The GI battle between West Bengal's 'Rasogolla' and Odisha's 'Rasagola'

The GI Battle Between ‘West Bengal’s Rasogolla’ And ‘Odisha’s Rasagola’

INTRODUCTION

 Geographical Indication Tag provides holders with rights and protection like other intellectual property. It supports local production and helps to  uplift the rural and tribal communities.

GI  must not be confused with other IPR. GI is a collective right, unlike other IPRs which grant protection to individual interest and rights. GI recently obtained a  logo and a tagline from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to increase awareness about the IPRs in the country. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, was introduced to  “to provide for the registration and better protection of geographical indications relating to goods”.  

In the exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section 87 of Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999, the Central Government has made some rules for Geographical Indication Tags in India.  The “appropriate office of the Geographical Indications Registry” for the purposes of making an application for registration of a geographical indication under section 11(1) or register as an authorized user under section 17(1) or for giving notice of opposition under sub-section (1) of section 14 or sub-section (3)(e) of Section 17, as the case may be, or for filing an application for rectification under section 27 or for any other proceedings under the Act and the rules shall be – in relation to a geographical indication for which an application for registration is made on or after the notified date, the office of the Geographical Indications Registry within its territorial limits.

WHAT IS GI TAG?

Geographical Indicators are part of the Intellectual Property Rights. These Indicators come under Paris Convection to protect Industrial Property. A Geographical Indicator (GI) is a sign or tag that is used on a product having a specific geographical origin and the famed product is known for its quality and reputation because of that  specific origin. It is important to note that the qualities, characteristics, and reputation of the product must be because of the origin. Since the specialty depends on the geographical place of origin and production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.

A Geographical Indication tag is given to an entrepreneur or a state/area/country or a group of businessmen to produce a product of good quality. These tags are issued under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.  

OBJECTIVE OF GI TAGS

The sole purpose of GI Tags is to protect the product from unauthorized access to a Registered Geographical Indication. The GI tags provide safety to any new product produced by any individual or group of people. It is essential to know that a secured Geographical Indicator does not give the right to the person to stop someone else from making the famed product using the same method.  

In India, Geographical Indicators are issued by Geographical Indication Registry under the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. As GI tags are given to good quality products, it increases International recognition of the product. A registration for Geographical Indication is valid for a time period of 10 years. The registration needs renewal after expiry. A Geographical Indication is not a personal property of any individual. It is a public property of a particular area, state, or country.  A GI tag helps in the marketing and branding of the product and gives a boost to its popularity.

POINT OF CONTENTION

From centuries, Rosogulla has been the identity of West Bengal. ‘Bengali rasogulla’ is not only a delightful dessert but also has cultural and religious value. However, it was contended by  Odisha  that ‘Rasagola’ was first served at Jagganath Temple in Puri, Odisha. Both the states started to  research to prove their claims over the sweet dish. A bitter battle was fought between the Bengali and the Odia community for GI tag on their soft syrup balls.

In the submission of evidence before the Geographical Indication Registrar, Odisha Small Industries Corporation Ltd stated “Odisha Rasagola is  soft , juicy and non-chewy in consistency, and can be swallowed without teeth pressure. The Rasagola prepared in other places is circular in shape, a milk white in colour and basically spongy and chewy in consistency.”

While Bengal claimed that the ‘Rasogulla’ was invented by Nobin Chandra Das at Bagbazar residence in Kolkata.  People of Odisha cited that the Rasagola made of cottage cheese is being offered to Lord Jagganath for centuries. According to them, the tradition is dated back to the 12th century. It was said by the people of Odisha that, during the festival of “Niladri Bije” the rasagola is offered to the Lord, when he returned home after nine-day Yatra, that is Rath Yatra.

Odia community quotes many traditional texts in Sanskrit and Odiyaa to prove that the cottage cheese or chhena was known us before the arrival of Portuguese in India. The Odisha government also celebrates 16 July as Rasogulla Diwas.

As per the records, the reference of ‘rasagola’ is found in 15th century Odia Ramayan written by Balrama Das. His Ramayan is also known as Dandi Ramayan or Jaganmohan Ramayan. In its ‘Ayodhya Kanda’ one can get the description of chhena and chhena based different recipes. Fakir Mohan Senapati, another Odia poet, in his writing Utkal Bhranama, published by Utkal Deepika on August 27, 1892 gave a detailed description of Rasagola in Odisha during those days.

WHAT WAS HELD?

The GI Registry after hearing both the parties pronounced its judgment on July 29, 2020. In 2017, West Bengal had made its first move  and got the GI for its ‘Banglar Rasogolla’ .

But in a recent judgment, the dispute ended in a draw. The Geographical Indication Registry gave GI tags to both the neighboring states for a different taste, texture, and variety of the soft syrup balls. Odisha got the GI tag for its own kind of ‘Rasagola’ in less than two years’ time, after West Bengal got it for Rasogulla. The soft sweet bagged the GI tag when it was  proved to be  part of the state culture.

The Chennai-based Geographical Indication Registry issued a formal certificate on its web portal for the registration of GI tag for ‘Odisha Rasagola’. The registration was done under Section 16 (1) or authorized Section 17(3)(C) of Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. The GI number 612 is registered in favor of Odisha Small Industries and Corporation Limited, an undertaking of Odisha Government, and Utkal Mistanna Byabasayee Samiti, an organization of traders, in the category of foodstuff.    

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO VARIETIES 

As both the neighboring state got the GI tags, still there is some difference between these two varieties. The difference is as follows-:

  • Bangla Rasogulla  has a spongy feature, which is lacking in other rasogullas. It is smooth and delicate instead of rough and chewy. No starch is used in Banglar Rasogulla. Originally, the Rasogulla was made by boiling a rounded mix of chhena and semolina in sugar syrup.
  • Odisha Rasagola  is made up of cottage cheese, chhena, cooked in sugar syrup, which is soft to feel, is deliciously juicy, non-chewy in consistency and can be easily swallowed without the pressure of teeth. Colour of Odisha Rasagola is very unique, where without any external addition of colour, various shades of Rasagola are prepared using the technique of caramelization of sugar .

CONCLUSION

The Geographical Indication in compliance with TRIPS Agreement  are issued in India by the respective registry,  to protect the industrial product and  to promote the famed and unique product of a particular region. Further, Geographical Indication tags are Intellectual Property, perfectly eligible for recourse  from any kind of infringement and unauthorized access or unhealthy competition. Geographical Indication are defined under Article 22(1) of the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement. GI tags assure the customers that they are buying a product of high quality or having some cultural and traditional value. India enacted the GI  Act 1999 as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), that came  into force t from 15 September 2003.

About the author

Bharat Sharma
Apurvi Tiwari

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