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Intellectual property refers to intangible assets of your business and can refer to your ideas or other expressions. There are different kinds of intellectual property, and each operates differently under the law. In particular, geographical indications and trade marks may be relevant for your business if you operate in the wine or spirits industry. Some trade marks can use geographical indications, but you must meet the relevant requirements. Therefore, this article will provide some background and explain whether you can register a geographical trade mark. 

What Is a Trade Mark?

Trade marks are a form of intellectual property. They refer to signs or markings that represent your business concerning the goods or services it provides. A trade mark can include the following when represented graphically:

  • words;
  • shapes;
  • symbols;
  • colours; 
  • smells;
  • labels; or
  • a combination of these.

For instance, you may register your business name or logo as a trade mark.

You can apply to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) to register your trade mark for stronger enforceable trade mark rights. However, before doing so, you should conduct a trade mark search to ensure marks confusingly similar to yours do not already exist in the market.

IPONZ will assess your application, and your success will depend on whether you meet their criteria. Registered trade marks cannot be too generic or use common industry terms or phrases. The more distinctive and unique your trade mark is, the more likely IPONZ is to approve it.

Having exclusive trade mark rights covers the definitive right to:

  • use and commercialise your trade mark;
  • prevent others from using or commercialising your trade mark without permission; and
  • licence or sell your trade mark as you desire.

What Is a Geographical Indication?

A geographical indication is another form of intellectual property, but its reach is broader in scope than a trade mark. When associated with a product, it identifies that good as coming from a particular:

  • region; 
  • area; or
  • locality.

This good then has the specific characteristics or level of quality associated with that geographical origin. Usually, geographical indications apply to food or drink products like:

  • wine;
  • spirits;
  • cheeses; or
  • meat products.

For instance, Champagne is one wine geographical indication that sellers/producers can only use if they produce the sparkling wine in the Champagne region of France. In New Zealand, famous wine regions like Marlborough also have applicable geographical indications.

Notably, anyone who is an “interested person” can register a geographical indication. For example, these tend to be:

  • wine/spirits producers;
  • wine/spirits traders; or
  • an association of producers or traders.

Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand

Our free Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand guide explains how to register and defend your trade mark registration.

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When Can I Use a Geographical Indication?

You can only use geographical indications if you qualify appropriately. There are strict requirements for using a geographical indication that depend on your production processes. In particular, you can only use a geographical indication related to wine if you:

  • make at least 85% of your wine from grapes harvested in the area that the geographical indication relates to;
  • make the rest of the wine from grapes harvested in New Zealand; and
  • use the geographical indication in line with the requirements of its registration.

You can only use a geographical indication concerning spirit if it originated in the area the geographical indication applies. You also must use the geographical indication according to its registration in New Zealand.

Can I Register a Geographical Trade Mark?

Notably, you can register your trade mark containing an existing geographical indication. However, you must meet certain requirements if you wish to do this successfully. In particular, you can only use a geographical indication in this way if the trade mark relates to the particular wine or spirit that originates from the area it applies to. Outside of these situations, you cannot include a geographical indication in your trade mark.

On top of that, you will also need to meet the requirements for using that geographical indication.

For example, suppose you wish to include the Marlborough geographical indication as part of your wine’s logo. In that case, you will need to source the majority of your grapes in the Marlborough region, as the paragraphs above indicate. There will likely be further restrictions as well.

Your trade mark must contain the whole of the geographical indication, and you must include wine as part of the classes that your trade mark applies to in your application.

Key Takeaways

Trade marks and geographical indications are both different kinds of intellectual property. The scope of what they cover is distinct, but you can include a geographical indication in a trade mark. However, you need to ensure that your trade mark applies to wine or spirits that originate in the area that the geographical indication covers. If you would like more information or help registering your geographical trade mark, contact LegalVision’s trade mark lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark refers to a sign or mark that represents your business and what it provides. For example, common trade marks include your business name or logo.

What is a geographical indication?

A geographical indication is an intellectual property right that protects a unique characteristic or aspect of the area it applies to. For example, when given for goods, that indicates that the particular good comes from that area and has those unique characteristics.

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