SINGAPORE HIGH COURT OVERTURNED G.I. STATUS FOR ITALIAN PROSECCO
By Siulan Law Mathews DipWSET
Source: Prosecco DOC Consortium
Singapore’s High Court has overturned the Intellectual Property Office’s earlier decision to allow Italy’s Prosecco DOC Consortium to register Geographical Indication (G.I.) status for Prosecco in Singapore.
Justice Valerie Thean ruled in the High Court hearing held late last month that Prosecco could not be registered as a G.I. because it is the name of a grape variety that can be produced in many areas, the same argument held by the objecting Australian Grape and Wine (AGW) which represents Australian wine producers.
The judge said the relevant question was whether the registration was likely to mislead consumers into thinking that Prosecco wines could originate only from the specified region, when they could be from other production regions where the Prosecco grape variety was used to make them.
If the product could in fact come from a different place, such a G.I. would therefore be misleading and as such unregistrable.
The judge also added that the defending side, the Prosecco DOC Consortium, had not showed evidence that Prosecco was not recognised by the Singapore consumers as a grape variety.
The Prosecco DOC Consortium from Northeast Italy had applied to register G.I. status for Prosecco at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.
Their application was opposed by AGW, which claimed that Prosecco is the name of a grape variety and that Australian Prosecco wines have been available in Singapore since 2015.
In May last year, Singapore’s Intellectual Property Office dismissed AGW's opposition and ordered that the application should proceed to registration. The office held that the Prosecco G.I. was not likely to mislead the consumers as to the true origin of the product.
China’s trademark office ruled late last year that Italian Prosecco should enjoy G.I. status and should be protected in China.
Italian and Australian producers have long been arguing about who owns the Prosecco brand. Before 2009, Prosecco was the name of the grape variety currently known as Glera in Italy and beyond, not the name of an Italian sparkling wine appellation.
The Prosecco DOC was officially created in 2009 in Northeast Italy spanning nine provinces. The same year the local regulators decided to change the grape’s name from Prosecco to Glera, the idea was to avoid confusion.
But Australian winemakers, many of them of Italian heritage, first planted this same variety in Melbourne’s King Valley nearly 20 years ago and have been making a similar style of sparkling wine.
From the perspective of Australian vintners, they have the right to continue making their own version of Prosecco and export them to other countries.
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