Georgian wines to be fully protected
19 May, 2011
Georgian wines to be fully protected

Georgia is developing its intellectual property protection tools. A memorandum of partnership was signed by Geopatent, Georgian intellectual property protection body, and the US Trade and Patent Office that lays ground to better protection of Georgian trademarks at the US.  

Each cloud has a liver lining the adage goes and the loss of Russian market brought Georgia on the right track of free market principles leading to market diversification and intellectual property protection. At average 70% of developed countries wealth

is made by intellectual property while Georgia has no idea of its intellectual assets total value as of yet.

Irakli Gvaladze, Head of Geopaten: ‘It was up to companies to be active to this end and register their property but nobody cared for this when there was a guaranteed Russian market because everything was sold there and trademark had no serious importance. Besides, protection of trademark is possible at developed normal countries where are a political will and relevant law-enforcer bodies including customs and court able to react on counterfeit.  While Russia is notorious to this end, and the west puts the intellectual property protection as one of the key preconditions to Russia to become a World Trade Organization member.

Intellectual property as a non-material asset that can be transformed into material value is a pure free market principle and competition tool that was absolutely useless in terms of soviet planned economy with guaranteed markets and sales. And yet although  collapse of soviet system encouraged businesses to care for their trademarks still the process have been developing slowly within the post-soviet space as intellectual property protection was no priority to either state or business due to soviet-mental-inheritance. And Georgia made no difference. The state addressed to registration and protection of geographic appellations of Georgian wines, the key export product of Georgia, under Shevardnadze presidency but legal framework for execution of the initiation was not created till 2009. Other intellectual assets were unsupervised.

The Rose-Revolution government started registering intellectual property of the country in 2009 actually after EU put out intellectual property protection as one of four key preconditions to Georgia to start talks on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU. And things went quicker immediately: Geopatent has already created a legal framework for protection of  Georgian intellectual property, it stroke a memorandum of partnership with the EU in 2010 that is supposed to be ratified this year, and this year started activities with the US Trade and Patent Office (USPTO, registration of 18 Georgian wine geographic appellations are submitted for the USPTO registration that is supposed to be completed by the year-end and  Georgian wines will be fully protected at the EU and the US markets. As to other product that involves both cultural and agriculture assets, they need to be registered at Geopatent first and then be added on the protection list of the EU and US. Works to this end are somewhat slow, Gvaladze acknowledges, paper-work for only 30 names are prepared as yet.

“But it does not depend on us actually, we depend on other structures that have to provide us with the information,” he said.

However nonchalant approach of Georgian state brought to lamentable results in some cases. Dozortsev & Sons, a wine and spirits distribution company operating at the US market and distributing Georgian wines starting 1999 there, to handle with the counterfeit registered Kindzmarauli and Khvanchkara as its trademarks in 1999 and 2006 respectively and enjoys exclusive right on their import to the US market up to day. Commensurately Geopatent faces difficulties to register these two geographic appellations of Georgian wines as Georgian trademarks at the USPTO.  Kindzamaruli registration expired in 2009 and Khvanchkara one expires in 2016, but Geopatent still cannot submit either of them for new registration till legal procedures related with the Kindzamarauli old registration gets through and the ownership issue of Khvanchkara trademark will be clarified through legal means.

A memorandum with the USPTO is very important to avoid such misunderstanding or illegal cases in future, Gvaladze said.

“I am sure that after signing memorandum with the USPTO it will be impossible to register Georgian name without our awareness,” he told GJ.

The USPTO registers 18 geographic appellations of Georgian wines as certified trademarks of Georgian state. However it never means that the state itself will import the registered brands but the companies empowered by the state to produce and import the questioned trademarks. After the registration is through TTB, an executive arm of the USPTO, will enforce control.  Samtrest, the Vine and Wine Department of Agriculture Ministry of Georgia, has already signed a memorandum of partnership with TTB.  TTB also registers each label of each importing company, and Gvaladze believes that as soon as the wine trademarks registration will be through at the USPTO the comprehensive legislation ground will be created for execution and control of Georgian wines protection at the US market that is crucial for competition there.

However, even before the legal paper-work is completed at both the USPTO and the EU, both assure to react on falsification of brands if reported by Georgian side.

“There are some wine companies in the EU that registered Georgian wines as their trademarks. In Lithuania for example, one company registered Kindzmarauli as its brand earlier however they cannot use them in fact after we started registration of wine appellations at the EU. Nobody deprives them of the already registered trademark but they cannot produce and provide wine from Georgia that means they cannot use the privilege in practice,” Gvaladze said.

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