21 March 2018
NZ mānuka honey protection passes another hurdle
Protection of the term ‘mānuka honey’ for New Zealand has passed another important hurdle, with the announcement yesterday that the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) has accepted the term as a proposed certification mark.
The latest decision found in favour of the applicant – Mānuka Honey Appellation Society – which represents most of the New Zealand mānuka honey industry.
Mānuka Honey Appellation Society spokesperson John Rawcliffe said the result is yet another major step forward for all New Zealanders.
“It follows on from a similar UK Trade Registry decision late last year which also accepted the term ‘mānuka honey’ as a proposed certification mark.
“With the New Zealand announcement, we have now achieved two solid wins in a row and are significantly well ahead of where we were just three months ago.”
John says despite the success, there is still further work to be done in both countries before Mānuka Honey Appellation Society can realise its final goal of full protection.
“As with the UK decision, the application can now be accepted for registration and notified for comment by other market participants. This is a critical part of process, as we look to protect the term as being intrinsically intertwined with New Zealand and positioning our important Mānuka honey industry in world markets.”
Ngāti Porou Mīere Limited Partnership General Manager and member of the Mānuka Appellation Society Victor Goldsmith says he is very pleased with the decision.
“The ruling effectively recognises that Mānuka is a Maori word that has important cultural significance for the indigenous people of New Zealand. It also validates the position Maori hold in terms of protecting Mānuka for current and future generations.”
IPONZ Assistant Commissioner of Trade Marks Jane Glover stated in her decision, “Regardless of the surrounding legislative framework (which can change), from a trade mark perspective, I am comfortable that for New Zealand consumers at the relevant date, the mark MANUKA HONEY was apt to differentiate leptospermum scoparium honey produced in New Zealand from leptospermum honey produced elsewhere.”
Glover also noted that Mānuka Honey Appellation Society had proactively stated that it would not charge fees for use of the mark.
“…the removal of any ability to charge fees is likely to be of considerable reassurance to existing and future users of the mark.”
John says that the ruling clearly confirms the term mānuka honey as being a badge of origin from a single geographical source – New Zealand. Among other evidence presented at the hearing, the fact that honey is not allowed to be imported into New Zealand, with the exception of a few countries that do not grow Leptospermum scoparium, the term was readily understood by consumers to be a locally made product.
John says a certification trade mark acts as a type of open standard, so any qualifying honey from New Zealand could use it.
He says next steps for the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society will be progressing both the NZ and UK applications and continuing its discussions with Maori groups.
“We are also in the process of applying for similar certification trade marks in other territories including China and USA, and exploring further protection in our main markets.”
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