In a bid to protect Australian wine exports from ‘copycat labels’, the Federal Government has committed A$427,000 in funding to the development of a Wine Label Intellectual Property Directory. The proposed directory is part of the Government’s A$50M Export and Regional Wine Support Package.
Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, told The Advocate that “you will not be able to export anywhere around the world unless you are on this directory, and if you try to, we will stop you, and you will not get an export license”. The directory will aim to boost the brand currency of Australian wines in the export market, and dually hold copycat sellers more accountable in that ultimately, such copycats can be stripped of their export license.
Mr Littleproud further detailed that the directory will be searchable by image elements, brand name and publication date and will display a trademarked image of labels, the exporters ABN, brand name and date the label was published to the directory. It is understood that in order to gain export certification, all Australian wine exporters will be required to submit images of their wine labels.
The announcement has been supported by the Australian Grape and Wine (AGW) Chief Executive, Tony Battaglene, who stated in an AGW media release on 12 April 2019 that the directory would “help Australian wine businesses of all sizes to protect their brands and intellectual property from those who seek to rip it off”.
The directory is the latest effort by the Federal Government to clamp down on the export of copycat wines. In 2018, Australia’s wine export regulator, Wine Australia, was afforded greater powers to protect Australian wine by restricting export wines that could infringe intellectual property laws in those foreign jurisdictions.
Wine Australia has previously used these powers to suspend the export license of Daleford Wines, for blatantly mimicking the Penfold brand in China through the selling of “Benfolds” wines. In doing so, Wines Australia supported its decision by stating Daleford Wines had “engaged in activity that aims to leverage from the reputation of another wine brand in China through causing consumer confusion”. Daleford Wines were found to have contravened section 44 of the Wine Australia Act 2013 and the Wine Australia Regulations 2018.
In the midst of such copycat activities, China remains Australia’s most profitable wine export market, accounting for A$1.14 billion – equivalent to 172 million litres – of the country’s A$2.82 billion of wine exports in 2018 (figures taken from Wine Australia Market Bulletin, Issue 140). It remains to be seen whether the implementation of the Wine Label Intellectual Property Directory will adversely affect these export figures, though any effort by the Federal Government to protect the brand of Australian export wines is a good step in the right direction.