to fame” for a state. The members of the World Trade Organization signed the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement in 1994. The TRIPS agreement introduced intellectual property law into the international trading system for the first time and remains the most comprehensive international agreement on intellectual property to date.
Though TRIPS requires WTO members to provide copyright rights, including that related to GI, Bangladesh made the GI law – the Geographical Indicative Products (Registration and Protection) Act – in 2013. A GI policy was formulated in line with the law after another two years. Later, measures were taken to protect the ownership of traditional ‘Jamdani’ saree’s intellectual property. Now the steps have been extended to ‘Rasmalai’ and ‘Khadi’.
A letter from Assistant Commissioner Merina Sultana at the Comilla DC’s office has been issued, announcing the decision to have the two products as geographically indicative ones. ‘Rasmalai’ maker Matri Bhandar and ‘Khadi’ manufacturers were called to the DC’s office to discuss the matter on 13th February.
Brothers Khanindra Sen and Manindra Sen opened the sweets shop Matri Bhandar in Comilla’s Monoharpur in 1930. Now their descendants run the main shop, though shops with similar names are aplenty in the district. Many of the locals believe this shop is the origin of ‘Rasmalai’.
Comilla traditionally produces ‘Khadi’, a textile which was being exported along with world famous ‘Muslin’. Comilla’s Chandina is one of the places famous for handspun and hand-woven ‘Khadi’ or ‘Khaddar’ for a long time. The product became a symbol of the Swadeshi Movement during the British rule of the undivided India to boycott foreign products. A handloom used by Mahatma Gandhi is still there. Many weavers are now involved in the production of ‘Khadi’. Asked how the original producer will be determined from them, a district administration official told bdnews24.com: “The oldest ‘Khadi’ manufacturers are in Chandina. We are scrutinising them.”
DPDT Sub-Registrar (Patent and Design) Saidur Rahman has said the process to register Hilsha and several other products were under way. He told bdnews24.com that the DCs across Bangladesh are finding their corresponding districts’ products following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s order.
A DPDT official, requesting anonymity, said the department would issue the registration for ‘Rasmalai’ and ‘Khadi’ after checking the products to be sent by Comilla district administration. He also said Netrokona’s ‘Sadamati’, Kataribhog’ and ‘Kalijira’ rice, Rajshahi’s mango, and several other products were also being scrutinised for GI registration.
The Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) is the authority tasked with issuing GI registration.
Following an application from Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), ‘Jamdani’ saree became the first product to get GI registration in November last year.
Author: Abin T Sam, Jr.Patent Associate at Khurana & Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys.