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My View: The Scotch Whisky industry has not been troubled

Published:  18 January, 2007

In October, Defra announced a consultation on new regulations for Scotch whisky, with the possibility of legislation by spring 2008.

The designation "Scotch whisky" is already protected at both UK and EU level.

However, the proposed legislation goes much further towards creating a domestic "appellation" system, albeit only for Scotch whisky.

The proposals include five geographical indications - Islay, Campbeltown, Speyside, Highland and Lowland - and five designations indicating whether a whisky is malt, grain or blended.

To date, the Scotch whisky industry has not been much troubled by confusion between different regions. So why put up legislative fences around these areas?

France pioneered the first modern appellation system in the early 20th century. Delineating a boundary around each region's products allowed for equity to be built up in a clearly identified regional brand.

By gaining leverage from "collective" action rather than mass-production, high-quality artisan producers could compete with the household names of the mid-20th century and benefit from brands with global reach.

Defra's proposals will open the door to similar opportunities, particularly for smaller producers.

The legislation may not be strictly necessary - but it will certainly be beneficial.

Hastings Guise is a trademark and brand protection lawyer at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP