Australian honey producers have won a four-year trademark battle in Britain amid a long-standing dispute with New Zealand over who can claim the term “manuka honey”.
The Manuka Honey Appellation Society, representing a group of New Zealand growers, was trying to stop Australian beekeepers from selling products using the word “manuka” in Britain.
They claimed they had the rights to the term, arguing that mānuka was a Maori word and was a distinctive product of New Zealand.
The UK Intellectual Property Office this week rejected the trademark application, saying there was no evidence the public believed the product was exclusively from New Zealand.
The Australian Manuka Honey Association, which has challenged the claim in court, said it would have been deeply unfair and financially devastating to deny producers the right to use the term.
“This decision is the right decision and a fair decision. The term manuka has been used in Australia since the 1800s and the Australian industry has invested heavily in the science, research and marketing of manuka honey for decades, ”said President Paul Callander.
The association argued that the term “manuka honey” was a common term used to describe honey made from the manuka tree, found in both New Zealand and Australia.
In rendering its decision, the court recognized that the term was primarily descriptive of a type of honey and widely used beyond New Zealand.
“While the vast majority of manuka honey sold in the UK appears to come from New Zealand and this is stated on the packaging (but certainly not visibly), there is nothing in the evidence to indicate that [the] the relevant public will understand that it is exclusively from New Zealand, ”the ruling says.