To prevent Indian alcoholic beverage makers from labelling their products as 'Scotch Whisky', a UK trade association has applied for intellectual property rights in India for the premium product.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has filed an application before the Indian authorities seeking to register Scotch Whisky as a 'geographical indication of origin' (GI) under the Indian GI Act.
GI denotes that a product is endemic to a particular area, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
"The SWA's application to register Scotch Whisky under the Indian GI Act was made in January 2009 and we would like to obtain the registration as soon as possible," SWA's Public Affairs Manager (Govt and Consumer Affairs) David Williamson said in an e-mail query.
The members of SWA account for more than 95 per cent of production and sales of Scotch Whisky.
According to the association, it has been "taking action for years to prevent the sale of many locally made products being 'passed off' as Scotch Whisky in India".
"It is hoped GI registration will support our efforts to protect Indian consumers from such imitations, as well as the integrity of Scotch Whisky from fake products," Williamson said.
In India, Scotch Whisky currently represents less than one per cent of the spirits market in the country.
Scotch Whisky is protected in UK law as a product that can only be made in Scotland. Further, it is also protected at European Union (EU) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) level as a recognised 'geographical indication'.
"These provisions are extremely important for the protection of the GI Scotch Whisky around the world," Williamson said.
India is a member of WTO's rules on intellectual property (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, or TRIPS) and as of its obligations, the country has passed its own GI Act, which contains a registration system, and the SWA is seeking registration of Scotch Whisky under the Act.
Apart from India, the SWA is also seeking GI tag in other countries, including Thailand and Vietnam.
"We are also currently seeking to register Scotch Whisky as a GI in a number of other markets, including Thailand and Vietnam," Williamson said.
The SWA eyes India as an important emerging market for the beverage and said that with the rise of demand for premium products in the country, there will be new opportunities for brand in the local market.
In 2008, Scotch Whisky exports to India were valued at 32 million pounds. Global exports of Scotch Whisky stood at 3.06 billion pounds, representing 25 per cent of the UK's total food and drink exports.