Wine Australia gets broader powers to combat copycat wines

Wine Australia has been given new powers to protect the reputation of Australian wine by restricting the export of wines that could infringe intellectual property laws in countries such as China, where copycats of Australian wine brand Penfolds are rampant.

Starting from this week, Wine Australia, the country’s wine export regulator, will have more power to vet exporters and deny exporting of wines to a country if they are found to be copycats and counterfeit wines, the trade organisation has announced, affording it the power to suspend or cancel export licenses.

The news came following Australian wine giant, Treasury Wine Estates (TWE)’s lawsuit in Australia against copycat producer Rush Rich, whose name is a rote translation of Penfolds’ Chinese name ‘Ben Fu‘ over trademark infringements of its brand.

Rush Rich is believed to be sourced and bottled through bulk wine suppliers and third party bottlers in South Australia, and then exported under labels that copy the look and feel of Penfolds wines, infringing TWE’s rights to the Penfolds and Ben Fu (奔富) trademarks.

According to the organisation’s CEO Andreas Clark, the new regulations included a number of changes, the most important being the capacity to assess whether an exporter was “fit and proper person”.

“These new regulations will extend Wine Australia’s power to do more to protect Australian wine’s reputation overseas by ensuring the bona fides of potential and existing exporters,” said Clark.

“Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that copycats and counterfeiters can move in when they can leverage somebody else’s good reputation to make a buck – left unchecked the damage accrues not just to an individual brand but to the reputation of the nation targeted and its other brands,” he continued.

Wine cannot be exported from Australia without approval from Wine Australia and the new regulations gave Wine Australia the authority to deny the approval of shipments where a product could not be lawfully sold in the country to which it would be exported. This could include preventing the export of a wine from Australia that infringed intellectual property-related laws in the destination country.

Additionally, exporters will no longer be able to export on behalf of companies or individuals that are not themselves eligible to hold an export licence (such as where a licence has been cancelled).

The new regulations will also cut red tape for exporters. There will no longer be a prohibition on placing a vintage indication on wine products such as flavoured wines.

The regulations have also been modified to allow the continued use of grape varieties that are also geographical indications.

Angus McPherson, managing director of Treasury Wine Estates Australia and New Zealand, which owns the Penfolds brand, has welcomed the move.

“Wine Australia is now in a strong position to identify and prevent the export of copycat Australian wines. Any such product can now be stopped by Wine Australia because it puts the reputation of Australian wine at risk, and may breach Australian law and the laws of other countries.

“Without these strengthened regulations and focus from Wine Australia, the reputation of ‘Brand Australia’ has been at significant risk. Exports of copycat products from Australia have been jeopardising our industry’s continued growth.”

McPherson added: “TWE also applauds IP Australia’s recent decision to refuse trade mark applications made by the copycat operator, Rush Rich, on the grounds of bad faith, as it was clearly attempting to appropriate Penfolds brand reputation. This is another example of how Australian authorities are willing and able to stand tall to protect Australian brands, and we are pleased to see such a stance being adopted across the board.”

One Response to “Wine Australia gets broader powers to combat copycat wines”

  1. Mark cohen says:

    This does not seem to have any impact on halting parrallell exports, of Australian wines.

    As wine australia no longer checks labels for export, there can still be fraud in declaring a label is been exported, but the real label is fraudulent

    In the end any man and his puppy can get an export license in Australia.

    too many cowboys and no protection for the real bona fide exporters

    Faithful exports

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