The Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has called on Fonterra to withdraw its applications to trademark Maori words as part of a brand push on a line of tis products.
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Tukaki, who is now in receipt of the applications under the Official Information Act, has said the narrative coming out of Fonterra that somehow this is an attempt to promote the use of Te Reo Maori should be seen for what it is and that is a smokescreen to the real Kaupapa on the table “Should corporations trademark our Reo? Should corporations be able to take our Reo and own those words in the interests of their shareholders and business?”

“The last week has been a real lesson in the tactics employed by New Zealand’s biggest corporations to try and convince us all that this is not about business its about promoting Te Reo Maori – I am sorry but I do not, and the many thousands of people who have been in contact with me, believe it. In all reality the application of Trademarks enable a business, if granted, to then enforce those rights onto others – that includes legal action in the courts, cease and desist letters from lawyers and so on.” Tukaki said

“Under the Trade Marks Act 2002 the courts have a wide range of civil remedies available to them (under the respective Act and under common law) to compensate aggrieved owners of registered trade marks for infringement of their trade marks. These include damages, injunctions, orders to account for profits, and orders to deliver up infringing goods to right holders.”

“Are we really saying that a corporation should think they can own those words, albeit in an industry category? Tukaki said

“The applications themselves are appalling but brings to light the broader issue of whether or not someone should be able to trademark words of a national language of New Zealand. That is why they should be withdrawn and this needs to be a lesson for all corporations – nothing is stopping anyone from promoting Te Reo Maori – but you don’t get to own it.” Tukaki said

Tukaki also questioned the engagement that Fonterra has with Maori in so far as it appeared to be internal and not extensive.

The 12 words sought for trademark are Kāpiti, awa (river), kōwhai (yellow), kānuka (white tea tree), kakato (delicious), pakari (firm), kirÄ«mi (cream), akatea (white rātā), kahurangi (blue), kahikatea (white pine), te tihi (summit) and rarama (gleam). The latter corrects a longstanding error – in 2008, Fonterra received a trademark for the non-existent word “ramara”. Meanwhile, the company continues to hold the registered trademark “kikorangi” (blue), first granted in 2003.

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