A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. Read more on geographical indications at IP Australia's main geographical indications page.
In China, there is considerable interest in the link between a region and the quality of its products. Increasingly China is protecting geographical indication (GI) terms both domestically and internationally, for example PUER, a dark tea from Yunnan province in China and PINGGU, for peaches grown in the Pinggu District near Beijing.
Examples of GIs for wines in Australia include Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Margaret River, and Hunter Valley, while examples of overseas GIs registered in Australia include Darjeeling tea, Scotch whisky and Stilton cheese.
The number of applications for protection of GIs remains low internationally, compared to other intellectual property rights such as trade marks and patents.
Options for protecting GIs in China
Like Australia, in China it is possible to protect a GI as a certification or a collective trade mark. Trade mark applications can be filed directly to the Chinese Trade Marks Office or through the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks.
Only the organisation that regulates the GI in the country of origin can apply for a GI trade mark in China. The organisation must provide documentation to show the existence and reputation associated with the GI in the country of origin, the region that the GI encompasses, and its administration rules.
GIs may also be protected under a standalone system administered by the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). Again, this application should include documentation to show existence and reputation associated with the GI in the country of origin, the region that the GI encompasses, and its administration rules. There must also be a contact for the GI in China or an official designated at the embassy of the GI originating country.
The application for the GI with its Chinese name must include the contact details, the original of the official certificate of GI protection granted in the originating country, the geographical scope of production, quality and technical requirements of the product to be protected and an examination report about the characteristics of the product, all with a notarized Chinese translation. CNIPA will undertake a formal examination of the application.
This is a complex area of intellectual property. We encourage you to consult a legal firm with extensive experience in this area to assist you to determine the most appropriate course of action to protect a geographical indication in China.