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Changes to New Zealand’s GI (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 come into effect on May 1, 2024

17 May 2024

Changes to New Zealand’s GI (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 come into effect on May 1, 2024

Changes to New Zealand’s Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006(GI Act)came into effect on May 1, 2024. These changes provide greater protection for European Union GIs in New Zealand under the New Zealand-European Union Free Trade Agreement.

Jenni Rutter, Partner, Dentons Kensington Swan, Auckland

With the enactment of the GI Act, New Zealand is set to register around 2,000 EU GIs, mostly food, wine, spirits and other beverages. No individual or business enterprise in New Zealand can use any of these EU GIs for products that do not exhibit the same characteristics.

“A small handful of international GIs were protected in New Zealand under the Geographical Indications (Wines and Spirits) Registration Act 2006, including Scotch Whisky and Napa Valley wine. In return for the EU’s recognition of New Zealand-registered GIs, the act has now been amended to cover 1,975 EU GIs used on a wide range of food and beverage products. Enhanced enforcement measures are also being introduced, giving recourse through the High Court and appointed GI officers,” said Jenni Rutter, a partner at Dentons Kensington Swan in Auckland.

However, Rutter was also quick to add that traders have to make some adjustments.

Among the 1,975 EU GIs that will now receive protection in New Zealand are important food and beverage descriptors. These descriptors have been used by New Zealand traders for many years for non-European goods. “This means an immediate change of practice will be needed by those calling non-EU products by GI names. Simply including words such as ‘like’ or ‘style’ with a GI will not be enough to prevent infringement. Those who have used ‘gruyère’ or ‘parmesan’ for a minimum of five years prior to May 1, 2024, can continue doing so. But traders who have used certain other EU GIs will enter a designated phase-out timeframe and will eventually have to stop using these GIs. The transition periods range from five years (for gorgonzola, port and prosecco) to nine years (for feta),” she explained. “This should give NZ businesses time to sell through stock and develop a rebranding strategy.”

The enactment of the changes to the law on GIs also means that New Zealand exporters, particularly those in the wine and spirits industry, have new opportunities to access the EU market. The EU free trade agreement offered protection for New Zealand’s 23 registered wine GIs as of May 1, 2024, and promised competitive advantages against other global exporters.

- Espie Angelica A. de Leon

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