Intellectual Property Office rules that New Zealand beekeepers’ attempt to stop Australian producers from using the name ‘manuka honey’ did not meet the necessary requirements.

The New Zealand Intellectual Property Office ruled recently that the manuka beekeepers’ attempt to register a trademark did not adhere to the necessary criteria and that the term manuka was descriptive.

According to the proposed regulations submitted supporting the application, the certification mark could only be applied to goods that are both “produced in New Zealand” and “honey, which is manuka honey according to the laws of New Zealand.”

Manuka honey is a monofloral honey produced from the nectar of the manuka tree, Leptospermum scoparium, which is indigenous to New Zealand.

Some New Zealand batches in luxury shops abroad have sold for up to NZ$2,000 to $5,000 for a 250g jar at the highest concentrations. The lucrative nature of the product has been to blame for crime outbreaks in New Zealand, where fierce competition for access to mnuka forests has led to thefts, beatings, vandalism, and mass bee poisoning.

The application was made to IPONZ in 2015 seeking registration for manuka honey as a certification trademark in Aotearoa, New Zealand, for honey produced in the country. The mark was formally accepted in April 2018 under the name of the Manuka Honey Appellation Society (MHAS). However, the Australian Manuka Honey Association Limited (AMHA) opposed the application.

AMHA chairman Ben McKee said: “We are delighted with the judgement handed down by the IPO, which confirms what we have been saying since New Zealand producers began this legal process nearly eight years ago – our product has a long history of being recognised as manuka honey, it is produced like the NZ product is, and it also offers the sought-after antimicrobial properties that consumers around the world value so highly.”

AMHA said the decision is a “sensible outcome” that allows Australian beekeepers to fairly market their produce and “sees NZ following another precedent around the world that Manuka honey is a descriptive term”.

McKee described the ruling as positive news for Australian manuka producers and the broader industry, such as the transporters and sellers of the honey.

Manuka Charitable Trust said it was “disappointed but undeterred” by the ruling on manuka honey.

Pita Tipene, chair of the Manuka Charitable Trust, commented: “Today’s finding reflects the technicalities and limitations of conventional IP law to protect indigenous rights. It is disappointing in many ways, but our role as kaitiaki (guardians) to protect the mana, mauri, and value of our taonga species, including manuka on behalf of all New Zealanders, is not contestable.”

The Manuka Charitable Trust said the ruling is “out of step” with the recent New Zealand and European Union ‘Free Trade agreement’ that includes a definition for manuka as the Māori word used exclusively for the Leptospermum scoparium tree grown in Aotearoa.

Manuka honey and its benefits – Some FAQs

What is Manuka honey?

Manuka honey is a monofloral honey produced from the nectar of the Leptospermum scoparium, a native of New Zealand manuka tree.

What are the Benefits of Manuka honey?

Manuka honey has powerful therapeutic qualities. Manuka honey is most commonly used as a treatment for gastric ulcers because it is believed to have a healing capacity comparable to that of antibiotics. Additionally, it soothes sore throats and strengthens your immune system.

How to use Manuka honey?

One teaspoon of honey can be directly consumed for stomach ulcers, along with a few sips of water. Manuka honey can be added to hot tea or even kadha to treat sore throats. Because of its high nutrient density, honey is a fantastic energy booster.

What is the ideal quantity?

Manuka honey is easily consumed in daily servings of 1-2 teaspoons. You can either add it to a cup of tea or lemonade, or you can just eat it raw. Manuka honey has a naturally sweet taste that will quell your hunger while also providing a plethora of health benefits.

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