High Court Rules Against Honey NZ

In a recent ruling, the Ministry for Primary Industries and High Court agreed that Honey New Zealand’s trademarks amounted to health claims that the company is not qualified to make. The company’s trademarks – “Manuka Pharm” and “Manuka Doctor” – were found to be misleading to consumers since the company has no scientific studies to back these medically charged names. A spokesman for Honey NZ explained that the company would be appealing the decision, as this ruling may have further reaching implications for other Manuka honey manufacturing companies down the road.

The official ruling was that the trademarks of Manuka Pharm and Manuka Doctor were not in compliance with the Australia New Zealand Foods Standards Codes, this according to a feature on Stuff.co.nz. At this time, Honey NZ’s other trademarks are not being affected by this decision. The spokesman from Honey NZ explained the company had invested considerable resources into developing the trademarks in question and the labeling of these products was meant to drive consumers to focus on the high quality of Manuka honey packaged in the jars.

Because the company’s trademarks were a breach of labeling standards, the Ministry for Primary Industries cancelled its export assurance back in May of this year, after the labels had been reviewed in detail in 2014. Honey New Zealand has been unable to export its Manuka honey products using these two labels since late May because of the cancellation of its export certificate. The company appealed for a judicial declaration regarding the legality of the use of the trademarks.

July 2014 saw the Ministry of Primary Industry introduce an interim labeling system that is meant to help the honey industry and protect vulnerable consumers from paying high prices for products making false claims. Justice Simon France explained that the use of trademarks like Manuka Pharm and Manuka Doctor represented a violation of this system by making prohibited health claims, specifically by implying that the products produced by Honey NZ would be beneficial for consumers’ health.

The increased concern over the mislabeling of Manuka honey products is due in most part to the increased popularity of the product. The Ministry of Primary Industries reported Manuka honey exports revenue is expected to reach $217 million through 2015 and will jump to over $280 million by 2019. The money that can be made from producing and selling Manuka honey has seen a rise in counterfeit operations, which increases the need for officials to protect consumers.

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