Origin wines are considered as geographical indications (GIs) at the International level. The International Organisation of Vine and Wine defines GIs as “a geographical name used to designate a wine or wine-based spirit which possess a quality and/or characteristic due to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors”.
Provisions for the protection of origin wines have been included in International agreements since the 19th century and in many bilateral agreements signed by the EU with third countries.
The most important legal framework for the protection of origin wines at the international protection of GIs is the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPs)which has a specific section dedicated to GIs. This was the first multilateral text dealing with GIs as such.
The TRIPs Agreement provides for a so-called additional protection of GIs for wines:
- Legal means must be provided to prevent the use of a GI identifying wines not originating in the place indicated by the GI, even where the true origin of the goods is indicated or the GI is used in translation or accompanied by expressions such as “kind”, “type”, “style”, “imitation” or the like
- The registration of a trademark which contains or consists of a GI identifying wines must be refused or invalidated ex officio or at the request of an interested party with respect to wines not having this origin
- In case of homonymous GIs, protection must be accorded to each indication provided that consumers are not misled and producers are equally treated
The TRIPs Agreement provides for some exceptions notably an genericity exception, two grandfather clauses, the right to use a person’s name, an extinction clause (to be eligible for protection in a third country, a GI must be protected or in use in its country of origin). It also contains conditions for resolving GI and trademark issues.
In the context of the Doha Development Round, negotiations are ongoing at the WTO on the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of GIs for wines.
Origin Wines are also protected under the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin (AOs) of 1958. It was the first specific international treaty providing for the protection of AOs and establishing International Register for their protection. It is managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) but has only 26 contracting parties (Algeria, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, France, Gabon, Georgia, Haiti, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Togo, Tunisia).
The European Union has negotiated bilateral agreements on trade and trade-related matters on wines Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States of America. All these agreements contain some specific rules with regard to the recognition and protection of origin wines.