Changes to the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 to commence 1 May 2024

expandede version food and wine
Related expertise

Changes to the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 that commence on 1 May 2024 will have a major impact on traders selling certain food and beverages in New Zealand, especially wine, beer, spirits, cheese and oil.

Background to the NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement

New Zealand signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) in July 2023 to create opportunities for New Zealand businesses to utilise EU trade connections amid the COVID-19 Pandemic recovery.  It has been estimated by the New Zealand government that exports to the EU will increase by NZ$1.8 bn per year under this agreement.  Amongst many provisions is the promise that New Zealand will protect almost 2,000 EU Geographical Indications.  This protection commences on 1 May 2024 through amendments to the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 (which is to be renamed to the Geographical Indications Registration Act 2006).

What’s a Geographical Indication

A Geographical Indication (GI) is a mark used to signify a product originates from a certain location and possesses certain attributes as a result, either as a direct result of being grown in that geographic location and/or because of traditional production methods used in that region.  For example, Champagne is a GI for a sparkling wine that originates from the Champagne region in France. 

What’s changing?

Currently, only wine and spirit makers may use and register GIs under the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006.  GIs can also be protected through the Fair Trading Act 1986, registration of collective or certification trade marks, or the common law tort of passing off.  The changes sparked by the EU FTA will broaden the recognition under the Geographical Indications legislation to include other food and beverage products like beer, oil and cheese.

From 1 May 2024, New Zealand will register around 2,000 European Union GIs (see the full list here), and no one will be able to use these GIs in relation to products that don’t possess the characteristics associated with the GIs.  These restrictions apply even if the words are being used to indicate a “type”, “kind”, “style” or “imitation”.

Traders with existing stock as at 1 May 2024 can continue to sell this until it is exhausted, and there is a longer phase out period for some other GIs, such as Feta, Port and Prosecco.  There are also some exceptions for longstanding prior users of the Parmesan and Gruyere GIs that will allow them to continue using the terms.  These products will need to clearly state that were made in New Zealand.

These changes will send some New Zealand traders back to the marketing drawing board, as previous terms that were once fair game can no longer be used unless they are in accordance with the new rules.  The local cheese industry has already formed a group to come up with new names for locally produced cheeses that would have previously been called GIs, such as Feta and Gorgonzola.

In exchange, the EU has agreed to provide similar protection for New Zealand registered GIs (such as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc), and some tariffs will be removed from New Zealand goods entering the EU.

What should you do?

If your products are caught up in these changes, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the new GIs protected under the scheme, and ensure steps are in place to phase out your use of any newly protected GIs by selling out existing stock and updating your product labels and marketing materials.  

If you’re unsure, get in touch with one of our intellectual property experts to help you and your business better understand your options going forward.

Special thanks to Special Counsel Katy Stove and Solicitor Ella Wells for preparing this article.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

Related insights

Find an expert