Air New Zealand drops bid to trademark 'Kia Ora' logo

Air New Zealand will no longer pursue the trademark of its "Kia Ora" magazine logo following objections by Māori leaders to the move.

Kia Ora logo Air New Zealand has applied to trademark. Source: Supplied

The New Zealand Māori Council last week threatened to take Air New Zealand to court and to call for a Māori boycott of the airline over its application to trademark "Kia Ora".

Air New Zealand now says it will not actively pursue its trademark application for the Kia Ora magazine logo after consultation with Māori leaders.

Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon says after consultation with iwi leaders around New Zealand, and intellectual property law experts, it has become clear that the Government needs to undertake an urgent review of the rules governing the trademarking of words and phrases from the Māori language.

“While Air New Zealand had set out to trademark just the Kia Ora magazine logo rather than the words themselves, we have inadvertently sparked a much-needed discussion between Māori, intellectual property law experts and Government," Mr Luxon said.  

"The current trademark situation does not reflect the sometimes differing and legitimate views of both the Māori and legal communities,” he said.

Air New Zealand filed its trademark application for the Kia Ora magazine logo after a New Zealand multimedia organisation used the Kia Ora name on a digital magazine. 

Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki last week said Air New Zealand's "hairbrained (sic) scheme to trademark Kia Ora was an insult to all Māori and all New Zealanders during Māori language week".

Threatening to take the airline to court and call for Māori not to fly Air New Zealand, he suggested Mr Luxon "stick to your core business because you sure as hell don’t get to trademark Māori words".

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand pointed out there are currently 19 trade marks containing the words kia ora on the trademarks register.

The trademark issue needs to be high on the Government’s agenda - Arihia Bennett, Ngāi Tahu chief executive

Today Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu chief executive officer Arihia Bennett commended Air New Zealand for seeking the views of Māori leaders on the trademark issue.

“Air New Zealand has shown that the trademark issue needs to be high on the Government’s agenda.  Ngāi Tahu, along with many other iwi, also face challenges navigating the trademark law," Ms Bennett said. 

"We support Air New Zealand’s call for the Government to take urgent action to find a pathway that meets the needs of Māori and business," and gives effect to Waitangi Tribunal findings, she said.

New Zealand Māori Tourism chief executive Pania Tyson-Nathan says Air New Zealand’s decision to not actively pursue the Kia Ora magazine logo trademark shows strong corporate leadership.

“We fully agree with it that Government must step up and put in place better laws and processes that recognise the needs of Māori and commercial entities when dealing with the native language of our nation,” she said.

Lynell Tuffery Huria is principal at law firm A J Park and co-chair of the International Indigenous Rights Initiatives and Policy Analysis sub-committee for the International Trade Mark Association.

She said it's time for New Zealand society to step up, have courage, lead the world, and establish a new and innovative framework that appropriately recognises the nation’s cultural heritage and ensures its integrity is preserved.

Lynell Tuffery Huria said Māori have been seeking recognition and protection of their cultural heritage, including Māori culture, Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Māori kupu (words) and Māori iconography for some time through a Waitangi Tribunal claim, the signing of the Mataatua Declaration, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and at the World Intellectual Property Office.

“Our cultural heritage is unique to Aotearoa, and this heritage is being eroded through misuse and misappropriate not only in Aotearoa but around the world," she said.