FOR IP PROFESSIONALS

Geographical indications

A Geographical Indication, or GI, identifies goods as originating in a specific territory, region or locality where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristics is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

What is the value of a GI?

GIs can be a powerful marketing and branding tool. Producers may benefit from using a GI because of it's association with the reputation and characteristics of a certain region.

Consumers benefit from GIs because it gives them an assurance of the origin or character of the products they purchase.

Examples of GIs

Examples of GI's protected in Australia for cheese are:

  • Stilton
  • Roquefort
  • Grana Padano
  • Parmigiano Reggiano

Each of these types of cheese come from specific European regions. The unique characteristics of the cheese are due to the specific recipes and regions where they are produced.

Parma is another GI protected in Australia, this time for ham. This means that ham cannot be called Parma in Australia unless it is made using a specific recipe and process and produced in a specific part of Italy. 

Two well known GIs for wine in Australia are Coonawarra and Rutherglen.

  • Coonawarra is renowned for its fine wines, reputed to be due to the famous local 'terra rossa' soil
  • Rutherglen is famous for its fortified wines whose flavours are attributed to the local climate

An example of a GI from overseas is Champagne, which is protected in Australia as a GI for wine produced in the relevant area of France using a particular method of production. 

All these wines have a reputation for a particular flavour, depth or other quality which can be attributed to the geographic locations where they are made.  

How can a GI be registered in Australia?

There are two ways of registering a GI in Australia.

One of these is the certification trade mark system. GIs for any goods can be protected using the certification trade mark system. 

Certification trade marks indicate that goods meet standards of quality, composition or geographical origin or the like. The standards that the trade marks represent are laid out in rules which are publicly available.

In addition to the role of IP Australia in registering certification trade marks, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is required under the Trade Marks Act to assess the rules to ensure they do not mislead consumers or raise competition issues in Australia.

Once terms are registered as GIs in Australia, the can only be used on goods that have been produced in accordance with the law, or rules, governing their use.

There is an additional seperate way to register GIs for wine only which is administered by the Wine Australia Corporation.

What are the benefits of registering a certification trade mark to protect a GI? 

As the registered owner of a GI protected under the certification trade mark system in Australia, you:

  • have a registration which can help you to register your GI in other countries
  • may give the Australian Customs Service a notice objecting to the importation of goods that infringe your registered GI
  • are in a stronger position to stop other people from using your GI

Can an Australian GI be protected in other countries?  

Yes, however, protection of a GI overseas is subject to the laws of the country concerned and may be separate from that country's trade mark system. 

Australia is a contracting party to the Madrid Protocol, which simplifies the process for protecting trade marks in other contracting countries. 

Can GIs from other countries be protected in Australia?

Yes. A number of GIs from other countries are registered under Australia's certification trade mark system and under the Wine Australia Corporation Act. These include registrations by international producers and Australian importers.

Last Updated: 16/12/2013

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Bachelor of Business Studies (Hons)

Trade Mark Examiner since 2011
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