Geographical Indication In Context Of The Rasgulla Controversy

‘Geographical Indication’ refers to a sign which is used on products possessing some qualities, characteristics, reputation attributable to the geographical origin. There needs to be a clear link between the product and the place of production. The Act providing protection to Geographical Indications (GI) in India is The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

On the basis of nature, the products obtaining a GI tag can be divided into 4 categories:

  1. Agricultural: For e.g. Darjeeling Tea from West Bengal;
  2. Handicraft: For e.g. Chanderi Sarees from Madhya Pradesh;
  3. Manufactured: For e.g. Mysore Sandal Soap from Karnataka; and
  4. Food Stuff: For e.g. Bikaneri Bhujia from Rajasthan.

The Article hereby deals with the recent tiff between the States of Odisha and West Bengal over the origin of the ever-popular sweet dish- ‘Rasgulla’. In the year 2017, the GI registry of Chennai gave West Bengal the GI status to ‘Banglar Rasogolla’ in furtherance of an application filed on the behalf of the West Bengal State Food Processing and Horticulture Development Corporation Limited (WSFPHDCL) for obtaining such status. Recently, the GI tag was also given to the State of Odisha for the ‘Odisha Rasagola’, which is claimed to be produced in a village of Odisha named Pahala.

Despite the fact that the GI tag has been provided to both the States for the same sweet dish, there exists a lot of dissimilarities between the two dishes, the differences have been highlighted in the table mentioned below

Basis of Differentiation
Banglar Rasogulla
Odisha Rasagola
Claimed date of origin
The 1860s
12th century
Historical Background
The Rasogulla was first made by Nobin Chandra Das in Kolkata, which he later popularized in India.
The Rasagola was used as an offering in the temple of Lord Jagannath
Colour
White in color
Light Brown in color
Texture
Spongy
Soft
Taste
Sweet in taste
Not very sweet in taste </div

The Registrar of the Chennai GI office gave the GI tag to the Banglar Rasogulla of West Bengal. The judgment was delivered in this manner mainly due to the reason that the registrar was satisfied with the registrability of the product possessing uniqueness and created keeping the old age traditions of the state in mind. This was objected by the State of Odisha on the basis that the dish had originated in the State of Odisha. But the same was not accepted by the registrar and objections were not raised by the state in accordance with the terms of the act, making the application not maintainable in nature.

Later an application was filed in 2018, by the Odisha Small Industries Corporation Limited (OSIC Ltd.) and Utkal Mistanna Byabasayee Samiti on the behalf of the State of Odisha. On 29th July 2019, the registrar granted the GI tag to the State of Odisha on ‘Odisha Rasagola’. The judgment provided a wider interpretation of law laid down under the aforesaid Act of 1999. Section 2(e) of the Act speaks that geographical indication can be provided to a good if the quality, characteristic, or reputation of the good is attributable to the geographical origin and is unique in nature. The uniqueness of the Odisha Rasagola can be majorly seen in its color, texture, and taste. The color of the Rasagola is brown and it is soft and tender. Additionally, it is not very sweet in taste. All these characteristics make the Odisha Rasagola unique in nature. Furthermore, the geographical origin of the dish can be seen in the historic texts of Odisha where the reference about the Rasagola sweet dish has been given by the writers, making it attributable to this place.

Hence, it can be said that the registrar is justified in granting separate GI tags for the same dish to two different States for their respective style of the ever-favorite Rasagola owing to its quality and characteristics. The step is appropriate in protecting the interests of the producers of the foodstuff of both the states. Furthermore, the distinction of both the products protects the consumers from deception as well and ensures economic prosperity for both the states. Additionally, these different names and differentiation ensure that no homonymous conflict arises in the future between the two parties. Thus, the step of providing the GI tag to the State of Odisha in 2019 was appropriate and correct in nature.

Author: Ram Sharma, 3rd Year – B.A.L.L.B.(Hons.) student of Symbiosis Law School, an intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at niharika@khuranaandkhurana.com.

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