Trade Marks

Posted on November 26, 2018 in Intellectual Property (Tags: export produce, international trade marks, business protection, certification marks, IPONZ, Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand) Intellectual Property.jpg

As a comparatively small player in the global marketplace, New Zealand relies on the high quality of its export produce to foot it with the competition and attract premium prices.

Unfortunately, this hard-earned reputation for quality is sometimes undermined by cowboy operators flooding pivotal markets with cheap copies and rip-offs purporting to be something they’re not.

The net effect of this on businesses who have spent valuable time and money on research and development, and crafting specialised IP, can be a sharp reduction in their bottom line.

If you’re feeling despondent, fear not - reassurance and protection is at hand.

Strong international trade marks protect businesses from dilution of the reputation of quality of their goods.  A recent review of IP risk management by Delta Insurance has identified a major surge in the growth of intangible assets (this includes trade marks) which now comprise nearly 90% of the asset value of businesses.

Trade marks set your goods and services apart from others by being specific about things like words, logos, shapes, colours, sounds, or any combination of these.

Certification trade marks (certification marks) denote independent certification by the owner that the goods or services in respect of which they are used possess certain defined characteristics.

A topical example of where a certification mark can be useful, lies in the protracted trans-Tasman tussle between Manuka honey producers in New Zealand and Australia over the rights to the term Manuka honey.

The Manuka Honey Appellation Society in New Zealand, which represents most of the Manuka honey industry in this country, is fighting to protect its members from the effects of adulterated honey being passed off as a premium product when it is diluted with cheap syrups.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has acknowledged Manuka honey’s value as a premium product that's growing steadily as a high-value export for New Zealand.

In December 2017, MPI finalised a scientific definition that can be used to authenticate whether or not a particular honey is New Zealand mānuka honey.

Our own Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) has accepted the term Manuka honey as a proposed certification mark, following on from a similar decision last year by the UK Trade Mark Registry. 

However, our neighbours in Australia have been less than impressed by this move and have opposed the registration of a certification mark for Manuka honey here, and are claiming exclusive rights to the term.

It will be interesting to see how the battle plays out, but given the commercial value in the Manuka honey product, it could take some time to resolve.

Sally Peart