GI & IPR for Naga Loinloom products, but for whom?
A woman taking part in the 5th Int’l Loinloom Festival 2 at Diezephe handicrafts Village Dimapur on December 6. (Morung Photo by Soreishim Mahong)
5th International Loinloom Festival begins with essential discussions
Morung Express News
Dimapur | December 6
Should Naga textile art have Geographic Indication and retain Intellectual Property Rights? If so, who should be the beneficiary?
This was the central discussion at the inauguration of the 5th International Loinloom Festival, an initiative of Exotic Echo Society at Diezephe Handicrafts Village, here today.
GI & IPR
While the Government of Nagaland is trying to promote science education, one of its thrust areas has been the protection of Intellectual Property Rights.
“Indigenous knowledge should be protected,” noted Dr. Zavei Hiese, Senior Scientific Officer at Department of Science and Technology while briefing the need to protect indigenous textiles and handicrafts through patents and geo tagging, i.e. Geographical Indication (GI – see box).
Both GI and IPR become necessary in the market environment where “commercial use has degraded the quality of indigenous handlooms and handicrafts,” he highlighted. Middlepersons with access to the market and mass production often duplicate original indigenous weaves, selling them for profit and leaving loinloom weavers in oblivion.
“Only hand woven fabrics have the sole right to be tagged a ‘handloom’ product,” stated a read-out from M Mohan Rao, National Federation of Handlooms and Handicrafts.
But “how do we transfer the benefits to the actual weavers?” Hiese questioned, on what happens once GI & IPR are obtained, calling for better links between handloom products and science and technology.
At present, Chakhesang Women Welfare Society is the only institution in Nagaland to own patent rights on its products.
Textile weaving is part of Naga society and culture, which is now growing through the economy. But how can weavers—the central unit of production—be beneficiaries of both the market as well as their rights to the ecology and land from which the weaves emerge?
Member of the North East Network and facilitator of Chizami Weaves, Seno Tsuhah, brought an essential aspect to the discussion.
“Patenting is a complex and expensive affair, which the simple weavers have no idea about. So when we speak of patenting, how do we support them? How do we make sure that the actual weavers in the village get their due share?” she asked.
In a multifaceted community environment like that of Nagaland, the question of both GI & IPR remains grossly overshadowed. Statements are made, questions rarely raised.
Seno Tsuhah thus filled in the space, “When we talk about protection, whose protection are we talking about? Who is going to gain and how do we draw the lines in a world where fashion has no borders and loinloom is practiced across the world?”
In her opinion, people who weave should be the ultimate beneficiaries.
This could also encourage the youth to take up original designs on their looms, re-learn traditional color dyeing through plants, and encourage Naga women to continue weaving to protect and preserve cultural heirloom, as discussed in the rest of the session.
Every tradition and attire has a story. Hekhevi Achumi, member of the Naga Council Dimapur and Sumi Council Dimapur prioritized the need to retain the value of Naga textiles passed down by forebears. Elucidating on Sumi textiles and handicrafts, he encouraged the Exotic Echo Society to strive for originality.
Discussion on ‘Protection of Indigenous Tribal Rights on Textiles and Handicrafts’ was also attended by Tabitha Trumy, Manipur; Angam Nimai, Faculty NIFT Shillong and Augustine Reading Kaba, Lankam Business Solutions Co. Ltd. Shanghai representing Naga International Trade Centers Association (NITCA), among other foreign delegates.
Today’s event saw around 20 weavers displaying their skills at their loinlooms. Volunteers and visitors from across the country and the world showed keen interest and love in the traditional textiles and handicrafts put up at the stalls.
Geographic Indication (GI) & Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
A geographical indication is a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). India, as a member of the World Trade Organization, enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, which came into force with effect from 15 September 2003.
Intellectual Property Rights refers to legal rights governing creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.