The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand’s (IPONZ) confirmation in a recent decision on the registrability of certain trade marks that the UMF brand rating system is a reliable measure of manuka honey’s special qualities, and that terms such as “active” and “total activity” may be inherently deceptive, is a win for those under the UMF brand umbrella.
The implications of the decision are far reaching and point consumers towards the UMF brand rating system for reliable measures of the special qualities that manuka honey possesses.
The IPONZ decision in Lee v UMF Honey Association, Inc on 11 October 2013 rejected six trademark applications, two due to their potentially misleading nature, and all due to their descriptive and non-distinctive qualities. Importantly, IPONZ found that where manuka honeys are measured by peroxide activity or PA alone (as opposed to only non-peroxide activity or NPA) those measures are inherently unstable, which “means there is no way of knowing what the level of activity will be when the honey is sold and used“.
By contrast, the decision shows that UMF brand honey has “stable levels of antibacterial activity” (because it is based on NPA).
John Rawcliffe, General Manager of the UMF Honey Association said that “we have an obligation to ensure the quality of our honey and this decision confirms to consumers that our UMF brand uses a reliable system for measuring the special qualities of manuka honey“.
Mr Rawcliffe said that if consumers have any doubt about what they are paying for, they should go to the UMF brand for a reliable measure of the special qualities of manuka honey.
- The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, or IPONZ, is the body responsible for registering intellectual property rights, including trade marks, in New Zealand.
- The UMF Honey Association is an incorporated society that promotes the integrity and reliability of non-peroxide activity or NPA as a measure of the special antibacterial qualities of manuka honey. The Association’s members include beekeepers, honey producers and marketers, and make up nearly 70% of the manuka honey market in New Zealand. The Association is also the owner of the UMF trade mark and licenses the use of that trade mark to 38 New Zealand companies.