Thursday 12 November 2020

Geographical indications - A new intellectual property right for Australia?

The Australian Government is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU). As part of these negotiations, the Government is seeking public input on the recognition of geographical indications as a new intellectual property right in Australia. The deadline for submissions is 30 November 2020.

What is a geographical indication?

A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used to indicate that products come from a specific geographical area and have qualities that are due to their origin in that area. For example, sparkling wine can only be called ‘Champagne’ if it was produced in the Champagne region of France. The growing environment in the Champagne region, especially the soil and climate, are said to give Champagne its specific qualities.

The FTA negotiations

In June 2018, the Australian government launched FTA negotiations with the EU with the aim of securing improved access to the European market. The EU has identified the protection of GIs in Australia as one of its key objectives in the negotiations. In order to secure Australia’s interests in the FTA, the Australian Government is considering the introduction of a new GI right for Australia.

Current protection for GIs in Australia

Currently, GIs can be protected in Australia through registering a certification trade mark or through a separate GI registration system dedicated to wine.

Certification trade marks are used to indicate that goods or services meet certain standards of quality, production or geographical origin. Parma (for ham and processed pig meat products) and Scotch whisky (for whisky) are examples of European GIs successfully registered as certification marks in Australia.

The Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA) administers a registration system for wine GIs through the Register of Protected Geographical Indications and other terms. Winemakers, grape growers and industry associations from anywhere in the world can apply to AGWA to have their GIs registered and protected. Over 100 Australian wines and more than 2,000 European wines (including Bordeaux, Mosel, Chianti and Sherry) have been entered on the Register.

Public consultation

The Australian Government is seeking input from businesses, industries and consumers on the public policy considerations outlined in its Consultation Paper to inform the possible development and main features of a registration system for a new Australian GI right. In particular, the Government is seeking written comments on the questions outlined below.

Registering a GI

 1. What types of goods should be eligible for protection as a GI?

 2. Should GIs filed under a new system cover a single good or multiple goods?

 3. Are there particular safeguards that should be considered for a new GI right?

 4. Under what circumstances should a new GI and an earlier trade mark be able to co-exist?

 5. What level of detail should be required for any conditions of use, such as production methods and boundaries?

Standard of protection

 6. Should a new GI right extend the international standard of protection for wines and spirits to all goods? Are there other practices that should be prevented?

Using a GI right

 7. Who should be able to apply for a GI in Australia?

8. Should those who meet the requirements of a GI be able to use the GI automatically, or should they need approval from the GI rights holder?

Enforcing GIs

 9. Should any user be able to enforce a GI or should it be limited to the GI rights holder?

10. Should criminal enforcement be available for GIs registered in Australia?

Costs and benefits

11. What would be the costs and benefits to Australian industry, producers and consumers of creating a new GI right?

Making your voice heard

Businesses, industries and consumers can comment on these issues by:

If you have any questions about the proposed recognition of geographical indications in Australia, or about intellectual property protection in general, please get in touch with us at AJ Park.