Trade Mark Battle Over Manuka Honey

08 09 2016

A trade mark battle is looming over “MANUKA HONEY” as Australian and New-Zealand beehive owners prepare to fight over the valuable mark.

Manuka honey is known for its antibacterial properties and touted as a ‘superfood’ which can do everything from healing sore throats to curing gingivitis. This reputation has led to the rapid growth of a lucrative global market for Manuka honey as consumers are willing to pay premium prices for the honey’s many claimed benefits.  In a program run last year, the ABC described Manuka honey as “liquid gold”; amounting to an approximately $150 a kg when exported.

New Zealand honey makers have sought to protect their share of Manuka honey market by filing for certification trade mark protection of “MANUKA HONEY” with the Australian Trademarks Office. They claim that they are entitled to the international rights to “Manuka” as the term is the name given to the tree (from which the honey is made) by the country’s indigenous Māori people. The spokesperson for the New Zealand-based Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association argues that “genuine Manuka honey is sourced from the nectar of Leptospermum Scoparium which is found almost exclusively in New Zealand”. Further, they go on to say that the protection of the “Manuka” name is vital for safeguarding New Zealand’s heritage and protecting an aspect of the country’s identity. The rise of the global demand for Manuka honey saw the value of New Zealand’s honey exports more than double based on data from late last year; there is little doubt then why New Zealand honey makers would be keen to control how the term is used in Australia.

The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council has hit back at these claims, arguing that “Manuka is a term that has a history of use in Australia as well”. Lindsay Bourke, the chairman of the council, released a statement stating that “the Manuka tree…originated in Tasmania and seed dispersed form there to New Zealand. Australia is home to over 80 species of Leptospermum to New Zealand’s one”.

The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council has announced they intend to object to the registration of the trade mark. Should the certification trade mark be registered, Australian honey makers would need their New Zealand counterpart’s approval before they would be able to use the term. Given their intention of “securing the name [to] give customers and consumers greater confidence that honey…which bears the Manuka Honey name will be…ultimately sourced from…New Zealand” the likelihood of Australian honey makers obtaining this approval appears slim.

Image Attribution: By Sage Ross – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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