Australia vs New Zealand, it is an old rivalry that is seen in sport and which has now spread to a Trade Mark dispute over honey. In particular which country should have the Trade Mark to the lucrative term “Manuka Honey.”
The dispute over Honey began when New Zealand honey makers sought to Trade Mark “Manuka Honey” with IP Australia. Their claim was that their entitlement to the term “Manuka” arises as it is the name given by the Maori people (indigenous people of New Zealand) to the tree from which the honey is made. The tree (Leptospermum Scoparium) from which New Zealand Manuka honey is sourced is almost exclusively found in New Zealand. The Australian Honey Bee Council objected to Trade Mark. They argue that the tree originated from Tasmania and the seed was then dispersed to New Zealand. Interestingly Australia has 80 species of Leptospermum Trees whereas New Zealand only has the one.
The 2018 Dispute
The Trade Mark dispute between the countries was recently brought back into the spotlight when the UK Trade Mark Registry granted New Zealand exclusive use of “Manuka Honey.” In the UK Trade Mark Registry’s rationale, the hearing officer said the basis of giving New Zealand exclusive use of the term was because the term was a Maori word. The Australian Manuka Honey Association has since mounted a legal challenge. They intend to use documentation which date backs to the 1800’s to prove that “Manuka” honey was first produced in Australia.
With a Trade Mark of “Manuka Honey” granted to New Zealand producers, there are significant implications for Australian producers. Firstly, Australian producers would need to rebrand their honey. Secondly, only Manuka honey produced in New Zealand would be able to use “Manuka Honey” in their branding.
It will be interesting to see this battle unfold. Both countries believe they have significant evidence to suggest why they should have a claim to the term. We expect this battle to continue causing a buzz. If you are interested in learning more about Trade Marks and how you can protect your brand with Trade Marks please contact our team of lawyers who will be happy to assist.