Taking advantage of the ‘origin of food’ trend

In recent years the origin of food has become a focus in both local and export markets. Australian consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental benefits of "low food miles", value foods from local and artisan producers, and have been shaken by safety scares regarding imported foods. Consumers in export markets such as China value the "safe, clean food" grown and manufactured in Australia, which has led to escalation of demand for Australian produce. Trade mark and labelling laws provide a number of ways in which food manufacturers and producers can take advantage of these trends.

Leveraging new Country of Origin Labelling

New country of origin labelling laws which come into effect on 1 July 2016 reflect consumer concern about the provenance of food, and are intended to "provide clearer, more consistent, more informative and easier to find country of origin labels for food". With the exception of "non-priority" foods such as confectionary, biscuits, snack foods, soft drinks, bottled water, alcohol, producers will have 2 years within which to comply with the new laws. From 1 July 2018 it will become mandatory for labelling on priority foods to provide detailed information about the origin of ingredients and place of manufacture. The official kangaroo logo will only be applied to products that were grown, produced or made in Australia and a bar chart will indicate the percentage of Australian grown ingredients. Statements regarding the country of processing will provide consumers with valuable information. It can be expected that consumers will embrace these changes, and that locally produced foods will be able to obtain a competitive edge by early compliance with the new laws.
PROTECTING YOUR TURF
Trade mark registration confers strong legal rights that can provide invaluable benefit to producers wanting to capitalise on the provenance of their products. While geographical terms per se can rarely be registered as trade marks, registration can be obtained in combination with a distinctive graphic, in combination with other words, or following a period of extensive use. For example "Lilydale select free range chicken" is registered for "poultry" while "macadamias australia" is registered for "macadamia nuts" and "King Island Dairy" for "dairy products". Sometimes Australian indicia are adopted and registered as trade marks, such as SPC Ardmona Operations Limited's "Australia map" trade marks.

Protecting your turf

Trade mark registration confers strong legal rights that can provide invaluable benefit to producers wanting to capitalise on the provenance of their products. While geographical terms per se can rarely be registered as trade marks, registration can be obtained in combination with a distinctive graphic, in combination with other words, or following a period of extensive use. For example "Lilydale select free range chicken" is registered for "poultry" while "macadamias australia" is registered for "macadamia nuts" and "King Island Dairy" for "dairy products". Sometimes Australian indicia are adopted and registered as trade marks, such as SPC Ardmona Operations Limited's "Australia map" trade marks.

Registered trade marks in use

(Click here to view)

(Click here to view)

(Click here to view)

KING ISLAND DAIRY

Image source: Australian Register of Trade Marks, ipaustralia.com.au

Taking action

Gain a competitive advantage and capitalise on this growing trend:
1) don’t wait for it to be compulsory; be ahead of the game by using the Country of Origin Labelling online tool at www.ipaustralia.gov.au (available from the end of June 2016).
2) Consider whether the brand communicates geographical origin and ensure you maximise your rights through trade mark registration.