Winemakers’ brands to be protected in Australia under new legislation
A Bill to help strengthen Australia’s wine export regulatory system and facilitate brand owners to protect their intellectual property is currently before the Senate.
At present, the Wine Australia Act 2013 (Cth) (Act) is the legislative Act used to control the export of grape products from Australia and to enable Australia to fulfil its obligations under various international agreements. In particular, this Act helps ensure “the truth, and the reputation for truthfulness, of statements made on wine labels, or made for commercial purposes in other ways, about the vintage, variety or geographical indication of wine manufactured in Australia”.
However, if passed into law the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019 (Cth) will allow Wine Australia to expand protections for winemakers by establishing, maintaining and making public a Wine Export Label Directory (Label Directory). Wine Australia will be able to use the Label Directory to decide if there has been a contravention of the Act in regards to label integrity. The Label Directory will allow brand owners to identify copycat labels which may infringe their intellectual property rights, while the Act will provide powers to Wine Australia to strip copycats of their export licence.
Whilst this is a welcome change, the Label Directory should really only be seen as a tool for brand owners to identify potential copycat exporters and brand owners should be aware that obtaining registered trade marks in Australia and overseas is still the most effective way in which to protect their rights.
While the Label Directory will allow brand owners to prevent Australian copycats from exporting products overseas, it will not stop foreign companies from selling counterfeit products overseas. In addition, some countries (such as China, Japan and the European Union) have “first to file” trade mark systems under which the first person to apply for a trade mark is, to all intents and purposes, the owner of that trade mark. Obtaining a trade mark registration in countries to which brand owners intend to export their goods is the best way to ensure that their valuable intellectual property is not hijacked by trade mark squatters.
For further information, or if you wish to protect your trademark, please contact our Intellectual Property team at HopgoodGanim Lawyers.