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Australia unveils ‘label directory’ to protect wine brands

Legislation introduced by the Australian parliament today will establish a wine export label directory to protect Australian wine brands from copycat and fake labelling.

The directory, to be established by industry body Wine Australia, will help Australian wine brands to protect their intellectual property rights against those who wish to misuse them for their own gain.

Called the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019, the legislation grants permission for the creation of a “public-facing online database” of all Australian wine export labels.

Commenting on the bill, minister for agriculture, senator Bridget McKenzie, said: “Industry asked our government for help in preventing the export of copycat labelled wines through the establishment of a label directory – we have listened and this legislation is an important step in delivering on that request.

“Once implemented, all Australian wine exporters will be required to submit images of their labels before export, these images will be uploaded into the searchable directory.”

McKenzie added that the move will bring “greater transparency” to exported wine labels and help to prevent “copycat export wines”.

This in turn will help to “build consumer confidence” overseas, she said, helping to reinforce the view that they are buying “a safe and premium Australian product”.

The Australian government will be giving AU$417,000 to support the directory, sourced from the export and regional wine support package.

McKenzie added: “Strengthening Australia’s reputation as a producer of premium wines helps secure jobs in an industry that directly employs more than 69,000 people often in rural and regional areas.

“Wine Australia will be responsible for the establishment of the directory, which they will build into their upcoming Wine Australia Licensing and Approval System by December 2020.

“The Australian wine industry produces some of the best product in the world and is a key sector if we’re to grow our agricultural industries to be worth $100 billion by 2030 – our government will continue to support the Aussie wine industry all the way.”

Asked what has been put in place to prevent would-be fraudsters from misusing the directory, Wine Australia told the drinks business that exporters will only be required to submit low resolution images that can be watermarked.

A spokesperson added that the directory will be publicly searchable, much like other trademark registers around the world.

“By searching the register, consumers and trade will be able to verify whether a certain label has been affixed to an Australian wine. Copycat labels will not appear on the register, hence will not be readily verified as having Australian origin. This will act as a deterrent for copycat producers.”

This follows news of multiple instances of counterfeiting in export markets, particularly in Asia.

Last week authorities in Cambodia arrested three men on suspicion of selling fake wine, seizing several thousand fake Penfolds-branded bottles.

In November 2018, police in China arrested 11 people and seized more than 50,000 bottles of fake wine bottled as Australia’s Penfolds and China’s Changyu in a crackdown in central Henan province near Beijing.

In April in a similar operation in China’s central Zhengzhou city, authorities seized 50,000 bottles of fake Penfolds worth over RMB 18 million (US$2.8m), just five months after 14,000 knock-offs were seized in Shanghai in November 2017.

Brand owner Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has been cracking down on counterfeiters after winning its case earlier this year against copycat brand ‘Rush Rich’ in Shanghai, a year after it filed a lawsuit in both Australia and China. 

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