Registered GIs in addresses

Exporter News | September 2020
29 Sep 2020
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Using an address that includes a geographical indication (GI) could result in a non-compliant label. This article discusses what ‘false’ and ‘misleading’ description and presentation means, how using certain addresses can result in these situations, and how to avoid them.

‘Description and presentation’ and ‘false’ versus ‘misleading’

Registered GIs are protected when used in the ‘description and presentation’ of wine. This is defined in the Wine Australia Act 2013 (the Act) and means a reference to all names (including business names) or other descriptions, references (including addresses), indications, signs, designs and trademarks used to distinguish a wine[1]. This includes indications on the bottle itself, in documents about the wine, and in advertisements, such as cellar door signage or on webpages where the wine is sold.

It’s also important to differentiate between what’s considered ‘false’ and what’s considered ‘misleading’.

If a registered GI is incorrectly used in the description and presentation of a wine, then it’s considered false[2]. Context is irrelevant – and this includes use of a GI in an address. Similarly, adding explanatory words like ‘method’, ‘style’, ‘type’ to a GI or Traditional Expression (TE) doesn’t change anything if the wine isn’t entitled to use those terms – it’s still considered false. There’s a few narrow exceptions to this.

In contrast, the misleading description and presentation[3] test is subjective. If a protected term misrepresents, or makes a wine’s origin unclear, it could be misleading. Similarly, using words or terms that ‘so resemble’ or sound like a registered GI may also be considered misleading (e.g. ‘Shampagne’ or ‘Hunta Valley’).[4]

Selling or exporting a wine with either a false or misleading description and presentation risks a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment[5]. It’s not just Wine Australia who can take action under the Act – it’s open to a broad range of parties including anyone engaged in the manufacture of wine, sector or regional associations, and bodies involved in promotional or consumer protection aspects of wine both in Australia and abroad[6].

How can labelling requirements be met if having a GI in the address is ‘false’?

There’s a specific ‘carve out’ (or exception) to the false description and presentation provision which permits a GI-containing address to be used, provided it’s where the wine was manufactured[7]. This doesn’t include cellar door or vineyard addresses. However, the GI-containing address might still be misleading. There’s some examples of this below.

If the carve out doesn’t apply, the simplest solution is using an alternate supplier address. The Food Standards Code definition of ‘supplier’ is broad, and can mean the manufacturer, packager, vendor or importer – provided it’s an Australian or New Zealand business[8]. If no alternate address is available, the GI could simply be omitted from the address; leaving the street number and name, state and postcode.

If the address carve out applies, how could a label still be misleading and what can be done about it?

If an address includes a registered GI and the actual wine origin isn’t declared, it may (incorrectly) give the impression that the wine originates from the area around that address.

For example, a blend could be sourced from all over Australia and be labelled as simply ‘Australia’, or have no GI claim at all. However, if the address stated, ‘McDonalds Road, Pokolbin NSW’, someone might assume the wine is from Pokolbin if nothing suggests otherwise.

Other examples include (but aren’t limited to) addresses like ‘South Coast Highway, Denmark WA’, ‘Barossa Valley Way, Tanunda SA’ or ‘Midland Highway, Bendigo’. Remember, even if there’s another GI claim on the label, the registered GI in the address mightn’t be necessary in the first place and might be considered false.

If a wine’s description and presentation is deemed misleading, the options mentioned earlier are still relevant – changing the address or omitting the GI from it. Origin information can also be added to the label, such as a specific GI claim (as opposed to a broad GI claim encompassing the address’ GI), or further information to clarify that the wine is blended from multiple origins, if appropriate.

Is there an easy way to test if an address might be false or misleading?

If the address contains a registered GI and at least 85 per cent of the wine’s composition is sourced from that GI, there’s no issue. However, if wine isn’t sourced from the GI used in the address, the flow chart below might help determine if GI use may be considered either false or misleading.

More questions?

Contact the Regulatory Services team for specific advice, including label guidance via labels@wineaustralia.com or (08) 8228 2000.

 

[1] Wine Australia Act 2013, Section 5C

[2] Section 40D

[3] Section 40F

[4] Section 40F (4)

[5] Section 40C, Section 40E

[6] Section 40K

[7] Section 40DA (3)

[8] Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, Standard 1.2.2


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