Stitching another J&K win: GI status for Sozani

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 30 2008, 07:12am hrs
After the record turnout in the Jammu & Kashmir assembly polls, the Centre has won another small, but economically significant victory for the state: just before Christmas, J&K won geographical indication (GI) status for its famous Sozani embroidery.

Pakistan had strongly opposed local artisans filing for GI status in 2006. Later, it acceded, but wanted to be co-opted as an applicant. Its argument: some territories (read: PoK) where Sozani is made are under the control of Islamabad.

The GI Registry of India, the organisation mandated by the WTO to register such claims for the subcontinent, rejected Pakistans demand since it was not in compliance with Indian GI law or the Trips Agreement. The global pact explicitly states that anyone objecting to a GI application cannot later be accepted as a co-applicant.

At stake is a business worth over Rs 400 crore. The GI status implies that only embroidery made by artisans from J&K would be referred to as Sozani. Entirely handmade, Sozani is done on shawls, dress material, bedsheets et al, and commands a premium in both international and domestic markets.

GI is given to products with a reputation attributable to a place of origin or the area where it is manufactured. With the GI certification, products get a distinct identity, which can be distinguished from fakes, says GK Muthukumaar, senior associate at law firm Anand & Anand.

Ten other Kashmiri products are in the queue for GI status: papier mache, walnut wood carvings, silk carpets, Amblikar shawls, Namda rugs, katamband (wood ceilings) and pinjrakari (latticed wood carvings).

This is not the first time that Pakistan has opposed Indian GI applicationsand lost. In the case of Pashmina yarn from Kashmir, a GI for which was recently granted to India, Pakistan had claimed that the fine wool is produced in its region as well.