by Benedetta Ubertazzi
Intellectual property rights (‘IPRs’), particularly geographical indications (‘GIs’), can be an excellent tool for encouraging environmentally friendly practices. The emergence of “Green GIs”, which are both environmentally friendly and compatible with the maintenance of biodiversity and landscape, reflects the utility of using IPRs on traditionally produced goods. These GIs are considered capable of providing prospects for new forms of rural development, community autonomy, preservation of cultural traditions, and even conservation of biological diversity. This is particularly the case when the production of goods encourages the stewardship rather than the depletion of the natural resources from which they are made.
GIs have the capacity to recognise and, in line with the nature of the GI itself, protect positive environmental practices. As a point of illGIs have the capacity to recognise and, in line with the nature of the GI itself, protect positive environmental practices. As a point of illustration, the ‘Green’ EU GI specification of jersey royal potatoes indicates that the majority of crop is planted by hand. While artificial fertilisers are used, locally collected seaweed, an excellent source of organic fertilizer and flavour enhancer, is used extensively. Similar examples include the EU GI specification of Arroz de Valencia and Diepholz Moor Lamb. Indeed, other IPRs, including the regulation of collective trademarks for instance, are equally capable of recognizing and protecting environmentally sustainable practices.ustration, the ‘Green’ EU GI specification of jersey royal potatoes indicates that the majority of crop is planted by hand. While artificial fertilisers are used, locally collected seaweed, an excellent source of organic fertilizer and flavour enhancer, is used extensively. Similar examples include the EU GI specification of Arroz de Valencia and Diepholz Moor Lamb. Indeed, other IPRs, including the regulation of collective trademarks for instance, are equally capable of recognizing and protecting environmentally sustainable practices.
The Operational Directives for the Implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage were first adopted in June 2008. In particular, the Directives contained in Chapter 6 establish a framework related to ‘environmental sustainability’ which is relevant for the adoption of IPRs on intangible cultural heritage (‘ICH’). The framework consists of three pillars (UNESCO 2018):
Recognition: The first theme is the recognition by States Parties of ‘environmental impacts in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage’.
Knowledge:The second theme, ‘knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe’, encourages the recognition of ‘communities, groups and individuals as the bearers of knowledge about nature and the universe and as essential actors in sustaining the environment.’
Resilience:The third and final ‘pillar’ of this framework relates to ‘community-based resilience to natural disasters and climate change’, according to which States Parties should ‘fully integrate communities, groups and individuals who are bearers of such knowledge into systems and programmes of disaster risk reduction, disaster recovery and climate change adaptation and mitigation.’
The first pillar of the IPR on ICH framework is twofold. States should: a) encourage environmentally friendly practices, and b) mitigate any possible harmful impacts (UNESCO 2018). An example of an intellectual property (‘IP’) strategy that encourages good practice and recognizes environmental impact relates to Coorg Orange.In the case of this crop, local producers have successfully used IP, creating positive impacts on the landscape and its associated biodiversity.
The second pillar recognises the community as bearers of knowledge about nature and essential actors in sustaining the environment. To illustrate, the Indian GI specification of Coorg Arabica Coffee indicates that the modern method of Coorg coffee cultivation serves as the backbone of the kodagu district and is integral to the lives of the people in the district (Coffee Board Bengaluru 2017). Furthermore, the specification highlights that coffee farmers growing Arabica and Robusta under shade trees serve the ecosystem and protect biodiversity (Coffee Board Bengaluru 2017). This demonstrates how IPRsare capable of helping to protect the role of communities’ knowledge and adaptation strategies.
This notion of ‘knowledge’ also forms the basis of the final pillar, communities’ resilience in the face of natural catastrophes and climate change.For example, the Turkana of northwestern Kenya have a highly sophisticated natural resource management system that has enabled them to survive in an environment that many would consider extremely hostile.
Patachitra is an ancient form of painting done on paper and manifested by rich colourful application, creative motifs and portrayal of simple themes. The word ‘patachitra’ is derived from the Sanskrit term patta (cloth) and chitra (painting). It is practised in several regions of India, with specific Patachitra styles originating in West Bengal and Odisha. Traditionally, the paintings have depicted mythological stories. Today, Naya village is home to 350 inhabitants, of whom at least 50 are highly skilled Patachitra artists, patuas, including an increasing number of female scroll artists. Naya is currently the main village in the Paschim district making and selling Patachitra.
The Indian GI for Patachitra of Medinipur highlights how a community with an IPR that protects cultural practices which have a positive impact on the environment. The precise nature of this ‘cloth painting’ is set out in greater detail in the GI specification. Colour is a key quality of Medinipur Patachitra that is recognized in the specification, which states the five basic pigments, white (Sankha), yellow (Hingula), black (Kala), Brown (Khayeri), indigo (Neela), and their combinations are used for colouring. In the GI application, ‘Bengal Patachitra’, which also covers Medinipur patachitra, is described as a handicraft in classes 16 (painting) and 24 (textiles) (Chitrataru 2016). The suggestion here is that all goods covered by the GI should be hand painted (rather than printed) on a textile. The specification goes on to note, ‘the materials used in the paint are from vegetable, earth and mineral sources.’ Traditional, environmentally-friendly paint is therefore an integral part of this practice. By stating that Medinipur Patachitra must be made using materials sourced in this way the GI recognizes the Patachitra community’s knowledge regarding environmentally sourced paints.
Intellectual property rights are capable of supporting environmental sustainable development for ICH. They are compatible with the three themes of environmental sustainability set out in the ODs and can be used together with other forms of safeguarding, such as marketing labels, to help achieve environmental protection. In the case of Patachitra, we see how GI has the capacity to preserve and promote environmentally-friendly practices while also empowering Patachitra communities to hone their knowledge of natural materials and cultural practices for a positive environmental impact.