Geographical indications

A geographical indication (GI) identifies a product as originating in a region, area or locality where its quality, reputation or other characteristic is attributable to its geographical origin. The characteristics of the product must depend on the geographical place of production.

Geographical indications (GI) are used to associate the production of a product, like wine, spirits, cheeses and meat products, with its geographical origin (eg a town, region or country). For example, Champagne is a wine GI that may only be used on sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region in France. 

GIs are often associated with rural communities and the promotion of products that are deeply rooted in tradition, culture and geography.  However, GIs can also be used to promote new and innovative products where they possess distinctive characteristics that are attributable to their geographical origin.

Protection for geographical indications in New Zealand

In New Zealand, protection for geographical indications on all products that can establish reputation in their market is provided by:

  • the Fair Trading Act 1986
  • the common law tort of ‘passing off’
  • trade mark law
  • more specifically for wines and spirits, a higher level of protection is available if registered under the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006.

The Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 establishes a registration regime for the geographical indications of wine and spirits. The regime is administered by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ).

Find out more about the registration of geographical indications for wine and spirits on the IPONZ website(external link)

Fair Trading Act 1986

Section 9 of the Fair Trading Act 1986 provides that "No person shall, in trade, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive".

A product that does not originate from the geographical area indicated on its label or packaging, or that does not possess the characteristics for which a geographical indication is known, could be found to breach the Act.

Find out more about fair trading on the Commerce Commission’s website(external link)

Passing off of goods or services

The law of passing off prevents one trader from passing their goods or services off as those of another.

The tort of passing off has been used to prevent non-French winemakers labelling their sparkling wine as “Champagne”, as it is a name protected as a geographical indication in the European Union that had reputation in New Zealand.

For a passing off action to succeed:

  • there must be goodwill attached to the goods or services
  • there must be a misrepresentation, whether intentional or not
  • there must be damage to the goodwill.

Trade mark law

A geographical indication may be protected in New Zealand as a trade mark, including as a collective or certification trade mark.

Find out more about New Zealand trade mark registration and protection on the IPONZ website.(external link) 

EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement

In July 2022 the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Export Growth jointly announced the conclusion of free trade negotiations with the European Union.  The proposed EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement (EU-NZ FTA), which we anticipate will be signed in 2023 includes obligations for New Zealand to protect around 2,000 European GIs for food, wine, spirits and other beverages.

Find out more about the free trade agreement:

New Zealand-European Union Free Trade Agreement(external link) — New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade

Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 review

The Government needs to make changes to the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 (the GIs Act) to register the EU GIs it has agreed to protect under the EU-NZ FTA. This provides an opportunity to review parts of the GIs Act that either have not been reviewed for a long time or where the EU-NZ FTA terms may create inequities.

A review is necessary to:

  • ensure New Zealand will meet its obligations under EU-NZ FTA
  • understand whether there is a case for extending our registration regime to other products, including food and other types of beverages
  • test if the registration regime is meeting the needs of wine and spirits producers.

We have released a discussion paper that invites the public, and in particular producers and retailers, to provide us with information about how they use GIs and if the system can be improved to make use easier and more equitable.

Information provided in submissions will be used to develop advice to the Government on amendments to the GIs Act. This advice will also include a recommendation on whether to extend the current GIs registration regime for wine and spirits to food and other types of beverages.

Should we recommend extending the current registration regime, we would also seek approval to undertake further public consultation on what other products could be registered.

For more information, and to have your say, visit:

EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement: Review of geographical indications law

Last updated: 23 November 2022