If a Pakistani chef has his way, ‘chicken tikka masala’ may be the intellectual property right of his adopted home of Glasgow.Ahmed Aslam Ali, 64, claims he invented the dish in the 1970s. He and local Scottish politicians are asking that chicken tikka masala be given the same status as champagne or Parma ham — legally tying its production to Glasgow.
Ali, whose family owns Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow, said he came up with the curry dish to please Scots. "Chicken tikka masala was invented in this restaurant," he told AFP. "We used to make chicken tikka, and one day a customer said, ‘I’d take some sauce with that, this is a bit dry.’ We thought we’d better cook the chicken with some sauce. So from here we cooked chicken tikka with the sauce that contains yogurt, cream, spices."
This claim has spurred a more threatening demand. Eight local parliamentarians, led by Labour Party member Mohammad Sarwar, have tabled a motion in the House of Commons.
Their demand: “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) status for chicken tikka masala within the European Union (EU).
This is an IPR called a geographical indicator, which ensures a specific product can legally be produced only by a certain community or region. For a drink to be called champagne, for example, it must be made in the French region of the same name. Indian legal experts say it is “almost impossible” for Ali to win his case.
Sarwar is optimistic: “I am very hopeful the EU will give chicken tikka masala the official stamp of Glasgow origin.” Ali has told local media, “We can call it Glasgow Chicken Tikka Masala.”
The petition would have to be okayed by London and then passed onto the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development for final approval — a procedure that could take one or two years.
Indian IPR lawyers say it is highly unlikely chicken tikka masala could ever be given PDO status.
NK Anand, of the firm Anand and Anand, says, “PDO is given to products with definite links to a proper name of a place, an area or a country.”
Patent lawyer Archana Shanker says other problems exist. “To win such status, the characteristics of chicken tikka masala would have to be defined by its taste, composition, even the type of chicken,” she says. “This would mean someone elsewhere could make a different version and still take the same name” She also wondered if Ali would be able to establish his claim of invention.
(with AFP inputs)