Baldwins Law Solicitor Joseph Bracewell discusses how Geographic Indications are up for negotiation and expansion in the EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement. A GI is a sign used on certain products from a specific geographical origin, which identifies that the product originates from that specific geographical location, he writes.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (“MFAT”) has sought nominations from New Zealand agricultural, wine, spirits, aquaculture, food producers, and producer groups for their product names to be proposed to the EU for registration and protection as Geographical Indications (“GIs”).
A GI is a sign used on certain products from a specific geographical origin, which identifies that the product originates from that specific geographical location. The reputation and special characteristics of these products derive from their geographical origin. A registered GI can only be used on specific products originating from that specific geographical location, and any use on other products in New Zealand is a breach of the Fair Trading Act 1986. The classic example of a GI is CHAMPAGNE, which may be used only in reference to sparkling white wine originating from the Champagne region of France.
In June 2018, New Zealand and the European Union (“the EU”) commenced formal negotiations regarding a free trade agreement. As part of these negotiations, the EU is requesting that New Zealand recognise and protect a list of GIs originating from the EU in New Zealand.
At present New Zealand’s GI regime recognises only wine and spirits but will need to be expanded to foods as well to recognise the full EU list. While the EU list includes a number of GIs that most New Zealanders will not have heard of, it also includes items such as Feta cheese, which are currently in use by New Zealand producers.
Any recognition of such names as GIs will prevent New Zealand companies from using these names to refer to products produced outside of the recognised area in question. Accordingly there is also an opportunity to object to any of the GIs contained in the list the EU has provided. Members of the agriculture, aquaculture, foodstuffs, wine, spirits, and relevant producer bodies may wish to make a submission.
In return, MFAT is looking for New Zealand producers to submit potential GIs for nominations. While there are a number of GI registrations already in place in New Zealand for wine, the expanded potential for foodstuffs to be recognised should open the doors for broader interest. This includes foods with strong national and regional ties to New Zealand, such as Manuka honey or Bluff oysters.
Nominations and objections closed last month.
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Additional contributor: Mariyam Sheeneez
Baldwins Law Solicitor Joseph Bracewell assists clients with the development and protection of their trade marks and copyright. Joseph advises clients on brand protection and management, as well as commercial aspects of their trade mark and copyright portfolios. Joseph is a registered trans-Tasman patent attorney. In 2015 he was awarded the NZIPA Prize for the top mark in the country for Paper B – New Zealand Law and Practice Relating to Trade Marks. Before joining Baldwins in 2015, Joseph worked as a legal assistant in the music industry and maintains a strong interest in all aspects of the media industry and related legal practice. Contact Joseph at [email protected] or connect via LinkedIn