In the late 1997, when an American company RiceTec Inc was granted a patent by the US patent office to call the aromatic rice grown outside India "Basmati", India objected to it. India has been one of the major exporters of Basmati to several countries and such a grant by the US patent office was likely to affect its trade. Since Basmati rice is traditionally grown in India and Pakistan, it was opined that granting patent to RiceTec violated the Geographical Indications Act under the TRIPS agreement. A geographical indication (sometimes abbreviated to GI) is a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (eg. a town, region, or country). The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin. RiceTec's usage of the name Basmati for rice which was derived from Indian rice but not grown in India, and hence not of the same quality as Basmati, would have lead to the violation of the concept of GI and would have been a deception to the consumers.
Intellectual Property law now considers this a very important arena which seeks to preserve the varieties in their natural habitat and let the geographical area where it is traditionally and originally grown have certain special rights over it. This paper is an attempt to understand the impact and importance of such patents and appreciate the law regarding the same in the light of the Basmati Case.
Mukherjee, Utsav, A Study of the Basmati Case
(India-US Basmati Rice Dispute): The Geographical Indication Perspective. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1143209 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1143209