Tuatara under fire for attempts to trademark 'kapai'

Tuatara's head brewer said people would not confuse its kapai beer with Mata's kapai beer.
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Tuatara's head brewer said people would not confuse its kapai beer with Mata's kapai beer.

A trademark battle is brewing in the craft beer industry over use of the Maori word "kapai".

Last week Wellington craft brewery Tuatara applied to trademark "kapai" and "tuatara kapai". Kapai means "good" in Maori.

If successful it would restrict the ability of other beer makers to use the word.

That has one small family-owned brewery in the Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau feeling "very upset".

READ MORE: Tuatara cops flak for trying to trademark hop variety amarillo

Gloria Viitakangas, the co-owner of Aotearoa Breweries, which makes Mata beer, said it had been using the name kapai for its summer session Indian pale ale for the past two years.

"We can't do anything about it because they're bigger than us and we don't have the money to fight this," Viitakangas said.

Tuatara, which is 36 per cent owned by Wellington investment company Rangatira, has just renamed its Aotearoa pale ale beer to kapai.

Viitakangas said she was surprised by Tuatara's actions because the two breweries were "quite good friends" and Tuatara's head brewer Carl Vasta had been at the launch of Mata kapai.

"It's really quite soul-destroying for us."

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She said having two kapai beers in the market would confuse people.

After finding out that Tuatara had rebranded using "kapai", Aotearoa Breweries also applied to trademark the word - with the application being filed the same day as Tuatara.

Tuatara came under fire from the beer industry last week for also trying to trademark a hop variety.

It wanted to trademark the name amarillo with the Intellectual Property Office, but later withdrew its application.

Head brewer Carl Vasta said it had also withdrawn its application to trademark "kapai" but not "tuatara kapai", although the Intellectual Property Office still shows the application is still under consideration.

Tuatara would be reviewing its use of the word "kapai" in its branding, he said.

"This is a very unfortunate incident that we are currently trying to work through."

Vasta said the two breweries had "co-existed" well together for years and he phoned Viitakangas' daughter and Mata head brewer Tammy Viitakangas on Monday to talk things over.

Maree Shaw, president of the Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA), said the association would support Aotearoa Breweries if Tuatara refused to withdraw the "tuatara kapai" trademark.

"If Mata were wanting to fight it we would be wanting to get in behind them," Shaw said.

 - Stuff

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