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Geographical Indications Registration

New Zealand at long last has a Geographical Indications (GI) register – although only for wines and spirits.

What is a Geographical Indication?

Wines and spirits from some particular sources have a special reputation for quality, for example, sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, whisky from Scotland.

In the past, such producers have successfully defended their names in New Zealand through the Courts, where they have to prove market recognition on a case by case basis. There can be problems if the industry is not united in its approach.

Countries around the world have been moving towards creating registers of places with recognised significance, so they are easier to enforce.

New Zealand’s regime

New Zealand introduced a GI registration system on 27 July 2017.

So far there are only three places on the register – those granted special “enduring” protection – “New Zealand”, “North Island” and “South Island”.

Any registered GI, including these three, must be used in accordance with the registration. Failure to do so is deemed to be a breach of the Fair Trading Act, enforceable through the Courts by competitors, or by the Commerce Commission.

Using a registered GI

The general rule is that you can only use a registered New Zealand GI for wine if:

  • at least 85% of the wine is obtained from grapes harvested in the place of geographical origin to which the GI relates
  • all of the constituent remainder of the wine (if any) is obtained from grapes harvested in New Zealand, and
  • the GI is used in accordance with its registration in New Zealand.

For spirits, the spirit must originate in the place of geographical origin to which the GI relates, and the GI must be used in accordance with its registration in New Zealand.

Registering a GI

Anyone can apply to register a GI, but there are onerous requirements to prove the extent of the geographical area, and the quality, reputation or other characteristic attributable to the geographical area. It takes at least six months to achieve registration.

This article is an introduction to a new regime – there are (as always) exceptions to these general rules, and interactions with other areas of law, notably trade marks. If you are involved in the production or sale of wines or spirits, and have any concerns about how the new GI regime may affect your business, please contact our IP specialist, Virginia Nichols.


Virginia Nichols

Senior Associate | Registered Patent Attorney (New Zealand and Australia)

T +64 3 963 1463
M +64 27 449 8893
E virginia.nichols@saunders.co.nz