New forms of unfair competition in the ‘tequila-mezcal’ industry


The organization called “California Agave Council” intends to promote the agave distillate production industry in that territory, even though tequila and mezcal are denominations protected by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Turn on the alerts on the issue of protection of appellations of origin and geographical indications of our country, the appearance of certification marks that operate in the United States as countertypes of our well-known maguey distillates Tequila and Mezcal capitalize both terms in recognition of their protection as denominations of origin, which adds to them and removes any consideration of them as “generic”.

A detected case that moves the springs of concern is that of the organization called “California Agave Council”, which, according to its own statements, intends to promote the agave distillate production industry in that territory. Knowing the enormous success of Tequila for decades and the exponential growth of Mezcal in recent years, the appetite of entrepreneurs of very different sizes and business ethics opens before such a juicy cake.

A first call to attention is due to the direct impact that this type of alternative products poses to a market of the size and capacity of the United States, which can easily move towards the massive purchase of generic agave products that are sold in bars and restaurants under the guise of tequilas and mezcales, especially in mixes. Let’s not forget that the famous “margarita” is the best-selling cocktail in the world.

The main reason for analysis, however, must start from a self-analysis work on what our country is doing to defend its typical products. Although both Mezcal and Tequila are part of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s catalog of protection of appellations of origin, there are important territories that continue to evade the obligations of international treaties on the matter. The United States, with its large cheese industry and booming wine production, remains the system’s biggest scab.

We must recognize that a proposal such as that of the California Agave Council is taking advantage of the inconsistency in the production and certification chain of Mexican Mezcal itself, which, after the frictional change in its regulatory council -and the opening of product certification to various entities -, has lost representativeness and effectiveness, opening options to parasitic behaviors such as the one being analyzed.

Let’s not forget that as national assets that are denominations of origin, the Mexican government has the obligation to preserve them, including their defense in foreign markets. The new law, when it was promulgated in 2020, explicitly omitted to contemplate the regulatory councils, which clearly could have been established, with the proper support, as guarantors of these important assets of Mexicans. Let us remember that cases such as that of “Desperados” set an important precedent for the defense of Tequila before European courts, which prevented the continuation of the illegal advertising carried out by a Dutch company that under certain tricks disguised beer as a Tequila “mixer”.

It is clear that our country should not tolerate acts of unfair competition from its denominations of origin, which take advantage of the inertia of its exponential international growth. Because these illegal behaviors are also forms of cultural appropriation.

Source: El Financiero