Sunday, February 17, 2013

First South-East Asian Geographical Indication to obtain protection in the European Union

Although it is not about wine law, this matter is of importance for anyone interested in geographical indications.

Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Rong-Hai “KTKRH” is a non-glutinous exuding a natural aroma white rice variety sensitive to photo period. It is produced in the defined geographical area of Thung Kula Rong-Hai extending across five Thai provinces Roi-et, Mahasarakam, Surin, Yasothon and Srisaket. Natural and human factors play an integral role in production of KTKRH. Cultivation of “KTKRH” began after the Thai Government improved the Hom Mali rice variety and certified it in 1959.

On 20 November 2008, further to its recognition as a geographical indication in Thailand, “KTKRH” was applied as a Protected Geographical Indication (“PGI”) with the European Commission (“EC”) under the European Council regulation no. 510/2006.

After its publication in the EU GI Gazette on June 29, 2010, the Governments of Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom filed objections against it. They argued that (i) “Khao Hom Mali” is a generic term and (ii) and requested “KTKRH” to be packaged outside of Thung Kula Rong-Hai area, including in Europe.

The EC considered the PGI’s applicant’s response to the five countries’ objections and, on 12 February 2012, it granted the registration certificate of “PGI” to “KTKRH”. The EC’s decision is more than a legal victory. It enhances KTKRH’s market access in EU through guaranteeing consumers its full traceability since the EC has also dismissed objecting countries’ request to allow KTKRH to be packaged outside Thung Kula Rong-Hai.

In this case, I had the chance to act for the PGI applicant and the Department of Intellectual Property of Thailand.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Champagne : 1st geographical indication to obtain official protection in Myanmar
The Ministry for Science and Technology of Myanmar (MOSTE) has finished its draft Trade Mark Law which includes provisions on the protection of geographical indications. The draft law provides a mechanism for the registration of geographical indications. Geographical indications eligible for protection include both local and foreign geographical indications covering not only agricultural products but also handicrafts.

The draft law should be approved by the Parliament in the next coming months and possibly enter into force in July 2013. Until this, geographical indications can be protected based on their prior use in Myanmar (which is difficult due to the informal distribution channels for distributing most imported products in that country) or recordation with the Registry of Deeds and Assurance.

The Winelexgroup of Rouse Thailand has assisted The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) in successfully recording "Champagne" in Myanmar. The certificate was issued on January 2013 under the registration number IV/13428/2012 making Champagne the first geographical indication to gain official protection in that country under the recordation procedure.

Below are achievements accomplished by « Champagne » in ASEAN countries :

1st geographical indication recorded
1st European geographical indication registered
1st European geographical indication registered
2nd European geographical indication registered

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Trade, distribution, customs, tax and IP issues:
The 10 South East Asian countries better known under the acronym of “ASEAN” have a combined population of nearly 600 million. ASEAN is a mixture of developed and developing countries and range from wealthiest countries to poorest in the world. 

Import & production countries
Although most ASEAN countries are importer of gape based wine, some also produce such wine. Thailand, Vietnam and more recently Myanmar produce wine focusing on supplying local markets and Thai and Vietnamese restaurants abroad. If local wines have strong demand however local wines do not have any “market-shaping” power in those countries.
Consuming countries
Wine imports to the ASEAN countries have been in a long term growth trend since France started developing its market as early as 1980s. Australia and the USA followed France in market development activities in the early 1990s, and, since then, most wine producing countries have become involved in the market. South American wine exporters were the last major entrants over the past 10 years, and they are now building strong presences and niche markets in the region. All of this market development activity by countries, regions with countries, brand-owners and winery companies has led to a highly fragmented and inconsistent situation in all ASEAN markets when it comes to leading supply countries, market shares and products and labels/brands that are available to consumers. Australia and USA are leader countries supplying wines to Malaysia and Philippines, while France is leader in Singapore, Vietnam and Italian wine is leader in Thailand. Most multinationals normally use Singapore as an ASEAN region re-export base for its premium and super premium wines, which is the key reason why it has a large apparent share of the market. The reality is that Australia is the market leader in the Singapore market in terms of of volumes consumed.

French wine has strong demand in Vietnam because of demand for “all things French” from the Vietnamese due past links with France, and also because of quite high profile marketing and distribution of French wines in the key urban areas;
Italian wine has a strong presence in Thailand because it has a sizeable expatriate Italian population, many Italian restaurants and is also a major tourist destination for Italian tourists. Italian wines also have strong and loyal distributors in Thailand. Trade sources comment that this situation exists because of a long history of commercial links between the two countries and active contribution of Italian wine importers such as ItalThai Group, and also because Italian tourists have quite a high level of preference for Thailand as a tourism destination in Asia;
U.S. and Spanish wine are leaders in the Philippines because of the very strong links arising from colonial links to food culture and demand, and to well established importing businesses that have a high level loyalty to products from the USA or Spain; Wine is generally a part of U.S. food and drink promotions across the ASEAN region, so its activities are not solely limited to the Philippines;
Muslim Malays are predominantly Muslims who, for religious reasons are not permitted to consume any alcoholic drinks. Australian wine is the most popular wine in Malaysia.

Leading Supply Countries % Share (Based on Tonnes)

Australia (38%)
USA (35%)
France (40%)
Italy (25%)
France (38%)
Singapore re-exports (17%)
Spain (16%)
Australia (27%)
Australia (22%)
Chile (21%)
France (12%)
Australia (10%)
Chile (8%)
France (20%)
Australia (8%)
Chile (8%)
Chile (8%)
USA (6%)
Chile (12%)
USA (6%)
Spain (7%)
France (8%)
Italy (5%)
USA (7%)
South Africa (4%)

Source: ASEAN governments' official trade statistics.
Indonesia and Malaysia are predominantly Muslims who for religious reasons are not permitted to consume any alcoholic drinks. This limits the size of the market for wine to just over one third of the total population, however the Chinese population forms the wealthiest group of consumers and offers a solid target base for imported wines.
Singaporean wine consumers are mainly in the middle to upper income bracket and tend to be mostly Chinese, aged between 25 to 50 years old, predominantly man. The Singapore wine market is made up of 10 percent sparkling wine, approximately 65 percent red and 25 percent white.
One and off-trade sales
Consumption of red and white wines is at a ratio of approximately 65:35 across ASEAN countries, according to various surveys. Wine is usually not consumed at home. It is a social drink usually consumed on special occasions. On-Trade sales (i.e. restaurants and bars) represent 65 % of total sales, with off-Trade sales (i.e. retail outlets) represent the remaining 35 %. Acceptance of wine as an everyday drink is increasing and fine dining with wine is growing in popularity. Fuelled by the demand for imported wines, wine boutiques and retail outlets are popping up in main urban and tourist areas and we also seen the birth of hybrid off and on trade sales; retail outlet of wines serving lunch and dinner.
Demand for wine is seasonal, this is particularly true for Champagne but also other grape based wines. For instance in Vietnam, the highest demand occurs normally during festive season such as in Vietnam during the Tet festival (Lunar New Year) around February every year and of course Christmas holiday, and New Year celebration. Some retailers state that between 60 and 70 percent of the wine sales occur during this period. Demand is significantly lower during other periods of the year.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Protection of Geographical Indications in Myanmar : soon a registration system in place

Wine market in Myanmar
Myanmar has been making wines since the 1950s. The total area under grapes is about 700 ha (approximately the same as the Alba wine region in Italy) . Currently, there are two major producers in this region, both located in the Southern Shan States near the Inle Lake. Red Mountain Estate started operations in 2002 when French winemaker Francois Raynal joined the team. Its older neighbour, Myanmar Vineyard was founded in 1997 and produced their wines under the cuvee Aythaya, led by a German winemaking team. Myanmar Vineyard is owned by German native Bert Morsbach.

Protection of geographical indications

The Ministry for Science and Technology of Myanmar (MOSTE) is currently working on a draft Trade Mark Law which includes provisions on the protection of geographical indications. The draft law provides a mechanism for the registration of geographical indications. Geographical indications eligible for protection include both local and foreign geographical indications covering not only agricultural products but also handicrafts.

The new law is due to enter into force in July 2013. Until this, geographical indications can be protected based on their prior use in Myanmar or prior recordation with the Registry of Deeds and Assurance. For instance, "Champagne" has been recorded with this Registry.

On November 28 and 29, 2012 I've attended a roundtable with the MOSTE, Attorney General Office of Myanmar and INTA (International Trade Mark Association) in the capital city of Myanmar Naypyidaw to review the draft Trade Mark Law including reviewing the provisions pertaining to Geographical Indications. It was very encouraging to discover that Myanmar looks at geographical indications seriously and considers to put into place a proper system to protect them. I will keep our Blog's readers updated on progress made.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

International trade mark filing covering Thailand - Are we there yet?

Wine market in Thailand

Thailand has a population of 68 million. An estimated 10 % of the population drinks wine. This accounts for 3 % of the alcohol beverage market. Even though wine has a much smaller market share compared to beer and spirits, there are strong developments in the level of consumer awareness and appreciation of wines.

Wine consumption is increasing and still light red and white wines are often considered and positioned as beverages with superior health benefits. Red wine dominates and holds a 70 % market share in the retail market.

The most popular varietals for red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, and Pinot Noir respectively.  

Thailand has fewer than 10 local wine producers and retail price ranges starting from $6 per bottle. However, the price of the better Thai wines, which are viewed locally as competitive with imported wines, will be over USD 20 per bottle, which is almost the same range that the consumers can shop for good imported wines.

Still, most wines consumed in Thailand are imported from France, Australia, Italy, Chile, and the USA.

Positioning a wine in foreign markets

Positioning a wine in a foreign market such as Thailand requires a strategic shaping of its brand and image. Ever demanding consumers are looking for high quality wines and marks that represent them. The average exporter is a medium sized company which, in turn, makes them eager candidates of the Madrid Protocol.

Madrid Protocol?

Trade mark registrations are "territorial".  This means for instance your USA trade mark registration will only give you protection in USA.  To protect a mark in overseas countries, the brand owner must file an application in each of the countries where you want protection. If he wants to do this in more than one country, in many cases the best approach is to use the “Madrid Protocol”.

The Madrid Protocol is an international treaty between about 80 countries which allows a single trade mark application to be filed through the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), seeking protection in one or more of the countries who have signed the treaty.

Last October, the Thai Parliament has approved for the Cabinet to proceed with Thailand’s accession to the Madrid Protocol. This process is expected to take approximately six months. With ASEAN Economic Community integration approaching, Thailand has committed itself to becoming a member of the Madrid System by 2015.