Protecting Scotch in the age of Brexit
23 Aug 2017
The UK is preparing for a time of great change as we approach
Brexit. Leaving the European Union will undoubtedly have a major
impact on British industries and exporters, including Scotch
We have a team of specialists at the Scotch Whisky Association
(SWA) working hard to ensure the industry is ready for Brexit and
that our voice is being heard. We are liaising closely with
governments to make a success of Brexit.
One area of great importance is looking at what Brexit might mean
for the Scotch Whisky geographical indication (GI) which helps
deliver a high level of legal protection for the product and
Alan Park, SWA director of legal affairs, considers
here how Brexit might affect the legal protection of Scotch
Scotch Whisky has been defined in UK law since 1933.
Brexit is not going to change that. Scotch Whisky is also
recognised as a GI and has been since the concept was introduced by
World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in 1994. A GI has special and
unique characteristics and a reputation associated with its origin.
Brexit will not alter the fact that Scotch Whisky is a GI.
There is an obligation on members of the WTO, the vast majority
of nations, to protect GIs from misuse. Some WTO members do that by
providing a register for GIs in the same way countries provide a
trade mark register. Scotch Whisky is recognised as a GI in this
way from the Dominican Republic to Thailand. Other countries choose
to protect GIs in other ways and the SWA has taken advantage of
those different approaches. For example, Scotch Whisky is
specifically protected in the domestic legislation of many markets,
such as the recognition given to Scotch Whisky in the US Federal
Code. Brexit is not going to affect that either.
Where Brexit will have an impact is in the protection given to
Scotch Whisky in some bilateral agreements between the EU and third
countries. We want the UK to negotiate the continued benefits of
those agreements but, in the meantime, the SWA is already taking
steps to ensure that Scotch Whisky is recognised and protected in
those markets in the range of ways available to it.
The key fact to remember is that the SWA has been protecting
Scotch Whisky around the world before GIs were defined by the WTO
in 1994, and before the EU existed, so whatever changes Brexit
brings, the SWA will continue to do what it has done for many
decades: stop the sale of any products unfairly taking advantage of
the reputation of Scotch Whisky. This means the consumer can
continue to enjoy Scotch Whisky knowing that it is a well protected
and high quality drink.