Secure Food Labelling Brand for Australian Products

08-Mar-2017

With the population of Chinese middle class rapidly rising, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) has provided a great opportunity for Australian exporters to cash in on our biggest trading partnership.

Off the back of a flurry of Australian exporters moving into the Asian market, there is a resounding message being heard from across the border – the market is ‘confused’ and ‘cautious’. Confused as to what products are genuinely Australian and cautious of counterfeit product.

Mining tycoon and agriculture sector campaigner Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, recently addressed these concerns with the proposal of a new strategy – one brand, one logo, one message.

The new trade symbol will be designed for maximum Chinese impact. It will represent the clean, green, safe origins of Australia, whilst providing the world’s best traceability technology to combat counterfeiting.

As discussed at the National Farmers Federation Annual Congress in October 2016, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo is now working with Austrade and market researchers to develop the brand to be applied to all food and some wine products.

We explore what types of logo could be used, how the packaging can be made secure from counterfeiting and the related intellectual property issues.

What type of logo should be chosen?

On 20 December 2015, the Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb announced more than 86 percent of Australia’s goods exports to China would enter duty free, as part of a historic ChAFTA.

The Agreement would cut tariffs on a range of Australian exports, including dairy, beef, wine, fruit and vegetables, vitamins and health products fuelling economic growth in Australia to service the 1.4 billion Chinese population.

So the question is, what logo or brand would impact the majority of the Chinese population. Given the difference in language, the logo may be restricted to just a picture or symbol. If words are to be incorporated the transliteration and translation of English words to Chinese characters must be carefully considered, poorly chosen words can have negative connotations for the brand. These are costly mistakes, which result in re-education of the market, further design and branding and the inevitable re-filing of trade mark applications.

The symbol may include a well-known Australian animal such as a koala, or the Australian-made kangaroo logo. However, given the export market extends to a range of animal products – beef, lamb and dairy, this may not be suitably representative. Alternatively, an Australian floral emblem, for example, Golden Wattle or Eucalyptus leaves, or a stylised map of Australia, could be utilised.

Nevertheless, the design and consumer acceptance of the brand is only one element. Austrade and their partners must also consider trade marks already registered in China to ensure exporters do not infringe the rights of pre-existing Chinese trade mark owners.

China has a ‘first-to-file’ rule for obtaining rights to a trade mark. Therefore, the first person to file an application for a particular trade mark, generally retains the rights – regardless of whether a third party has already used the mark. In order to avoid costly legal fees, it is always recommended that you secure the trade mark rights well in advance of any use (marketing and/or sales) in connection with the goods and/or services. If an owner prematurely uses their mark of choice and has not filed a trade mark application, this may result in third parties pre-emptively filing, in anticipation of the brands success – otherwise known as trade mark ‘squatting’.

How can the packaging be made secure from counterfeiting?

Australia has been one of the world leaders in developing security features to combat counterfeiting in the fields of currency and passport security. Since the introduction of polymer banknotes in the late 1980s and 1990s, Australia has had one of the lowest rates of counterfeiting in the world.

Polymer banknotes include a wide range of security features; not only overt features which can produce a visible optically variable effect upon tilting, but also covert features which are detectable with the use of authentication equipment, such as UV lamps.

Many security features used in currency could be readily adapted for use in conjunction with the new trade symbol on packaging for Australian products exported to China and other countries. However, many manufacturers of security films for currency and packaging often protect their security features by patents. Therefore, in selecting appropriate security features for packaging for Australian products, some care must be taken to ensure that there is freedom-to-operate in relation to the selected security features.

Conclusion

There are a range of factors, including intellectual property issues, to consider in choosing the new trade symbol and associated packaging for Australian products for export to China. We hope the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is able to overcome all the issues discussed above in successfully choosing a new trade symbol and associated packaging which is particularly suitable for the Chinese market and which provides maximum security from counterfeiting.

By Roger Green and Dr Renee White
Contact Roger: r.green@watermark.com.au
Contact Renee: r.white@watermark.com.au