12 December 2017
Landmark UK decision is major step towards protecting Mānuka honey
An early Christmas present for New Zealand and its beekeeping industry has arrived in a landmark decision overnight by the UK Trade Mark Registry to accept the term Mānuka honey as a certification mark.
UMF Honey Association (UMFHA) spokesperson John Rawcliffe said the decision is a major milestone for all New Zealanders and, particularly, Maori.
“This is a critical foundation stone, as we look to protect the term Mānuka as being intrinsically intertwined with New Zealand and positioning our important Mānuka honey industry in world markets.
The decision was in respect of an application by the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society (representing most of the New Zealand industry) seeking a certification trade mark in respect of Mānuka Honey from New Zealand.
“While there is still more work to do, the decision is fundamental in the process, as the application from the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society was fully examined and discussed at a senior level in the UK trade mark registry before the decision was issued.
The decision means the application can now be accepted for registration and notified for any comment by other market participants.
Hearing Officer Carol Bennett, who acts for the UK Trade Mark Registry, states in her decision, “I have concluded that the term ‘Manuka’ is a Maori word that is used to refer to the plant know by the botanical term Leptospermum scoparium. The plant is grown in New Zealand and has been known by the common name ‘Manuka’ for some time. Although the plant Leptospermum scoparium is grown in areas outside of New Zealand, it is known by different ‘common’ names in those territories. Therefore, it is accepted that the term ‘Manuka’ would be seen as designating a specific plant variety grown in New Zealand.”
John says that the ruling clearly confirms the term Mānuka honey as a badge of origin from a single geographical source – that being New Zealand.
“The decision also notes that there would be no legitimate reason to use a name that is not common to another territory, other than for improper reasons such as to trade off the reputation built up by the producers of New Zealand.”
John says a certification trade mark acts as a type of open standard, so any qualifying honey from New Zealand could use it.
“Next steps will be progressing the UK application through the rest of the registration procedure and continuing with further certification trade marks in other territories including China, USA and EU.
“Special acknowledgement goes to those involved in the application including: Tom Walters of the Federation of Maori Authorities, Victor Goldsmith of the Maori Mānuka Miere Coalition, members of the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society and the legal team at Buddle Findlay.”
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