Geographical Indications – not just your average trade mark

If you have an appreciation for wining and dining, you are likely to be familiar with many names that are protected by Geographical Indications.

Think Tequila, Sherry, Prosciutto di Parma, Columbian Coffee, Feta – and of course my favourite – Champagne 😊  and you will realise that you are coming across Geographical Indications everywhere these days.

A Geographical Indication is a name that not only refers to what you are eating or drinking, but also where it comes from and how it was made.  This is a very unique and important type of brand protection, which functions in a similar way to a standard trade mark.  Both a Geographical Indication and a standard trade mark provide information about the product.  However, the trade mark indicates commercial origin, whereas a Geographical Indication indicates geographical origin.

How is a Geographical Indication protected?

In Australia, Geographical Indications are protected by certification trade marks. A certification trade mark is a unique type of trade mark, which is used to indicate that a product or service meets a certain standard. For example, a certification trade mark may indicate that the product or service meets a certain standard of quality, is made of particular materials, has been made in a certain way, or is from a particular location. Certification trade marks are registered with clear “rules”, approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which must be met by the owner and approved users of the mark.  In the case of a Geographical Indication, the rules clearly state that goods of a particular Geographical Indication must be from a particular geographical region, have a particular quality, reputation, production method or a combination of all of these.

yellow kangaroo on green triangle background
A well known certification trade mark in Australia is the “Australian Made” certification mark, owned by the Australian Made Campaign Limited.

Alongside the certification trade mark process, there is particular legislation for foreign and Australian Geographical Indications and the Australian Consumer Law. Special legislations state that falsely claiming a Geographical Indication is a criminal offence, whereas the Australian Consumer Law sanctions parties who deliberately seek to mislead or deceive consumers, in the case of a Geographical Indication , by falsely stating the geographical origin or geographical indication of a product.

Examples of Geographical Indications (GIs) registered in Australia

Examples of foreign graphical indications registered in Australia include:

  • Parmigiano Regianno (Certification mark 677876) for cheese,
  • Scotch whisky (Certification mark 1532781) for spirits and spirit based beverages
  • Darjeeling (Certification mark 998592) for tea.

Benefits of GIs

  • Marketing tool to show consumers why their goods are better than similar goods from elsewhere – creates a competitive advantage
  • Provides the owner of a registered Geographical Indication with the right to enforce it to prevent its unauthorized use

To discuss your trade mark protection options and whether a GI application is suitable for your goods, please contact one of our specialist trade marks attorneys