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Plea filed in apex court against GI tag for Tirupati Laddu

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Vinson Kurian

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 2 A public interest petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking ‘suo motu’ action against the grant of intellectual property right (IPR) protection to ‘Tirupati Laddu,’ which is a temple offering.

The petitioner is Mr R.S. Praveen Raj, scientist at the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, responsible for IPR management and technology transfer, among others.

Earlier, Mr Raj worked as Examiner of Patents and Designs at the Chennai branch of the Patent Office.

PREJUDICE CAUSED

Registering Tirupati Laddu as ‘goods’ under the Geographical Indication (GI) of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, has caused prejudice to Article 25 of the Constitution and violation of Section 9(d), Section 11 and Section 9(a) of the GI act, Mr Raj submitted.

He also voiced concern about the danger involved in the ‘private appropriation’ of ‘religious symbols’ and ‘divine indicators.’

The distinct flavour and deliciousness of the laddus made the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), administrators of the Lord Venkateswara Temple, go in for exclusive rights.

A range of rich spices like saffron, refined camphor, cashew nuts, dry grapes, cardamom and ghee go into their making.

The GI Act is meant only for protection of goods and the act defines ‘goods’ as any agricultural, natural or manufactured goods or any goods of handicraft or of industry.

Food stuff also is included in the definition under Section 2(1) (f) provided such food stuff can be stocked, preserved and sold as ‘goods’.

But Tirupati Laddu cannot be classified as an agricultural good, nor a natural good or a handicraft, leaving the option to schedule it only 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 the 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.

However, exclusive rights for ‘products of creative mind’ are being allowed as IPR with reasonable restrictions, only because it is essential for industrial growth. No industrial purpose is served by the grant of ‘goods’ status to a temple offering, Mr Raj submitted.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 3, 2009)
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