New Zealand Refuses India’s Application for Basmati Rice Trademark 

New Zealand Refuses India’s Application for Basmati Rice Trademark 

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) has turned down the Government of India’s application for the trademark of basmati rice. 

New Zealand has cited reasons for rejecting India’s trademark application, mainly due to the farming and production of basmati rice beyond the Indian region. (1)

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), also recognised as Indian authorities for the protection and registration of Indian exports, filed the trademark application to the relevant countries. The authorities have also previously failed to trademark ‘BASMATI’ in Australia. 

Basmati is a variety of rice traditionally grown in the Indian subcontinent. India accounts for the majority of the international trade in basmati rice, coming ahead of neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka. However, many other countries grow the basmati rice variety on home soil despite basmati being geographically exclusive to certain regions of India. (2

The trademark application from the Indian government corresponds to a geographical indication (GI) application. A geographical indication is a mark or sign used to identify the country or region from which products originate and to which possess qualities attributable to that origin. 

Both New Zealand and Australia governments rejected India’s trademark or GI application on related grounds, citing the basmati rice as ‘not only grown in India’ or similar. IPONZ stated that basmati rice is produced in multiple rice-producing countries, such as Pakistan, who comes second behind India in basmati rice production.

While the Indian government seeks to protect ‘BASMATI’ as their own to preserve cultural traditions and economic hold on basmati rice production and exports, IPONZ decided India’s application demonstrated contributions from neighbouring countries to the basmati rice market. On these grounds, IPONZ is unable to grant exclusive rights of the term ‘BASMATI’ to the Indian authorities. (3)

Experts state Indian authorities should have distinguished the country’s position from the competitors from a historic and cultural point of view, citing a different strategy to succeed in the trademark application. For example, India has a 100-year history of basmati rice farming, compared to Pakistan’s 75-year history. 

The Government of Pakistan also applied for the ‘BASMATI’ trademark late last year. As of 2024, the case is still pending. 

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