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6 Key Things to Know About Trade Marks and the Wine Industry

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New Zealand’s wine industry is competitive, making protecting your wine business’ branding even more critical. In New Zealand, trade marks and geographical indications (GIs) play an essential role in protecting the distinct identity of a winery and its products. This article will take you through six key things to know about the relationship between trade marks and New Zealand’s wine industry. 

1. Why Are Trade Marks Important in the Wine Industry?

In a sector where reputation is just as, if not more, important as your goods themselves, trade marks act as protection against both imitation and consumer confusion. For all wineries, the labels placed on their bottles are more than just a design. Instead, they attest to its quality. A thoroughly protected trade mark is one way to ensure customers associate the qualities of your wine with your brand. This then leads to trust in your winery and consumer loyalty. 

2. What are Geographical Indications?

Geographical indications (GIs) provide an extra layer of distinction to New Zealand wines. A GI refers to a sign on goods with a specific geographical origin. These goods must possess qualities or characteristics that represent that specific origin. 

For wine, GIs will usually emphasise essential factors that contribute to the characteristics of the wine, such as the climate or soil. The importance of GIs in New Zealand is recognised by the Wine Act 2003. This Act seeks to ensure that consumers can trust that a wine labelled with a specific region reflects the qualities associated with that area. 

GIs are, therefore, important for New Zealand on a broader scale, given they contribute to the promotion of the country’s wine sector internationally.

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3. What is the Trade Mark Registration Process?

The first step to registering a trade mark for your wine is conducting a thorough search to ensure that your chosen mark is unique and not already used by another business. This is essential to prevent potential conflicts and establish the foundation for a strong trade mark.

The next step is applying with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). This application includes detailed information about:

  • the trade mark;
  • how you intend to use it; and 
  • the goods or services it will represent. 

For wineries, the goods and services you select might not only encompass the wines themselves. You might also wish to register your trade mark with associated goods such as merchandise.

Your mark will then be assessed for compliance with the legal requirements.

4. What is the Geographical Indications Registration Process?

Registering a GI involves a specialised process separate from trade mark registration. This application is made to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and must contain details about the:

  • geographical area;
  • product’s characteristics; and 
  • link between your product and the region. 

The MPI assesses the application by considering factors such as:

  • historical use;
  • distinctiveness; and 
  • the impact of a registered GI on other regional producers, as well as their support for the registration. 

5. What Are Some Key Challenges in Trade Mark and GI Registration?

While both registration processes provide a framework for legal protection, wineries must remain cautious of the potential challenges involved.

For example, one common issue is the risk of trade mark infringement. This occurs when another business uses a similar trade mark that could confuse consumers. To avoid this, businesses must vigilantly monitor the market and take quick action against potential infringement.

On the other hand, a common challenge with GIs may arise from attempts to use the registered name for products outside the defined geographical area. This can lead to the dilution of the characteristics associated with the area. This may have an adverse impact on the reputation of all wines associated with the GI. 

6. What If I Want to Collaborate?

Given the importance of GIs in New Zealand’s wine industry, it is common for collaborations to occur. For example, wineries may collaborate with other businesses to promote the unique characteristics of their specific region.

In such instances, it is essential to be cautious about using each party’s trade marks. A carefully drafted licensing agreement will ensure that each winery retains control over its brand. 

Seeking the advice of an experienced lawyer with knowledge of licensing and commercial collaboration contracts is one way to ensure you protect both your marks and the reputation of your GI.

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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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Key Takeaways 

Trade marks and geographical indications (GIs) play an essential role in protecting the distinct identity of a winery and its products. This is particularly true in New Zealand, where the wine industry has garnered an excellent reputation. Some key things to understand about trade marks for your New Zealand winery include:

  • why trade marks are important;
  • what geographical indications are; 
  • how to register your mark and geographical indication;
  • the key challenges for trade marks and geographical registrations; and
  • how to collaborate with other businesses while protecting your brand.

If you need assistance protecting the brand of your New Zealand winery, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

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