Conservative leader Colin Craig has been served with a cease and desist order and forced to destroy a promotional sign over a trademark infringement of the phrase "nek minnit".
The saying went viral in 2011 via the online video of skateboarder Levi Hawken. After a brief dispute over intellectual property rights, Hawken secured a trademark over the phrase, including for advertising and promotional use, in October 2012.
Hawken uses the Nek Minnit brand for his skateboard company that makes beginner boards for kids.
Last week, Craig held a public meeting in Wellington, where a sign reading "Nek Minnit. Conservative" was on display. The sign asked for voters to give their party vote to the Conservatives.
"As far as I am concerned it is a trademark breach of the Nek Minnit brand," Hawken said. "It's another case of my Nek Minnit being used in a cheesy way to sell something that no one wants. This time it's a campaign."
A Green Party supporter, Hawken did not want his brand being associated with Craig's political and social views.
"My beliefs have always been about sustainability and quality of life for the many rather than abundance of hoarded wealth for the top few. I am very different to Colin Craig," he said.
Hawken contacted the Conservative Party demanding it discontinue the use of the ‘nek minnit' slogan. He saw the funny side of seeking legal action against the famously litigious Craig. "As far as I am concerned, this sort of affiliation is defaming my brand, which is ironic when you have [Craig] suing [Russel Norman] over defamation."
If any funds were raised from the illegal use of Nek Minnit, Hawken would like to see that money donated to the Greens.
Craig says the infringing sign was left over promotional material from the 2011 election, before the phrase was trademarked, and "nek minnit" was used to represent the rapid growth of the party.
"The whole concept was: there we were a party that started only just before the election, got 650 members in two weeks, and then suddenly there we were running 52 candidates," he said.
Craig believed the signs were no longer in circulation but the banner was brought to last Saturday's meeting by a party member.
"We got a cease and desist letter because the holder of the trademark became aware I think from photos that were posted [online] from that meeting," he said. The sign has now been destroyed. "It is not part of our branding nor is it part of our campaign.
"It is hardly nek minnit Conservative any more, we have been around nearly three years."
- Sunday Star Times
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