New Zealand honey makers have lost a bid to trademark the term ‘manuka honey’ in the UK after a legal challenge from rival Australian producers.
Manuka honey is premium honey derived from the flowers of the manuka tree, a ubiquitous native of New Zealand, and in parts of southeastern Australia. New Zealand’s honey industry has spent years creating a premium market with jars fetching many times the price of more mainstream varietals. Australia, which claims to have been producing manuka honey since the 1800s, has also been working to build a premium manuka industry. The Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA) says the sector employs thousands of Australians who would be adversely impacted should New Zealand be granted exclusive rights to the term.
The global manuka honey market is worth around A$1.27 billion in annual trade, and manuka honey sells for between $300-500 per kilo, depending on levels of MGO+ which is considered to have therapeutic properties.
Paul Callander, chairman of the AMHA, described the UK decision as “a victory for common sense” noting that New Zealand producers have sought to trademark the term in the US, Europe, China and its home market, with no region agreeing to register the trademark as yet.
“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 significantly for decades in manuka honey science, research and marketing. It would be deeply unfair – and financially devastating – to deny that reality.”
However, the New Zealand cases, lodged by the Manuka Honey Appellation Society, assisted with government funding, remains adamant only honey from New Zealand should be called mānuka (the accent being the Maori spelling of the word).
In reaching its decision, the IPO said it accepted there was significant evidence that the general public understands manuka honey is not produced exclusively in New Zealand, but rather originates from a number of places including Australia.