GI tag infringement: CWWS files civil suit against designer, TRIFED

The GI tagged Chakhesang Naga shawls- Rira (L) worn by the menfolk and Rura (R) worn by the women. (Photo Courtesy: CWWS)
The GI tagged Chakhesang Naga shawls- Rira (L) worn by the menfolk and Rura (R) worn by the women. (Photo Courtesy: CWWS)

Morung Express News
Dimapur | September 22

The Chakhesang Women Welfare Society (CWWS) has filed a civil suit against renowned Indian fashion designer Ritu Beri and the Tribal Co-Operative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd (TRIFED) Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India for alleged infringement of registered Geographical indication (GI).

Earlier on February 7, at the Suraj Kund Crafts Mela in Haryana, Beri had reportedly organised a fashion show in association with Tribes India and Suraj Kund authorities.

In the show themed ‘Naturally North-East: The Naga Narrative’ curated by Beri, the Chakhesang shawls were allegedly misrepresented, prompting the CWWS to issue a condemnation against the same on February 20, the Society said. 

Expressing shock at the wrong usage of the shawls, it termed the action as “mockery” of the tribe’s traditionally woven shawls, besides using them without permission and “misusing the craft” developed and preserved over years.

A press release issued by the CWWS on September 22 informed that the defendants have been summoned by the Court of District Judge, Phek, Nagaland on September 7, “with a month’s time to be filed for written statements.”

The CWWS has filed a civil suit claiming “damages for wrongful and illegal action for infringement of registered GI.”

Misrepresentation, misuse of shawls
The CWWS maintained that “the show has caused irreparable damage/distorted the identity of the traditional shawls which are GI registered, wherein the shawls were woven and designed with deep rooted meanings...”

In 2007, the Chakhesang tribe was first among the Nagas to have registered their tribal shawls under the GI, according to Acting Executive Director of the CWWS, Nezelu Nyekha.

The GI tag means that without due approval and consent from registered proprietor, the said shawls/patterns cannot be used by any individual/designer/society/government etc.

Speaking to The Morung Express on Tuesday, Nyekha said that the defendants have misused the shawls, especially the ones that are protected under GI.

20 shawls of the Chakhesang tribe are currently registered under GI and particularly two shawls from the list have been ‘misused’-the Rira and Rura.

Rira is a men’s shawl while Rura is the feminine version of Rira worn by the womenfolk.

“We have gender- specific shawls but in the show, the shawls that are meant for men were used as sarees, as carpets,” Nyekha said.

The misuse and misrepresentation has been done on a big platform and has hurt the sentiments of the community, she said.

Meanwhile, it was also learnt that the Society had earlier served a legal notification to Ritu Beri and the TRIFED seeking a response within 30 days.

However, they had not received any response, due to which the Society had decided to proceed with the civil suit, Nyekha said.