Protection of GIs - Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act

A Geographical Indication (“GI”) is a sign that identifies a product as originating from a region or locality, where a given characteristic of the product, such as quality, is attributable to its geographical origin.

Currently there is no legislation in force in New Zealand that specifically protects GIs. However, it is possible to protect GIs through more general consumer protection legislation such as the Fair Trading Act 1986 and through the Common Law tort of passing off.

The Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006, which repeals and replaces the Geographical Indications Act 1994 (which was never brought into force), was passed by Parliament in November 2006.

This Act puts in place a process for the registration of both New Zealand and international wine and spirit GIs. Key elements of the Act include:

    • To be registered, a geographical indication must indicate that a wine or spirit originates from a defined area and that the quality, reputation or other characteristic of the wine or spirit is essentially attributable to that geographical origin;
    • A prohibition on using a geographical indication for wines and spirits that do not originate from the area indicated. Breaches of the prohibition will be treated as breaches of the Fair Trading Act 1986;
    • Common or generic terms will not be protected (e.g. spirits named “vodka”);
    • An expert committee, which includes someone with knowledge of the wine or spirits industry, to provide advice to the Registrar.

However, the Act has not yet been brought into force by an Order in Council. Moreover, before this can occur, implementing regulations need to be drafted. While it was intended that this process would be completed and a registration system in place by mid-2007, to date no Regulations have been made and it is unlikely that Regulations will be made in the near future.


 

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