In a dispute concerning the determination of a geographical
indication being a region to be known as "King
Valley", there were appeals from the decision of the
Administrative of Appeals Tribunal (the Tribunal) by King
Valley Vignerons, which sought to have a larger area included
in the region than the area that was the subject of the
Committee's final determination, and by Whitlands
Vignerons, who sought to have a Whitlands Plateaux area (which
was included in the King region) classified as a different
Australia's laws concerning the determination of
geographical indications (contained in the Australian Wine and
Brandy Act) give effect to an agreement Australia and the
European Community (EC) concerning the sale of wine. Dowsett J
pointed out that the relevant legislation needs to be
determined in accordance with Australian law and not with
reference to the EC agreement. There are significant
differences between European approaches to characterising
indications and those in Australia. In particular, the European
controlled "appellation" can involve many controls
and restrictions on viticultural practices but Australian laws
concerning the origin of wines do not seek to create a specific
nexus between origin and quality. Factors considered in
determining what defines a region in Australia generally have
regard to grape growing attributes but viticultural practices
are not prescribed.
A region is a tract of land that is "discrete and
homogeneous in its grape growing attributes". An issue in
the appeal was whether the recognition of differences means a
region is not sufficiently homogeneous.
In its decision, the Tribunal had accepted that there
identifiable geographic differences between the Whitlands
Plateaux area on the one hand and the balance of the area on
the other, and that there are differences in grapes grown, in
growing techniques, in climate and in soils between the two
areas although, at margins, such distinctions would be
difficult to draw. Nevertheless, taking into account all
relevant factors, it was considered that the relevant area
comprised asingle region and the Federal Court on appeal
accepted that the degree of homogeneity required is a matter
for determination by the Committee.
On the issue of whether adequate reasons for the decision
had been provided, the Court pointed out that there is a degree
of subjective assessment involved in determining relevant
geographical boundaries, that the relevant criteria had been
considered, and that the ultimate decision may rest on a
combination of factors and inferences. In criminal law, it has
been said, "a circumstantial case is not composed of links
in a chain, one following the other. It is more like the
strands of a rope, each supporting the others" and it was
stated that the Tribunal's decision was not the final link
in a chain but "the inductive outcome of a consideration
of all relevant matters".
There was a lack of support for certain arguments made on
appeal in the evidence originally submitted, which demonstrates
the need to present a strong and complete case in relation to
the initial interim determination, or alteration of an interim
determination, since there is a significant degree of
subjective assessment in making a geographical determination,
which is likely to make it difficult to overturn such decisions
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general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should
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