The Australian Manuka Honey Association has cheered the latest victory for Australian beekeepers in the “farcical” trans-Tasman battle over the term “manuka honey”.

Key points:

  • The UK said there was an abundance of evidence proving the honey came from places other than New Zealand
  • Britain’s Intellectual Property Office said despite originating as a Maori term the word had entered the English lexicon
  • The leptospermum tree bees forage on to produce the honey is native to both countries

New Zealand’s Manuka Honey Appellation Society had its government-backed bid to trademark the term in the UK quashed by Britain’s Intellectual Property Office yesterday.

Australian industry players have long argued their NZ counterparts should not be allowed to trademark the words, arguing that the plant from which it was produced is native to both countries.

The chairman of the Australian Manuka Honey Association, Paul Callandar, described the decision as a “fair and right” outcome.

“For them to claim that it’s only for New Zealand is absolutely farcical,” Mr Callandar said.

“Trademarks cannot be used to give producers in one country a monopoly over a common descriptive term.

Buzz off, it’s common usage

In its ruling, the IPO found that the term, despite originally being a Maori word, had been anglicised and entered common usage in the English language:

“Whilst the vast majority of Manuka honey sold in the UK appears to be from New Zealand and this is indicated on the packaging (but mostly not in a prominent way), there is nothing in the evidence to indicate that relevant public will understand that it exclusively originates from New Zealand,” the ruling said.

“On the contrary, there is evidence from dictionaries, the [UK 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.”

Previous attempts by New Zealand to trademark the term in the USA and Australia have also failed.

The IPO also awarded costs to the Australians.

The society has until January to appeal the ruling.

Stinging defeat for NZ in latest ‘farcical’ attempt to trademark manuka honey
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