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New EU Geographical Indications take effect in NZ from May 2024

The world’s most recognisable geographical indication (GI) is of course ‘Champagne’. Consumers around the world purchase this sparkling wine knowing it has been produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France.


Currently, a small selection of GIs are protected in New Zealand under our Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 (GI Act) for wines and spirits only. As well as ‘Champagne’ other examples are ‘Marlborough’ for wine and ‘Scotch Whisky’ for spirits.

New Zealand and the European Union signed a free trade agreement in 2023 which has resulted in changes to our GI Act. These changes will take effect on 1 May 2024.


What will change

An approved list of 1,975 EU registered GIs (the approved EU GIs) will be added to the New Zealand GI Register.


Unlike the GIs historically registered in New Zealand, the approved EU GIs will not be limited to wine and spirits but will also include a range of food and beverages, such as cheeses, oils, fruits, vegetables, and meats. More products may also be added in future.


What will no longer be permitted

Products that depict an approved EU GI can only be sold in New Zealand if they meet the EU requirements for that particular GI product.  These requirements may relate to where or how the product was made, or whether it has been properly verified by an authorised body.


Traders who breach the GI Act may be ordered to stop selling the infringing product, destroy the product, or pay damages or an account of profits.


Most importantly traders should note that if you use an approved EU GI – like ‘Feta’ for cheese for example – you will infringe the GI Act if you do not meet the specified EU requirements for that product, regardless of whether the product label indicates your cheese is actually made in NZ or refers to your cheese as being a “feta kind”, “feta type”, “feta style”, “feta imitation” or similar comparison to the GI.


Interim measures

If you are currently lawfully importing into or selling products in New Zealand that depict an approved EU GI, but that do not meet the EU requirements for those products, you can continue to sell these products until your stock is exhausted.


Some approved EU GIs such as ‘Feta’, ‘Sherry’, and ‘Port’, have a phase-out period of either 5 or 9 years, which permits their continued use after 1 May 2024, provided the actual geographical origin of the product is clearly indicated.


The full list of approved EU GIs and details of the phase-out or specific use provisions is available here.


Exemptions

An exemption is available to an approved list of prior users of ‘Gruyère’ or ‘Parmesan’. Prior users can continue to use these terms, if they were using them in good faith for a period of at least 5 years before 1 May 2024 and so long as the actual geographical origin of the product is clearly indicated. The list of approved prior users of ‘Gruyère’ and ‘Parmesan’ is available here.


Action to take now

Food and beverage companies need to review the list of approved EU GIs, shown here, and check whether they are using any of these terms.


If you are using an approved EU GI from this list, you should check whether continued use will breach the new restrictions.


Where there is a possibility that your use breaches the new restrictions, you should:

  • review whether a phase-out period applies; 

  • review and revise your product packaging and marketing materials to ensure your use of the approved EU GI complies with the new requirements by either 1 May 2024 or by the end of the phase-out period (if applicable).

Regardless of whether you are currently using these new approved EU GIs, it is crucial that marketing and product development teams are aware of these restrictions and the possibility of additional GIs being added in future.


As a matter of course, prior to releasing any new product or marketing materials, you should review the list of New Zealand registered GIs, which will include approved EU GIs, to ensure the product name or descriptor is not restricted in New Zealand.


If you are unsure whether these new restrictions will affect you or how best to avoid them, please get in touch with the Catalyst Intellectual Property team.


We are here to help.

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