India: Significance And Challenges Of Protection To Traditional Fashion Under Geographical Indications

Last Updated: 18 July 2017
Article by Aprajita Nigam

Any contemporary colloquy on 'Fashion' is generally founded on a surmise that the discussion conjuncts to modern fashion apparels and products, the designs created by celebrated designers, design houses or even nascent, but modern fashion designers. We largely associate fashion with what is displayed at ramps across the world, from New York to Tokyo and London to Delhi. Fashion, however, is not confined to its modern form. It also envelops the traditional fabrics, styles of clothing, textiles, dresses, etc., which have been manufactured since hundreds of years, not in premium design houses but by local handloom weavers, knitters and other kind of expert workers employing their traditional production methods. Traditional dresses are regarded highly and are combined with modern fashion to create beautiful, colorful and distinctive designer garments.[1] From Pashmina of Kashmir to Kancheepuram Silk of Tamil Nadu, and from Surat Zari of Gujarat to Muga Silk of Assam, India is a land of traditional fashion assets, which hold high economic value in not just national market, but international market as well.

For protection of traditional fashion, 'Geographical Indication' (GI) has features that effectively respond to the needs of indigenous and local weavers, knitters and designers. It indicates that a particular product originates or is manufactured in a specific country, region or locality and embraces some special characteristics, qualities or reputation attributable to such place of origin or manufacture. These special characteristics may be resultant of various factors such as climate, geography, methods of manufacture, concentration of similar businesses in the same region or specialization in the production or preparation of certain products and maintaining of certain quality standards.[2] GIs are jointly owned by communities working in similar business in the same region and accentuate the relationship between human efforts, traditions, culture, land resources and environment.[3] Principally, they perform three chief functions: (i) identifying fashion goods as originating from or manufactured in a particular territory, region or locality, (ii) informing the consumers about quality standards of fashion products, attributable to their geographical origin and (iii) promoting sales of fashion goods of a particular area.

Apart from performing the said three functions, GI protection proves to be a valuable asset for local and indigenous communities of weavers and designers for recognition, promotion and expansion of business. Small local and indigenous communities of fashion workers not only lack bargaining power, but acting individually often makes it difficult to gain recognition for their products. To make things worse, the dearth of capital and resources obstruct large scale production. In such a scenario, collective knowledge, group work, and coordination help in making their ventures successful.[4] As GIs bestow economic benefit to owners for a period of 10 years which is renewable from time to time without any cap on number of renewals, it helps them to generate revenue for further investment which is vital for continuation and promotion of the business of traditional fashion works.[5] Prior to attaining GI status for Banarasi Silk and Brocade, the Banarasi silk handloom industry was doomed under huge loss due to the competition from mechanized units producing the Baranasi Silk Sarees at a faster rate and cheaper cost. Another source of competition was the Sarees made of cheaper synthetic alternatives to silk. To ameliorate this situation, weaver associations in Uttar Pradesh secured the GI rights for the 'Banaras Brocades and Sarees'.[6] Quality, productivity and marketability of products from remote areas also escalate through GI protection. For instance, Shaphee Lanphee, a type of shawl made by needle work without the use of frame over the Loin Loom fabric is woven by Meetei women of Manipur and is worn by the Nagas of Manipur as recognition of honour.[7] Subsequent to attaining GI status, this product became so popular that it is now being manufactured throughout the state. Additionally, it is also pertinent to underline that the economic and financial strengthening of local and indigenous weavers through GI protection further results in economic, social, educational and cultural development of a region or locality.[8]

Though the significance of GIs for traditional fashion can never be an embellishment, there is a need to address the limitations that hinder this potent protection. The mandatory requirement of registration and its territorial nature act as a constraint in the path of seeking protection.[9] Moreover, the lack of single filing system for international registrations adds to the misery. The long and strenuous registration procedures, coupled with the expenditures of registration and renewals in different countries, cost these small communities an arm and a leg. There is a compelling need for a single filing system for GI protection that will not only save time but will cut costs as well. It is pertinent to note here that Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration as amended on September 28, 1979 provides for a single filing system for international registrations[10] where the application for international registration can be presented to the International Bureau by the competent authority of the country of origin.[11] India, however, is not a member party of the Lisbon Agreement till date and must deliberate upon attaining the said status for the benefit of the current and prospective GI owners of the country.

The last straw in GI protection is the lack of awareness among prospective beneficiaries. Local and indigenous communities of workers are often not aware of the tools that can be employed to protect their knowledge, skills, creativity and products. Steps must be advanced to initiate IP legal awareness programs for such community of workers where information can be spread about their rights and assistance can be provided for acquiring the same.

[1] Stefan Siegel, "Not just a Label in India", available at: (last accessed on April 15, 2016).

[2] Surekha Vasishta and Amar Raj Lall, 'Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999', in AK Koul and VK Ahuja (eds), The Law of Intellectual Property Rights: In Prospect and Retrospect, 2001, p. 248.

[3] Felix Addor and Alexandra Grazioli, "Geographical Indications Beyond Wines and Spirits: A Roadmap for Better Protection for Geographical Indications in the WTO/TRIPs Agreement", The Journal of World Intellectual Property, 2002, pp.865-97, p.866.

[4] H.S. Siddamallaiah, "Geographical Indication And Knowledge Capital In Evidence-Based Society", DESIDOC Bulletin of Information Technology, Vol. 27, No. 6, Nevember 2007, pp.13-18.

[5] H.S. Siddamallaiah, "Geographical Indication And Knowledge Capital In Evidence-Based Society", DESIDOC Bulletin of Information Technology, Vol. 27, No. 6, Nevember 2007, pp.13-18.

[6] Binay Singh, "Banarasi Silk gets GI Recognition", The Times of India City, September 17, 2009.

[7] Government of India, Geographical Indications Journal, No. 55, November 29, 2013, p. 9.

[8] Dwijen Rangnekar, "The socio-economics of geographical indications – A Review of Empirical Evidence from Europe, May 2004, available at: (last visited on May 15, 2016).

[9] Sec. 20, The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

[10] Art. 5, Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration as amended on September 28, 2979.

[11] Rule 5, Regulations under the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration (as in force on January 1, 2016)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions