In a win for Australia's esteemed wine brand Penfolds, the Federal Court ordered Australian company Rush Rich Winery to pay nearly $400,000 in compensation and immediately cease producing wine that is a blatant copy of Penfolds' Chinese branding.
In China, Penfolds operates as "Bn f" which is the Mandarin and Cantonese language phonetic approximation of `Penfolds'. Rush Rich labelled and exported over a million bottles of wine which bore the equivalent Chinese character trade marks (, for those really into the detail). The Court held the trade mark infringement was so blatant that Rush Rich had no reasonable prospects of defending the claim and granted summary judgment.
The Rush Rich matter was a straight forward case; however, it highlights the growing global issue of fake wine. Yes, wine fraud, it's a thing. Unbeknown to the average palate, counterfeit and copycat wines are a multi-billion-dollar problem to the global wine industry. As Australia's wine industry goes from strength to strength, wine makers are pushing for crack downs.
So, what's been happening?
1. Wine Label Intellectual Property Directory
The Federal Government has invested over $400,000 into the development of a Wine Label Intellectual Property Directory. The directory will be administered by Wine Australia and will require that exporters of wine provide images of labels which appear on any containers used for the export of wine. These images will be in a public, online and searchable directory. The jury is out as to whether this directory will make it easier for counterfeiters to find labels, however, we'll wait and see.
2. Blockchain and wine, a riveting dinner party conversation
As you obviously know, blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions and contracts. Simply put, a method of recording data. Blockchain is now being used to track the provenance of wine through the use of QR codes or micro-chips on bottles. Information is captured at each stage of the supply chain, through data captured using a mix of manual records and automated tools. This data is then recorded into a blockchain. Bottles can then be tracked, and customers are provided with transparency as to history of each bottle.
Who knows, it may not be long before diners are complaining to the sommelier, `excuse me, but my wine is counterfeit.'