Manuka honey company wins court battle for brand
A honey producer has won its court fight to be allowed to use its "Manuka Doctor" brand.
The Court of Appeal upheld Honey New Zealand's case declaring the trademark it used on its exported honey products was not in breach of the foods standards rules and was not making a health claim.
The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) had been unwilling to give the company an export certificate for the product because it objected to the wording, which it said constituted an impermissible health or therapeutic claim.
The manuka honey industry has been under scrutiny for some years over concerns about what constitutes real manuka honey. A labelling guide was introduced in 2014 that was designed to give clarification.
Then Food-Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said there were a number of issues to deal with, due to different statements on labels and the evolving science of the sector.
An earlier High Court ruling had found that the words "Manuka Doctor" implied that, in an unspecified way, the honey had properties that would be "good for your health".
But in the Court of Appeal, the judges ruled that while it is possible that some people might associate "doctor" with health, healing and medicine, it was unlikely that a substantial number would make that association.
"We consider that consumers exercising reasonable care would have regard to the label as a whole and conclude that the use of the words 'Manuka Doctor' relates to the expertise of the producers and the assurance of the purity and quality of the honey through the UMF grading system.
"We consider it unlikely that substantial numbers of the consumer public would make the connection between the health benefits of honey as a wound dressing and the words 'Manuka Doctor' so as to conclude that these implied that honey would be 'good for you'."
They pointed to brands such as Dr Pepper and Rug Doctor, which are not seen to be making health claims.
The company was also producing a product under the Manuka Pharm brand but the company did not pursue an appeal for that wording.