Trade (and trade marks) between Australia and the United Kingdom (UK)

Here’s an update on the status of the FTA negotiations between Australia and the UK and how it may impact intellectual property owners and in particular, trade marks owners.

Union Jack and Aust flag

On 17 December 2021, the Australian and UK governments virtually signed their highly anticipated Free Trade Agreement. In press releases, both countries emphasised the commercial benefits of this agreement, of particular note:

  • elimination of tariffs on over 99 per cent of Australian goods exports to the UK (including beef, sugar, dairy and wine);
  • Fin-tech companies will be able to supply certain services in each country;
  • The Australian public sector will be able to attract contract bids from UK companies; and
  • There will be an easier process for Australians to live and work in Britain and vice versa.

Intellectual property

Chapter 15 of the Fair Trade agreement expressly addresses a number of intellectual property rights.

Trade Marks – Geographical indications

In relation to trade marks, one of the issues which has arisen out of Brexit is the UK Government’s concern about protection of geographical indications for British produce (Article 15.15 of the Agreement).

The UK has put forward its GI lists for protection in these categories, including Cambrian Mountains Lamb, Gower Salt Marsh Lamb, Bramley Apple Pie Filling, Watercress, Somerset Cider Brandy, and Scotch Whisky.

At this stage however, Australian geographical indications (GIs) are currently limited to wine (for example, “Margaret River”, “Swan Valley”, “Barossa”, “Adelaide Hills”). Australia has no geographical indication registers for:

  • foodstuffs (in spite of the fact that goodwill is significant in food producing regions like King Island, Brolos, Huon Valley);
  • traditional methods of manufacture (e.g. damper); and
  • alcohol beyond wine and fortified wines.

Moving forward, Australia and the UK have agreed that both countries will return to the issue of geographical indications after the parties finalise negotiations in 2022 and the Australian and UK Parliaments pass the required legislation..

If Australia agrees to protect EU GIs under a new Australian GIs system, then the UK may also submit its GIs for potential protection subject to Australia’s legal procedures. It is understood that Australia will treat the UK similarly in this regard, to the way they treat the EU.

What’s next?

Australian brand owners, producers and exporters trading with the UK may wish to check how this new fair trade agreement will impact them and what it will mean for their IP rights. Please contact our Trade Marks Attorneys if there is anything you wish to discuss.