November 21, 2019
The New Zealand government has pledged NZ$5.7 million (CAD$4.79 million) to the New Zealand Manuka Honey Appellation Society (NZMHAS) to help the country’s honey producers trademark the name “manuka” in China. The NZMHAS is set to apply to the Beijing Intellectual Property Court in its bid to trademark the name.
Manuka is a Maori name for the Leptospermum scoparium trees, which produce the honey. Manuka is advertised as having health benefits, which makes it popular among Chinese consumers. The registration of “manuka honey” in favour of NZMHAS as a certification trademark in China would effectively shut Australian manuka honey producers out of the market, potentially costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. The chairman of the Australian Manuka Honey Association has called on the Australian government to intervene, stating that it is a major trade issue for the country and setting up the countries for a protracted battle.
The NZMHAS has already applied for certification marks in the United Kingdom and the United States. In December 2017, the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office decided in favour of MHAS for the grant of the certification trademark for Manuka Honey in the United Kingdom, but the Australian Manuka Honey Association is in the process of challenging this trademark. The United States Intellectual Property Office has rejected the NZMHAS trademark application.
Authors: Scott Kerr and Matt McDonald