Geographical Indications for Wines and Spirits now Registrable in New Zealand

The Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 (“the Act”) and the associated regulations came into force on 27 July 2017.

The Act creates a Register where geographic locations in New Zealand can now be registered as Geographical Indications (“GIs”) and where GIs registered overseas can be recorded. Use of the registered GIs are then reserved for wines and spirits from those areas.

Applications for GIs are made at the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (“IPONZ”). The Act provides tools to allow IPONZ to determine if a location is geographically indicative of the wine or spirits from a particular area. This includes an assessment of the impact the terroir of a location has on wine or spirits from that area. Since 27 July 2017, applications for registration have been lodged for a number of well-known wine regions as GIs.

The most obvious impact registration of GIs will have on wine retailers is the restriction that will be imposed on the way in which GIs can be used on wine labels. If a wine is made from grapes sourced from a variety of different locations, use of a GI on the label may breach the new Act.

There is also the potential for branding based on locations to become less distinctive over time because of the development and registration of new GIs.

It is worth noting that the Act does not limit the registration of New Zealand GIs to locations identified on a standard map. New areas can be identified as significant for a style of wine or spirit. Provided those areas meet the criteria set out by the Act, those areas can then be registered as GIs.

The registration of new GIs over time means that limitations on wine retailers and producers will also change.

We recommend that all wine producers and retailers review their current labelling as well as their plans for brand development to ensure that branding steers clear of potential breaches of the Act.

With a wealth of experience in working with renowned New Zealand wineries, Ellis Terry is well-placed to assist in identifying limitations to use of geographic names in New Zealand and in identifying and protecting strong trade mark rights for importers and exporters alike.