Cognate's Trademark Blog

NZ Manuka Honey Producers Ask Govt For $NZ6Million To Protect Trademark

Victor Goldsmith, General Manager for Ngāti Porou Miere Ltd,  an entity made up of a collective of Ngati Porou land trusts and incorporations. created  late 2015  to enable Ngati Porou landowners to have greater influence over the manuka honey produced on their land. (Those who join the collective have the option to “take the honey and not the money.” This means that in lieu of  receiving a leasing fee from bee-keepers who place hives on their properties, they will instead receive drums of honey. These drums will then be stored by the company and on-sold at market value on behalf of the landowner.)

Goldsmith says it’s imperative that the  New Zealand govt helps to invest the $6mil required to trademark ‘mānuka honey’.

This follows a recent meeting where industry leaders told government officials that the industry, worth $180mil, requires a trademark and a Geographical Indication in order to protect local businesses and the native species of tea tree.

Maori TV reports…..

The New Zealand honey industry and Australian marketers have been locked in a dispute for three years over rights to the term mānuka.  Now, industry leaders say it will take ten years and they want the government to help.

Goldsmith says, “This is one of our iconic New Zealand brands and like champagne- that’s protected by legislation- and we believe from a New Zealand perspective that the government should get behind and protect it.”

“They should fund it or part-fund it and the industry doesn’t mind using a levy system or whatever it might be to also fund it.”

An application by the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society seeking a certification trademark in the UK was upheld by the UK Trade Mark Registry.  Hearing Officer Carol Bennett upheld the term mānuka was a Māori word and that the term would be seen as “designating a specific plant variety grown in New Zealand.”

Goldsmith says, “The fight is coming from the Australians who are now trying to appeal the decision of the UK Registry and the implications of that decision is that they can’t export their honey into the UK and call it mānuka honey.”

It’s not just the Aussies seeking rights to the Māori term. Paraguay and Argentina are just two other countries growing and selling ‘mānuka’ products.

New Zealand honey industry forecasts honey growth will be worth $1bill within the next 15 years but Goldsmith says if significant steps aren’t taken the New Zealand market will devalue and local producers, many of whom are Māori, will be stung.

“Shane Jones is going around talking about regional economic development. You can’t have anything better than this.”

But the Minister of Regional Development Jones doesn’t see the funding meeting the costs.

 “I don’t see a role for the Provincial Growth Fund in meeting the costs of trademarking the mānuka brand.”

“I know there are concerns about property rights and trademarks and New Zealand exporters going to China.”

“My preference has been to support the infrastructure about mānuka growers, but on the Māori side I want them to work together.”

The industry is looking to secure certification trademarks in the US and China.


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