08.08.2012. Geopatent (aka Sakpatenti - HN), Georgian intellectual property protection body, keeps alert over registration request of Inkerman-Rkatsiteli, Inkerman-Saperavi and Inkerman-Sauvignon-Rkatsiteli wine brands submitted by Ukrainian Inkerman Winery to Russia as far as both Rkatsiteli and Sapervai are Georgian varieties (read also: Inkerman: Ukrainian wine producer to export Georgian wine varieties to Russia).
Their improper registration may pose intellectual property violation risks. The Crimea-based Inkerman Winery submitted a request at Rospatent, intellectual property protection body of Russia, on registration of 9 new trademarks including three wines produced through traditional Georgian varietals Rkatsiteli and Saperavi: Inkerman-Rkatsiteli, Inkerman-Saperavi and Inkerman-Sauvignon-Rkatsiteli.
Marketing specialists think this is a right move to Ukrainian company for in spite of embargo imposed on Georgian wines in Russia since 2006 their names are quite popular and familiar to Russian society. Some people say Inkerman Winery’s initiative seems like a legal tool to take Georgian wines legally to Russia for the questioned trademarks include not appellations of origins of Georgian wines but grapes that is not prohibited.
It is an open secret that Georgian wine producers are still interested in Russian market that accounted for roughly 56% of Georgian wine exports before the embargo and sales of wine dwindled almost by 90% in 2006-2007 lag by 30-40% behind the pre-embargo statistics even today after hitting new markets.
The embargo imposed under alleged sanitary concerns in Georgian wines by RosPotrebNadzor, a sanitary service of Russia, was more a political will rather than an official document for it was imposed verbally and almost lifted verbally past summer when Onishchenko said Georgian wine and mineral water might reappear at Russian market again if they would go through all due quality standardization procedures. Having bitter experience only few tried to get a foothold in Russia again but they are still under so called quality standardization procedures even those who hold international quality certificates.
Meantime Georgian wine penetrates Russia through third countries like Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and is sold illicitly at supermarkets and restaurants that bespeaks that it is still popular and in demand. Falsification and embezzlement of Georgian wine brands is also quite popular in Russia. Therefore using Georgian popular wine-grape names in Inkerman’s trademarks makes Geopatent be on alert and prevent any misbehavior.
As a matter of fact Ukrainian not Georgian wines are submitted to be registered at Rospatent. According to trustful sources, initially Inkerman suggested Georgian wine producers to purchase their wine and export to Russia eventually. However having faced certain barriers both on the official and commercial level the company decided to sell its own wines produced through Georgian varietals of Rkatsiteli and Sapervai planted in Inkerman’s vineyards in Crimea.
Geopatent doubts that Rospatent would approve Inkerman’s claim on registration trademarks including Rkatsiteli and Saperavi in the name, for it might be a deceit of consumers.
“Georgian wine names are very well-known and popular to Russian consumer and if Inkerman-Rkatsiteli and Sapervai trademarks are registered and sold in Russia consumer may mistake Ukrainian wine for Georgian and think they buy Georgian wine that will be a deceit of consumer,” Irakli Ghvaladze, Head of Geopatent, said in the interview with Georgian Journal. “Under the same reason Rospatent said ‘no’ to register Mimino as a trademark to Intel, a small Russian winery. Rospatent’s argumentation was that Mimino is so associated with Georgia [due to famous comedy movie "Mimino", a nickname to Georgian character] that consumer may mistake it for Georgian wine.”
He does not see any intellectual property concerns at the moment since Inkerman’s trademarks are supposed to be registered as a word-combination consisting of Inkerman and Georgian grape names for grape is not an appellation of origins protected by law as state property. But if they register Rkatsiteli and Sapervai separately, that will be infringement of intellectual property rights of Georgian varietals and Geopatent will raise a claim.
“Registration of the word combination Inkerman-Saperai for example cannot guarantee a right on exclusive distribution of Sapervai to Inkerman for Sapervai is a varietal and not appellation of origins and is a part of word combination, but if they register Sapervai separately that means a claim for exclusive right on Sapervi-based wines sale in Russia and we will sue Inkerman in this case,” Ghvaladze elaborated adding that since the pre-registration expertise has just started Geopatent stays off the process as yet but keeps an eye on how things go on.
Inkerman swears they do not plan to claim any exclusive on Rkatsiteli and Sapervai in Russia. The company just wants to secure rights on trademarks Inkerman-Rkatsiteli and Inkerman-Sapervai so as nobody might use them in Russia. Besides Inkerman assures they always indicate origination of wines on the label.
Ghvaladze worries that using Georgian varietals’ names on wines produced outside Georgia may affect reputation of Georgian wines for wine taste is defined by climate and soil specifics and grape harvested outside Georgia cannot give similar wine qualities as produced in Georgia.
Georgian wine connoisseurs downplay Gvaladze’s fears for the Inkerman intention to use Georgian varietals’ in its trademark anywhere is in line with the best world practice that never violates intellectual property rights if country of origins of the grape and wine producer is indicated on the label. On the contrary it raises awareness of the country where grapes come from.
“The more Georgian grapes will be used abroad the better for us. It only makes our national viticulture more famous. Our ancestors created world-wide treasure of multiple vine sorts and if someone cultivates them outside Georgia there is no jeopardy,” Giorgi Barisashvili, a wine expert with non-governmental Elkana, told GJ. He rules out consumer deceit concerns too.
“The entire world including Georgia cultivates French varietals like Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot but no consumer has ever been misled as far as each bottle label indicates due information,” he said. “Georgian wine producing is just getting on feet and secluded life will lead to no good. Not only vine sorts but Georgian wine producing methods should also be disseminated. That’s even part of our national mission,” Barisashvili said.