A view from China

12 Mar 2015

Scotch - a model to follow

During a visit to China last week, I was privileged to be given the opportunity to speak at the 9th UK-China Intellectual Property Salon in Beijing on the subject of Geographical Indications of Origin (GIs). Scotch Whisky is recognised as a GI which means it must be made in Scotland from water, yeast and cereals. This helps us protect Scotch in many markets around the world.

The Salon series, which has previously featured speakers such as Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the UK Intellectual Property Minister, is an innovation launched by the UK Intellectual Property Office and the British Embassy in Beijing in collaboration with a range of Chinese Institutions. Its purpose is to encourage debate on a range of intellectual property topics in a relatively informal setting.

The evening was facilitated by Tom Duke, UK IP Attaché at the Beijing Embassy and I was part of a panel that included Professor Li Zuming of the China University of Political Science and Law and Huang Xiantao of the State Council Development and Research Centre, who had just completed a project researching the issues affecting Chinese GIs. The audience of 150 included representatives from the media, the Chinese Government, European institutions, and a range of Chinese and international law firms as well as Chinese academics and students. We benefited from excellent simultaneous translation which helped the evening flow and encouraged participation.

It was great to hear that in China, Scotch Whisky is recognised a model to be followed both in the way that it is clearly defined by law and also in the way that it is protected around the world. Both during the event and at other meetings during my trip, I was able to emphasise that this was due to the significant investments made by the Association's members for the long term benefit of the category; something that some other groups of producers sadly do not do.

What was also very interesting is that it is now clear that many in China now recognise that registration of GIs is only the start and that this must be followed up with consistent and strict enforcement against counterfeiters. Although this may sound self-obvious, it does show a shift in the official position and this can only benefit our legal protection work in the country.

Lindesay Low, SWA legal adviser