‘South Island’ trademark case in favour of Wine makers

A 4-year legal battle for preventing Australian supermarket giant, Woolworths from trademarking the name “South Island” was won by the New Zealand wine industry.

In 2009, Woolworths had applied to trademark a wine label in New Zealand with the name South Island and also with an image of a mountain.

The New Zealand Winegrowers Association (NZWA) had said that trademarking geography like using the “South Island” name on wine bottle labels would give Woolworths an effective “monopoly” in an industry where consumers need to know of the place of origin of the wine.

Red wine grapes grown in South Island, for example, are recognized as different from those grown in North Island.

The NZWA had spent 4 years defending the southern wine growers and was awarded more than $3000 by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) as cost.

The IPO ruled that the image of the mountain and the logo “South Island” by Woolworths was not different enough to be trademarked as the industry had cases of using similar images and name in labelling in order to refer to the origin of the wine rather than a specific label.

Woolworths has already registered this wine label trademark successfully in Australia.  Woolworths Australia said it was studying about the possibility of appealing about the decision to the New Zealand High Court.

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