Delays gives hope to Aussie Manuka honey industry

A last-minute delay to a crucial trademark hearing [as reported earlier] has bought Australia’s manuka honey industry valuable time to engage with the Government in working towards a sustainable future, according to the Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA).

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand unexpectedly advised parties that the hearing, which was due to commence today [April 13] to consider the right to use the term “manuka honey” in New Zealand, would be delayed.

A group of NZ producers has sought trademark certification in the UK, US, Europe, NZ and China. So far, no country has registered the trademark, with significant argument around whether it is possible to register what would normally be considered a descriptive term.

“The delay has come as a surprise to us, but we hope will provide us the opportunity to have productive talks with our government around securing the industry’s future. There is still time for our political leaders to step in to negotiate a positive outcome that would see both the New Zealand and Australian industries thrive.

“Pre-fixing the name Manuka with country of origin, and letting the Maori version be, is all we are asking for. We have every right to be able to use the term Manuka as we spell it and have complete respect for the word Mānuka or Maanuka as New Zealand uses it,” says the AMHA Chairman Paul Callander.

The AMHA has warned that the entire local industry, which extends beyond manuka beekeepers to the thousands of Australians engaged through research, logistics, manufacturing and sales, is at risk due to the trademark application by a group of NZ producers. While the NZ producers have benefitted from extensive NZ government support, the Australian industry’s pleas to government have fallen on deaf ears.

“This is a market forecast to be worth $1.27 billion globally by 2027 and offering vast potential for local innovation and manufacturing,” says Mr Callander.

“We’re disappointed there has not been more political support to date – especially in light of the difference approach in New Zealand –but urge the government to seize this opportunity to work with us now.”

According the AMHA the term manuka has been used in Australia since the 1800s and the Australian industry has invested significantly for years in manuka honey science, research and marketing. The Australian industry is confident of its position but recognises an adverse decision would have a devastating impact.

“While this case is about the right to use the term manuka honey in NZ, it would in reality have an impact on all the international markets that we look to sell our Australian manuka honey because of surrounding uncertainties,” says Mr Callander.

“A decision to trademark a descriptive term would also set a precedent for other products, so it is not just manuka producers who are watching closely.”


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