National | Australia

Australians use British dictionary definition in Mānuka trademark battle

An Australian honey consortium says they intend to use the UK's Oxford dictionary in their battle to put the Māori word 'Mānuka' on honey produced in Australia.

The AMHA (Australian Manuka Honey Association) will appear before the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office in a hearing starting next week to attempt to dispute NZ beekeepers' trademark request for the word Mānuka.

AMHA chairman Paul Callander says it will argue the British dictionary defines Mānuka as “a small tree with aromatic leaves which are sometimes used for tea, native to New Zealand and Tasmania”.

New Zealand beekeepers are labelling the use of the Oxford dictionary definition over Māori taonga a 'stunt', saying it has no jurisdiction over Te Ao Māori.

Aotearoa's beekeepers have lodged trademark applications around the world arguing 'Manuka' and 'Mānuka' is a Māori word inextricably tied to New Zealand, similar to champagne in France.

The NZ government has spent $5.7 million attempting to defend Kiwi producers against products produced overseas.

Speaking to the Australian newspaper, AMHA says it will also attempt to use a 2018 report by the Māori Language Commission citing “Mānuka” or “Maanuka” as the Māori term for the honey derived from the leptospermum scoparium trees.

Australia's varieties of the plant are more commonly known as 'Tea Tree'. Kiwi producers say AMHA's attempts to use the word 'Manuka' (without the macron) is designed to mislead consumers.

While it is unclear how the Oxford dictionary Manuka definition came about, Kiwi producers say the trademark governing authority of the UK has unequivocally sided with NZ.

In 2018, they granted the New Zealand Mānuka Honey Appellation Society a certification mark for the term 'Mānuka' honey, both with and without the macron.