Honey trademark bid declined

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 12:59 14/10/2013

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An attempt to trademark six labels relating to the antibacterial properties of honey has been rejected by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) on the basis some could have potentially misled consumers.

Henry Soo Lee's application to register six trademarks was also opposed by the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) Honey Association.

Lee was ordered by the office to pay $6890 in costs to UMF after all six label applications were turned down.

Lee is a director and shareholder of several companies in the health supplement and honey industry. He applied to register four Non-Peroxide Activity (NPA) labels and two Total Activity Per cent (TAP) labels to use on honey products.

The association opposed Lee's trademark applications for the TAP labels due to their potentially misleading nature.

All honeys have a certain level of antibacterial activity, usually due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide, which is referred to as peroxide activity.

UMF Honey Association general manager John Rawcliffe said peroxide activity is unstable and is degraded by light and heat. A jar of honey that had been tested as to PA levels at the time of its production will probably not have the same PA levels when it is sold and consumed, he said.

Therefore labelling honey with a specific TAP level could be misleading, Rawcliffe said.

Lee said he did not intend to use the TAP label in a misleading way.

The association had opposed Lee's applications because it had an obligation to protect the quality of the market and consumers, Rawcliffe said.

The association also opposed Lee's application to trademark four NPA labels because the UMF Honey Association had a competing trademark it had licensed out to him.

NPA is a measure of the special antibacterial qualities in manuka honey. Honey with higher levels of NPA is more expensive.

The association focuses on the promotion of NPA as a measure of the special antibacterial qualities in manuka honey, and on maintaining the integrity and reliability of NPA as a measure of those special qualities.

The NPA label would be directly competing with the UMF Honey Association label, Rawcliffe said.

Within the licence agreement those using the UMF label could not have a competing brand, he said.

"You can't have your cake and eat it."

Rawcliffe said 38 companies were licensed to use UMF's NPA label.

In the mid-1990s manuka honey was discovered to have special antibacterial properties that were more stable than those of other honeys. A lot of controversy has occurred over claimed benefits from it since.

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Traders developed the rating systems so consumers could rely on representations made about the NPA levels.

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