R S Praveen Raj
R S Praveen Raj is an Indian social activist and ex-patent examiner. Born on 31 March 1979, he started his career as an electrical and electronics engineer. Since November 2004, he has been working as scientist and research and development manager in CSIR's National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST) in Thiruvananthapuram and is responsible for intellectual property (IP) management, technology transfer and human resource management at the Institute. Prior to joining Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), he worked as patent examiner in Indian Patent Office after a short stint in engineering job at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram.
Praveen Raj campaigns against alleged misuse of intellectual property laws in religious affairs. In 2009, he filed a case in Kerala High Court against Attukal Temple in Thiruvananthapuram for trademarking deity picture and another case in Supreme Court of India against Tirupati Temple for securing geographical indication tag to Tirupati Laddu, temple offering. Raj is also active in policy research and academic activities. He played a key role in devising IPR Policy of Kerala Government, which addresses the concerns on traditional knowledge protection. He was also associated in the process of making IPR compulsory in the curriculum of University/School Education in Kerala and setting up of educational institutions. He is also a proponent of right to information (RTI) in India.
Tirupati Laddu Prasadam and GI controversy
Tirupati Laddu is a prasadam given at Tirumala Temple in Tirupati, which is the richest temple in India. In 2009, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the trust which manages the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple obtained geographical indication (GI) tag to Tirupati laddu from Indian Patent Office. Geographical Indications (GI) is an intellectual property right (IPR), which identifies “goods” as originating from a certain region where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. The GI status gives the product a built-in legal protection and makes any infringement of the rights an offence. The legislative intent of GI statute is protecting the interest of the genuine producers from the specified geographical region.
TTD’s GI application said that the laddu derived its sanctity, reputation and uniqueness from it being offered as naivedyam (offering) to the Lord. R.S. Praveen Raj, moved Supreme Court of India against the grant of GI to ‘Tirupati laddu’ lamenting that it is quite hard for devotees to believe that temple offerings are equivalent to manufactured goods or commercially significant commodities. He said that the GI tag on Tirupati laddu also passes a wrong message to the public that temple prasadams are akin to ‘industrial goods'. According to him, allowing GI registration of goods produced by private entities like TTD would defeat the spirit of GI protection, which is meant for protecting, preserving and promoting collective community rights as opposed to private monopoly rights. However he withdrew the petition from supreme court as a similar public interest petition was filed before the Madras High Court by another person.
However Madras High Court dismissed the petition on the ground that there already existed an alternate and efficacious remedy, in the form of rectification plea before the registrar of GIs or the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB). R.S. Praveen Raj, then petitioned IPAB requesting it to initiate an action on its own will (suo motu) for the cancellation of GI status to the Tiruppathi laddu. IPAB wrote back to him stating that it had no such power to act on its own volition. In October 2010, he registered an application with the GI Registry seeking removal of the entry pertaining to ‘Tirupati Laddu' from the register. But the Geographical Indications (GI) Registry, Chennai rejected ex-parte and with costs the application for removal of GI tag. R. S. Praveen Raj, has failed to prove locus standi and interest with the registered good, the order said.
Case against grant of Trademark to picture of deity in Attukal Temple
In March 2009,Attukal Bhagawathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram city, obtained trademark protection for the picture of the presiding deity (Kannagi) and its claim to the title ‘Sabarimala of Women'. Office bearers of the temple trust claimed that the certificate issued by trademark registry under the Office of Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (Indian Patent Office) would help them to prevent unauthorised use of the picture and the title. However a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court initiated a suo motu case against the decision of the Controller General to grant certificate of trademark on the picture of the deity and the sobriquet 'Sabarimala of women’ based on a petition faxed by R.S. Praveen Raj. According to him,the action of the temple authorities sent a wrong message that a place of worship was a “business outfit” since trademark certification was intended for trade and commerce. He said in his petition that the use of religious symbols could not be equated to trade. "The trademark certification was intended for commercial advantage. Trademark indicated the source of manufacture or trade origin of the goods or services and thus protected the ‘goodwill’ of the undertaking. It was not fair for the temple trust to call itself a business undertaking and proprietor of a trade."
- Kurian, Vinson (3 October 2009) "Plea filed in apex court against GI tag for Tirupati Laddu" The Hindu Business Line
- "Kerala temple defends right to patent deity" The Pioneer dated 28 May 2009[dead link]
- "The heat in the religious sweet, Mint News dated Oct 16, 2009". Livemint.com. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Registry moved for removal of GI tag for ‘Tirupati Laddu'", The Hindu Business Line 26 October 2010
- "Expert poser on GI tag for ‘Hyderabadi Haleem'". The Hindu Business Line 6 September 2010
- "Fingerprint device may earn Indian students a patent". The World Trade Review. June 2007. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "`Efficacy' factor will be key to Glivec patent case", The Hindu Business Line. 22 June 2007]
- "IIT alumni founded Adhikari IP secure GI tag for Hyderabadi Haleem: Hyderabadi Biryani next in line". Bar & Bench. 13 September 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Patents grant freedom to invent around", The Hindu Business Line. 6 March 2007
- R.S. Praveen Raj's profile from Official website of NIIST[dead link]
- "‘Clean’ technology for coir fibre extraction, News in The HINDU dated Apr 30, 2009". The Hindu (India). 30 April 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Indian IP examiners have world’s highest workload, lowest pay, News in Mint dated Sept 14, 2010". Livemint.com. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Tirupati's famous laddus face battle on GI tag". Tehelka.com. 14 Dec 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Kerala temple to defend patenting of deity, Thaindian News dated May 26, 2009". Thaindian.com. 26 May 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Petitions to withdraw GI tags for Darjeeling Tea, Tirupathi Laddu", The Hindu Business Line. 20 Dec 2010
- "Case against granting of trademark to deity’s picture". The Hindu (India). 26 May 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "‘Geographical Indication’ tag for Tirupati laddu challenged in Supreme Court". The Hindu (India). 9 October 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "State IPRs policy in WIPO journal". The Hindu (India). 3 September 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Official website of Kerala State Higher Education Council, IPR Syllabus". Kshec.kerala.gov.in. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "IPR policy resolves issues in knowledge sharing", The Hindu Business Line. 13 February 2010
- "Traditional knowledge: Concern on access pact", The Hindu Business Line. 25 Jan 2010[dead link]
- "Kerala to introduce intellectual property rights as a subject, Mint News dated Aug 26, 2008". Livemint.com. 26 August 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "A centre for IPR studies, The Hindu Education Plus News". The Hindu (India). 14 October 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Powerpoint presentation by R S Praveen Raj about RTI Act, 2005 in the Official website of Central Information Commission, India" (PDF). Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "GI registration for Tirupati laddus challenged in court". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 14 October 2009.
- "Trademark for picture, title". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 9 March 2009.
- "Deity's picture: case against trademark". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 26 May 2009.