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Protection of ‘handicraft’ as geographical indications under municipal law, TRIPS and BTAs vis-à-vis CETA: ‘Bangladeshi Jamdani’ as case study

Mohammad Ataul Karim and Mohammad Ershadul Karim

Keywords: TRIPS Agreement; geographical indications; misleading the consumers; handicraft; Jamdani

Handicrafts often demonstrate indigenous knowledge, traditional cultural expressions of artisans, small or big tribes and even nations at large. Crafting communities invest their labours and merits from generation to generation to create aesthetic and artistic handicrafts that both reflect their intellectual inputs and represent their community life styles, enabling them to benefit from protection under the geographical indications (GIs) regime. Even though these handicrafts may be protected as GIs under the provisions of international instruments and municipal laws (as enacted by around 160 countries), the international legal position on GIs is still a mess. Bangladesh and India, two friendly neighbours of South Asia, have had many things in common for centuries. A few years back, India registered at least three products, that is Jamdani, one variety of mango and Nakshi Katha, which are undoubtedly of Bangladeshi origin and their historic Bangladeshi roots are well documented long before the idea of protection of these products through GIs emerged. Taking the ‘Jamdani’ handicraft of Bangladesh as a case study, this paper intends to explore the doctrinal, legal issues along with the potentials and pitfalls of protecting handicrafts as GIs under national and international legal frameworks. Highlighting the ongoing tensions with India over Jamdani and analysing relevant legal issues, this article will propose some suggestions that Bangladeshi policy makers may consider to settle the dispute in a pacific manner. Such a discussion would ultimately enable the consumers to make an informed decision with respect to potentially buying misleading products and assist other countries facing similar problems relating to a GI of the same product being available in different jurisdictions.

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