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29 September 2017

Scotch Whisky one of the first to apply for ‘geographical indication’ in New Zealand

scotch label

A new regime in New Zealand will boost the legal protection of Scotch

Scotch Whisky is one of the first applications to be listed on New Zealand's register of geographical indications (GIs) - a sign used on wines and spirits from a specific area which have a quality, reputation or other characteristic linked to that location.

Scotland's national drink was one of the first GI applications to appear on the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office site when the regime went live in July. Once accepted, 'Scotch Whisky' will have protection as a registered GI in New Zealand from the genesis of the country's registration regime. New Zealand's GI scheme is designed to give greater legal protection to domestic and international wines and spirits and protect consumers against fakes.

GI recognition means the description 'Scotch Whisky' can only be used on whisky produced in Scotland ...

GI recognition means the description 'Scotch Whisky' can only be used on whisky produced in Scotland in accordance with UK law. Requirements include that Scotch is only made from the raw materials of water, cereals and yeast and matured in Scotland for at least three years in oak casks.

Currently in New Zealand, if someone is selling fake 'Scotch' there is the option of taking legal proceedings for breach of the Fair Trading Act which comes with some uncertainties.
GI status is of great commercial value to the Scotch Whisky industry and gives consumers confidence in the quality and provenance of what they are buying. Scotch is officially recognised in the laws of nearly 100 countries.

Looking ahead, the SWA would welcome an early UK-New Zealand free trade agreement following Brexit. While Scotch Whisky already enjoys a zero import tariff in New Zealand, an FTA could deliver other benefits. Such benefits are: guaranteed and improved protection of GIs; strengthened whisky definition; removal of import duty equivalent charges; industry access to New Zealand's health promotion levy to help fund responsible drinking campaigns and end of the prohibition of the sale of spirits in the country's supermarkets.

Lindesay Low, Scotch Whisky Association senior legal counsel, said: "As Scotch Whisky continues to grow in popularity, attempts are often made to try to take unfair advantage of its success, for example by trying to make and sell fakes. Recognition as a GI helps protect against such illegal activities. It's important that consumers have confidence in the provenance of what they are buying, which this recognition of Scotch as a 'geographical indication' will help to achieve.

"We were quick off the mark to file our application to register Scotch Whisky as a GI in New Zealand as it offers such great protection to our product. We await the decision of the New Zealand authorities on our early application.

"We hope a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the UK will be signed following Brexit to further improve the status of Scotch Whisky in the market."

registering Scotch Whisky as a GI in New Zealand offers such great protection to our product

Lindesay Low, SWA Senior Legal Counsel

British High Commissioner Jonathan Sinclair said: "My team have built a strong relationship with the SWA and had worked closely with them to push the case for changes to New Zealand legislation". He added: "The export of Scotch Whisky to New Zealand is important and we will continue to work with the industry to ensure that it continues to thrive and prosper in New Zealand."

Leading New Zealand intellectual property firm AJ Park assisted the Association in filing the application. Laura Carter, senior associate at AJ Park, said: "A new registration regime is always an exciting but somewhat uncertain time. It's great having the kind of collaborative relationship that we have with the Scotch Whisky Association so we are able to navigate this new environment together, and bolster the protection available for the fantastic product produced by the Association's members".

Exports of Scotch Whisky to New Zealand were up almost 18% last year to just under £6.3 million.

Geographical Indications (GI)
Only products that have a specific geographical origin and possess a quality and a reputation or other characteristic associated with that origin qualify for GI status. That means Scotch Whisky is recognised as a product that must be made in Scotland.

GIs were first formally recognised in the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in 1994. All WTO members must protect a GI from misuse. The Scotch Whisky Association is also registering Scotch Whisky as a GI in as many countries as possible.

With media queries please contact Rosemary Gallagher, Scotch Whisky Association head of communications

0044 131 222 9230 or 0044 7432 605385, email