Geographical Indications – Implications of a New Zealand / EU Trade Deal on Product Names

In October 2015, New Zealand and the European Union announced their intention to negotiate a free trade agreement, with formal negotiations launched in June 2018.  The current stated goal is to conclude the agreement by the end of 2019, after which it will be released from public scrutiny, a National Interest Assessment and parliamentary treaty examination.

As part of the free trade deal negotiations, the EU presented New Zealand with a list of names that are currently protected as geographical indications in the European Union, with the intention that New Zealand should also recognise and protect these names.

 

What is a Geographical Indication?

A geographical indication is a sign that informs the consumer that a product comes from a particular geographical location.  For example, sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in France.

Where the consumer attributes certain characteristics, including quality and reputation, to be associated with products originating from a specific place, this form of IP right provides assurance that the product does indeed originate from there.

In New Zealand, geographical indications can be registered for local and international wines and spirits.

In the European Union, geographical indications protect a broader range of products including not only wines and spirits, but also agricultural products and foodstuffs.  Elsewhere, geographical indications may also protect handicrafts and industrial products.

 

Difference Between a Trade Mark and a Geographical Indication

There is some overlap between trade marks and geographical indications as both provide an assurance to the consumer as to the origin of a product.  However, the two are subtly different.

A trade mark provides a “badge-of-origin” as to the commercial source of a product or service, i.e. the company or other entity that is providing it.

A geographical indication, on the other hand, distinguishes the product itself and its actual global location of origin.

 

What Would the EU Like to See in a Free Trade Agreement?

The EU’s lists of products include 172 foodstuffs, as well as extensive lists of wines and spirits.  As part of the terms of the proposed free trade agreement, the EU is looking for New Zealand to also recognise and protect these names as geographical indications in New Zealand.

The EU is looking for a framework to protect these products in New Zealand that is more in line with the EU’s regime for the protection of geographical indications, rather than that which is currently implemented in New Zealand.  This is not an unexpected request when entering into a free trade agreement.

In summary, the EU is seeking that the names in question will receive protection in New Zealand against being use for products or ingredients that do not originate in the EU and have not been produced in accordance with the relevant EU product specification.

This will include protection against commercial use of the product name in relation to non-compliant comparable products, misuse or imitation of the name in relation to products, and false or misleading indications as to the origins of products.

 

What are the Implications?

One potential outcome of the free trade deal could be the restriction of the use of certain product names currently already being used here in NZ.  As part of the negotiation process, however, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also asked for nominations for New Zealand names to be submitted to the EU for consideration for Geographical Indication protection there.

The overall goal of free trade agreements is to minimise trade barriers between the participating territories.  In the spirit of any final agreement, there should be mutual and reciprocal compromise, with ultimate benefits to both sides, as well as opportunities for expanding local products into new markets.

The final scope and level of protection on both sides will depend upon the outcome of the ongoing negotiations.

Alistair Curson

 

References

European Union: Your Europe. (2019, August 13). “Geographical indications”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/running-business/intellectual-property/geographical-indications/index_en.htm

Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006, s6. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2006/0060/latest/DLM390815.html

IP Australia. “Geographical indications”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/trade-marks/understanding-trade-marks/types-trade-marks/certification-trade-mark/geographical

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatū Aorere. “European Union (EU)-New Zealand free trade agreement”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/agreements-under-negotiation/eu-fta/

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatū Aorere. “European Union (EU)-New Zealand free trade agreement: Geographical indications”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/agreements-under-negotiation/eu-fta/geographical-indications/

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatū Aorere. “European Union (EU)-New Zealand free trade agreement: Geographical indications – Foodstuffs list”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/assets/FTAs-in-negotiations/EU-FTA/181001_GI-Foodstuffs-shortlist_NZ.DOCX

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatū Aorere. “European Union (EU)-New Zealand free trade agreement: Geographical indications – Wines list”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/assets/FTAs-in-negotiations/EU-FTA/EU-FULL-LIST-ON-WINES.PDF

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatū Aorere. “European Union (EU)-New Zealand free trade agreement: Geographical indications – Spirits list”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/assets/FTAs-in-negotiations/EU-FTA/EU-FULL-LIST-SPIRITS-GI.PDF

New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Manatū Aorere. “European Union (EU)-New Zealand free trade agreement: Timeline for negotiations”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/agreements-under-negotiation/eu-fta/timeline-for-nz-eu-negotiations/

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Geographical Indications”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/geographical-indications/

TVNZ On Demand. (2019, August 15). “Seven Sharp – NZ cheese producers may have to start renaming products under new EU proposal”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/seven-sharp/clips/nz-cheese-producers-may-have-to-start-renaming-products-under-new-eu-proposal

Wikipedia. (2019, August 25). “Free trade agreement”. Retrieved August 29, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_trade_agreement

Wikipedia. (2019, July 20). “Seven Sharp”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Sharp

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “Geographical Indications”. Retrieved August 17, 2019, from: https://www.wipo.int/geo_indications/en/

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