The nation is celebrating the golden jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with a lot of enthusiasm. Series of events have been undertaken marking the historic celebration. March 17, this year, also marks the 101st birth anniversary of Bangabandhu. In this connection, this scribe proposes an idea for consideration. The famous Mujib Coat, which is one of the most vivid symbols of Bangabandhu, may be tagged as a Geographical Indication (GI) product.
UNDERSTANDING GI: According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), 'A GI is basically a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.'
In other words, to identify any product for its specific geographical origin and also qualities or a reputation the product possess due to that specific origin, GI sign or tag is being used. GI signs are generally used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products. GIs are part of the intellectual property rights (IPR) that comes under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. Nevertheless, being a region or geographic area-specific product, and GI certification extended to its producers is applicable in the geographical or national territory. Like patent or trademark, GI is also local protection or exclusive right within the territory. GI certification issued by the authorities in Bangladesh is applicable only in Bangladesh. The producers may use the GI tag to export the product anywhere in the world to ensure the branding of the geographic-specific product. But the tagging can't contain or stop GI tagging of a variant of the product in other countries.
WIPO explains the GI exclusivity as follows: 'A geographical indication right enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. For example, in the jurisdictions in which the Darjeeling geographical indication is protected, producers of Darjeeling tea can exclude the use of the term "Darjeeling" for tea not grown in their tea gardens nor produced according to the standards set out in the code of practice for the geographical indication.'
It further adds: 'However, a protected geographical indication does not enable the holder to prevent someone from making a product using the same techniques as those set out in the standards for that indication. '
GI IN BANGLADESH: In Bangladesh, the Department of Patents, Designs & Trademarks (DPDT) under the Ministry of Industry is responsible for administering the Geographical Indication (GI) product. GI registration is administered by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act of 2013. So far, the authorities have extended GI certification to three Bangladeshi products. These are: Jamdani Sari of Dhaka, Hilsa fish of Bangladesh, Khirsapat Mango of Chapainawabganj. GI journals for five more products have also been published. These are: White Soil of Bijaypur, Kataribhog Rice of Dinajpur, Kalijira Rice of Bangladesh, Silk of Rajshahi and Muslin of Dhaka.
NECESSITY: Mujib Coat is not an ordinary attire as many people think. It is strongly linked with Bangabandhu's political life and struggle. It becomes one of the core symbols of Bangabandhu. Though followers of Bangabandhu use to be dressed in Mujib Coats, and there are thousands of makers of the coat across the country, there is no written specific standard for making the coat. Over the decades, a traditional specification of making the Mujib Coat has been developed, and dressmakers followed the specification with some variations. The coat also becomes a trendy fashion.
Some claimed that the Mujib Coat had six buttons which concurred with the Six-point charter of 1966. No strong historical evidence is available to substantiate the claim. It is also not clearly known when Bangabandhu started to wear this coat. Some stated that he started to wear this distinctively designed coat frequently from 1968 onwards. All these and other things related to Mujib Coat may be subject to extensive research. In fact, to provide a GI tag to Mujib Coat, this kind of research is necessary. No doubt, GI tagging of Mujib Coat is a tricky thing. It is probably not impossible as the coat has already become a brand. To protect the brand, GI tagging is probably the right way.
The GI journal needs product name, specification, description, mode of production and historical documentation and evidence of sources. GI journal has to publish all these descriptions in as many details as possible to make a stronger case. Any relevant body or organisation may be assigned to do all the ne necessary works. GI tagging of Mujib Coat will not only set a standard specification for making the coat, it will also create a strong branding of the historic attire of Bangabandhu.