Geographic Indications up for negotiation and expansion in EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement
Friday 1st February 2019
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (“MFAT”) is currently seeking 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.
Baldwins can assist you with your submissions or objections, and our experts are available for consultation on these issues. All nominations and objections are due by 19 March 2019.
This article was written by Joseph Bracewell and Mariyam Sheeneez