The year 2014 has witnessed a lot of goods entering the family of Geographical Indicators ( GI ). Goods such as Madurai Malli (jasmine), Pattamadai Pai (Pattamadai mat), Nachiarkoil Kuthuvilakku (Nachiarkoil lamp), Toda Embroidery, Thanjavur Veena and Chettinad Kottan (palmyra basketry) have all become a part of the GI family thus bringing Tamil Nadu with the second highest number  of registered GIs in the country; A total of 24.

It doesn’t quite end there though; with the passage of time, age old delicacies such as the Tuticorin Macaroons, Tirunelveli Halwa, and Kovilpatti Kadalai Mittai (sweet made of Jaggery and nuts) are soon to enter the list of registered GIs.

My article today is about a small conflict between a future GI and a registered trademark. There is a peculiar factor that circles around Tirunelveli Halwa. Originally, the city of Tirunelveli was famously known for its different sweets but when it came down to the famous Halwa, everyone in the city has a saying “if you find a shop labeled Irruttukadai halwa with a huge board, do not enter. The authentic Irruttukadai Halwa is the dark shop with no sign board or bright light but with a long cue at 5:30 pm.” I too wanted to know about this shop that everyone was referring. This famous shop is called Irruttukadai Halwa (Dark shop halwa) got its peculiar name because the shop is literally dark, and has just a single Light bulb for illuminating the space within the shop.

The famous Iruttukadai Halwa shop, was established in the 1900s and has been selling halwa ever since. The halwa sold by this particular shop became so famous all across the state that people started calling it by name “Tirunelveli Halwa”. In other words, the buyers started treating the halwa made by the single shop as a Geographical Indicator.

Out of curiosity I started finding more details about this particular GI and was quite surprised to see that this famous Iruttukadai Halwa is a registered Trademark under class 30. Food for thought I must say!

I began to wonder, if the destiny of the Tirunelveli halwa would end up as the Tirupati Laddu. As we all know, Tirupati laddu is now a registered GI, but Tirupati Laddu is manufactured and sold by a single entity, the Tirumala Tirupti Devasthanam Trust. The rules of GI have stated that the GI tag is given to a group of manufacturers within a particular Geographical location but here it is seen that Tirupati laddu is an entity owned by TTD trust which is a single body, which apparently seems to be against the rules.

Unlike the Tirupati laddu case, recent developments have shown that in the city of Tirunelveli, many halwa manufacturers have come together for getting a GI protection under the name Tirunelveli Halwa. The surprising factor here is that the famed Iruttukadai Halwa is not a part of the group of manufacturers filing for a GI.

Would this cause a conflict between a famous Trademark and a future GI? That is where the debate lies. People have put their hopes upon this attempt, to increase the sale of halwa from all the shops of Tirunelveli, as the GI tag would indeed boost the reputation of the sweet in foreign markets, thus helping the economy, but it is also felt that in comparison to the sale of Halwa by the famous Iruttukadai, the other manufacturers in the city are not up to the mark, due to which the group of manufacturers are now asking for a GI protection to increase their sales. A mind boggling issue indeed.

Therefore it is now a waiting game to see the reactions of all the people who have tasted the famed halwa. My prediction here is that the reaction of the people is going to be accompanied by a gasp of surprise which would be when they realize that the famed Iruttukadai halwa was never a part of the group of manufacturers that asked for a GI protection.

But adding to it, being a Halwa lover I am curious to know the destiny of a registered trademark, when it comes under the ambit of a GI protection.

This would be a perfect example for a conflicting situation between a Trademark and a Geographical Indicator.