”Good wine needs no bush” says the old proverb. Yet trademark is becoming increasingly important nowadays due to the fierce competition in the wine sector, as producers must differentiate and distinguish their brand from competitors.
As in the rest of UE, it is possible both to register a national Hungarian trademark (also through a WIPO international trademark registration), or an EU trademark, which will be valid in all EU Member states.
The following paragraphs briefly describe the Hungarian trademark application process.
Step 1: Decide your trademark. First you need to decide what type of trademark you wish to register. A trademark may consist of any signs, e.g. words, colours, packaging of goods, sounds, etc. In Hungary, wine trademark can typically refer to: 1) name of producer 2) place of production (e.g. silhouette of the hill where it was produced), or 3) a fantasy name.
Step 2: Clearance searches permit the registrant to check if there are any existing registered rights for the same or similar trade marks, covering identical or similar goods or services, all of which could present problems. Clearance searches, therefore, are a great tool to avoid potential trademark infringement and refusal to register a trademark. Research can be carried out either by the applicant or by its legal representative in the national, European or international database. As successful and efficient research activity requires special knowledge and experience, it is advisable to hire an expert.
Step 3: Registration. The trademark application shall be submitted to the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO). Once the application is reviewed by the HIPO, there is a 3-day window during which anyone may file an objection, requesting the trademark not to be registered. Any such objection shall be communicated to the applicant and taken into account in the final decision.
Step 4: Registration of the Trademark. If the trademark application meets all the requirements, HIPO shall register the trademark. The date of the ruling on registration shall be the date of registration of the trademark. Application fee for national trademark is usually between HUF 50,000 and HUF 150,000 and shall be paid to the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office.
Geographical Indication (GI)
Geographical indication is the general term for indications used to identify the geographical origin of goods. The Protected designation of origin is the name of an area, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, the name of a country, used as a designation for an agricultural product or a foodstuff. To receive the PDO status, the entire product must be traditionally and entirely manufactured (prepared, processed and produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties (e.g. Tokaj).
To receive the PGI status, the entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed or produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties (e.g. Csabai kolbász). Unlike trademark, geographical indication gives collective rights: all producers within a specific area are entitled to use it for an unlimited period. The fee for submitting an application for GI is HUF 107,000 regardless of the number of product groups included in the application.
Protecting their products is becoming increasingly important for Hungarian wine producers: already in the early 2000s, around 400 wine trademark applications were filed annually.
A great example of geographical indication and trademark protection was the debate between Hungary and Slovakia regarding the Tokaj wine region.
A small northern part of the Tokaj wine region was transferred to Slovakia under the Treaty of Trianon, and therefore Slovakian wine producers considered themselves entitled to use in the E-Bacchus system the ”Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajský vinohradnícka oblast” Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj expression, later replaced by the name ”Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj”. The problem with the latter one was the use of the word "Tokaj", which – according to Hungary – could confuse consumers. However, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Slovakia is entitled to use the expression in the E-Bacchus system. However, the pure “Tokaj” designation can still only be used by Hungary.
In Hungary the obligation to classify wine before placing it on the market is prescribed by law. According to the legislation, wine can only be exported from the country if the oenological authority carried out laboratory and organoleptic tests and determined its quality. Thanks to this, wine counterfeiting has now been dramatically reduced in Hungary.