Signed, Soon to be Sealed, and Delivered: European Union Geographical Indications

In our 2019 article Geographical Indications, European Trade And Indigenous Rights – A Fair Exchange?, we discussed the European Union Free Trade Agreement (EUFTA) provision for recognition of European Union Geographical Indications (EUGIs) and the likely impact on New Zealand food and wine producers.

Of concern was the need for producers to stop using certain terms now confirmed as EUGIs which had been in use in New Zealand for many years by many producers, without objection.  A new GI alternative will need to be adopted.

While the original list of over 2000 EUGIs tendered in the earlier stages of negotiation has been trimmed back, the newly signed EUFTA still contains many EUGIs which could impact on New Zealand food and wine producers including “FETA” for cheese, “PORT” for fortified wine or “ELIA KALAMATAS” for olives.

Time-Frames for Change

Signing the EUFTA is the first step on the path towards ratification, but there is a lot of groundwork required before the EUFTA is entered into New Zealand law, including legislature changes to ensure compliance with terms in the EUFTA.  The quickest likely time-frame for this to be completed is by 2024.

Following this, New Zealand producers will have between 5 and 9 years to phase out use of EUGIs.

Geographical Indication vs Trade Mark vs Descriptor?

Typical wine labelling will include a trade mark and a descriptor, and may also include an EUGI[1]:

Before launching into a re-branding exercise, producers need to understand which elements need to be changed because of EUGIs and which elements can be retained and freely used.

An Opportunity not to be Missed

Once producers have confirmed what needs to be done, a strategy should be put in place to develop new terms that can replace references to EUGIs.  These GI alternatives might be descriptive terms, new trade marks, or industry accepted terms yet to be developed. 

Producers should then ensure they have a plan in place address the mandatory changes within the allocated time-frame so that the phase out period is a smooth as possible.

This is an excellent time for producers to assess ways to create new trade marks and maximise exposure with a new brand story.  Throughout this process producers should remain aware of the relevant intellectual property and advertising laws to ensure good decisions and avoid unnecessary disruption to business.

Help Starts Now

An IP Advisor is a valuable first port of call.  The right advisor will help identify where change is required and work options for GI alternatives which will maximise the value for the business.

Talk to us today to see how we can help.

[1] The label used in this example is entirely fictitious.  No identification with an actual product is intended or should be inferred.