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The Geographical Indications Of Goods (Registration And Protection) Act, 1999 defines ‘geographical indication’ as ‘an indication which identifies such goods as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.’
The objective of this IP is to protect the interests of its producers and further their economic interests by assuring quality and uniqueness, which are attributable to the place of its origin. Mysore Silk, Darjeeling Tea, Coorg Orange, Kashmir Pashmina etc. are some instances of GI.
Claims of Origin Lying In Odisha
Odisha’s government claimed to that the sweet, RASSOGOLLA originated in the city of Puri in the 13thcentury and legend has it that Lord Jagannath offered these sweets to his consort Lakshmi, as an apology for not taking her along during the ritual chariot ride. Further, they stated that its first form was ‘kheer mohana’, that later evolved into ‘pahala rasagolla’. So much so, various historians commented on the sweet’s origin in Odisha, one of them being Asit Mohanty who quoted from an article published in the April, 2011 edition of ‘Saptahik Bartamaan, a popular Bengali magazineto prove that rasogolla was indeed Odisha’s gift to the world. He further went on record with Odisha’s local newspapers and said “Many Brahmin Odia cooks (whom we call ‘Thakur’) came to Bengal in search of work in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was through them that many recipes from that state, including ‘rasogolla’, landed in Bengal.”
However, things heated up in June 2015, when Odisha’s science and technology minister Pradip Kumar Panigrahi set up committees to trace the origin of the dish, moreover, they announced 30 July as ‘Rasagolla Dibasa’ to celebrate its origin in Odhisa.
Claims of Invention in West Bengal
West Bengal contended that rosogulla originated in the 1868 by a renowned local confectioner Nabin Chandra Das. Post Odisha’s claims the descendants of Nabin Chandra Das planned to challenge the Odisha government with the support of documentary evidence. With the assistance of historian Haripada Bhowmick they prepared a booklet, which they proposed to send to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for necessary action at her end.
On the other end, the Bengal government left no stone unturned and filed a court petition in tandem with an application for a Geographical Indication (GI) recognition to finally settle the origin debate. The government took assistance from KC Das Sweets for all required documents and information to authenticate the claims of invention occurring in West Bengal by Nabin Chandra Das.
The Directorate of Food Processing Industries of West Bengal made an application in 2015, for a Geographical Indication (GI) status to “Banglar Rasogolla”. Clarifying further, the government stated there was no conflict with Odhisa as its application was for a specific variant which varied “both in colour, texture, taste, juice content and method of manufacturing” from its alternative, produced in Odisha. On 14 November 2017, the GI Registry of India granted West Bengal the GI status for Banglar Rasogolla.
At first sight, when one reads of the controversy between two state governments over the origin of a sweet, it may seem over hyped. But on giving it a second thought, you can see that this debate is not merely about Bengali and Odia sentiments but this may also convert into fruitful business for confectioners in the two states. The GI status to Bengali Rasgulla makes it clear that “Rasgulla” is a generic term and thus cannot be given a GI tag as a whole. Hence, tomorrow even Odisha’s government could make an application for its regional variant of Rasgulla. Therefore, technically the question of Rasgulla’s origin has yet not been resolved but as a wise man had once said “Some questions are best left unanswered”.