SHC to hear rice trademark case today

By: Shahid Shah

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) will hold hearing in the case filed by Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan against Basmati Growers Association to decide trademark registration dispute on Thursday (today).

A similar case is pending in Delhi High Court. If it decides the case in 2012 and the court in Pakistan fails to decide, Pakistan will lose around $1 billion a year, President BGA Hamid Malhi told The News on Wednesday. “Pakistan exports basmati rice of $1 billion, which can increase to $2 billion if trademark is with us.”

Delhi High Court held a hearing on November 8.

Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) is also a party to the case in the SHC.

In 2008, trademark registrar in Pakistan had given trademark of basmati to BGA, which was challenged in the SHC in September that year. REAP says the custodian of trademark should be the government of Pakistan and not any private association.

But Malhi said growers are the right people to hold the trademark as they have long term interest in the crop. “Traders may be trading rice today, chickpeas tomorrow and leather day after tomorrow.”

About the Indian claim about trademark, he says they do not have contiguous area of basmati and they do not produce much of it.

In order to comply with Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) regime of the World Trade Organisation, the Ministry of Commerce has asked the stakeholders in rice trade to resolve the trademark registration issue, which has pitted REAP and BGA against each other.

Zahid Khuwaja, a senior REAP member, told The News that with trademark rights in their hands, rice growers would regulate the exporters’ trade.

“There should be no single ownership and the government of Pakistan should control it.”

Basmati is one of the oldest and finest varieties of rice cultivated in the sub-continent.

In India, first the matter of rice certification was handed over to All India Rice Exporters Association but later on the demand of all stakeholders it was given to APEDA.