Interesting factoid to start with Irish Whiskey is spelled with an 'ey' at the end, whereas Scotch Whisky has no 'e'. 

Moving on.

There has been a lot of news coverage this week about Protected Designations of Origin and Geographic Indications. Mostly, the coverage has been sensationalist and inaccurate. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, and all of that. 

It really all kicked off in earnest with this tweet from Roger Helmer MEP:

His concern, and much of the news coverage around it was around the belief that "When Brexit happens, anybody is going to be able to call their whisky 'Scotch Whiskey', even if it has nothing to do with Scotland at all.....won't someone please think of the children".

However, as the head of legal affairs for the Scottish Whiskey Association, Alan Park, put it: 

"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."

And therein lies the rub.

The focus of all the coverage is that Scotch Whiskey might lose it's standing under European Law. But European Law isn't the only law that governs 'Designations of Origin', which are called 'Appelations of Origin' elsewhere, and also overlap with 'Geographic Indications'.

In fact, this whole area is governed by a bewildering number of international agreements and bilateral agreements. These include:

  • The Paris Convention
  • The Madrid Agreement
  • The Madrid Protocol
  • The Lisbon Agreement
  • TRIPS Agreement

Case in point, just last week New Zealand (not in the EU, you will note) actually just made Scotch Whisky the first foreign product in New Zealand to get Geographic Indication Protection:

And all of that is before we've considered 'Indications Of Origin', trademarks, labelling requirements (at national, EU and international levels) and a whole host of other methods, ways and means of protecting your brand. 

Finally, can anybody tell me which three Irish alcoholic drinks (food is treated separately) have comparable protection to Scotch Whisky?

Answers in a tweet (don't cheat by Googling it) to @brianconroylaw, and I'll pick a winner to win a bottle of one of them!