The Manuka Honey Appellation Society Incorporated has applied to register MANUKA HONEY as a certification trade mark in New Zealand and Australia. Certification trade marks act like an independent ‘seal of approval’ indicating that goods or services are of a particular origin or quality. This is different from standard trade marks, which act as a badge of origin for a single trader or business. Well known certification marks include the Heart Foundation tick and the New Zealand Made logo. If the Society succeeds in registering MANUKA HONEY as a certification mark, this will give it the power to approve all use of the words MANUKA HONEY on honey products in New Zealand and/or Australia.
This presents a real problem for Australian honey producers who sell honey produced from the Leptospermum scoparium—the Manuka plant. Australians argue that this plant is also native to Australia, and the honey produced from it can rightfully be called Manuka Honey. On the other hand, the Society seems to believe MANUKA HONEY should only be used on Manuka Honey from New Zealand. There is a dispute about whether the word MANUKA forms part of the Australian language (even though most dictionaries refer to it as a word of Maori origins).
The key issue is the descriptiveness of this certification mark. Unlike many other certification trade marks, this mark is a word trade mark. It is very broad and prevents others from legitimately using MANUKA HONEY to describe their Manuka Honey without the Society’s consent. The Society could put stringent requirements (and high fees) on honey producers in order to use the MANUKA HONEY mark. This kind of monopoly seems unfair, especially as there is a lot of uncertainty and dispute within the honey industry about how the term ‘Manuka honey’ should be used and controlled. A distinctive ‘Certified Manuka Honey’ logo seems a fairer way to attempt to regulate the Manuka honey industry, for everyone’s benefit.
Jenni Rutter comments on this story on Newshub.