15 Dec 2021

New Zealand producers' effort to trademark words 'mānuka honey' rejected by UK

4:56 pm on 15 December 2021

The UK intellectual Property Office has rejected an application by a group of New Zealand honey producers to trademark the words mānuka honey.

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File image. Photo: 123rf

The Manuka Honey Appellation Society with funding help from the government is working to trademark the word mānuka in international markets - so that only honey from New Zealand can be called mānuka.

The office's decision said whilst the vast majority of mānuka honey sold in the UK appears to be from New Zealand, and this is indicated on the packaging, there is nothing in the evidence to indicate that relevant public will understand that it exclusively originates from New Zealand.

"On the contrary, there is evidence from dictionaries, the FSA (Food Standards Agency) project and from press articles that all suggest that the public understanding of the term in the UK is that it describes honey from New Zealand and other geographical locations, in particular, Australia."

As well as declining the trade mark application, the UK intellectual Property Office also awarded costs to the Australian Manuka Honey Association which opposed the application.

Association chairman Paul Callander said he was delighted with the decision.

"This decision is the right decision and a fair decision, the term mānuka has been used in Australia since the 1800s and the Australian industry has invested significantly for decades in mānuka honey science, research and marketing.

"It would be deeply unfair - and financially devastating - to deny that reality."

Callander said the entire Australian industry would welcome the decision.

"The market is forecast to be worth $1.27 billion globally by 2027 and offers vast potential for local innovation and manufacturing," Callander said.

"The Australian industry has fought hard to protect its rightful interests in this growing market, and will continue to do so. This decision is an important one that we hope will be followed by other jurisdictions where trademark certification has been sought."

An application to trademark mānuka is currently before the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office - a decision is expected early next year.

The Manuka Honey Appellation Society has been approached for comment.

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