Māori Council threatens to take Air NZ to court over 'hairbrained' request to trademark Kia Ora

The New Zealand Māori Council is threatening to take Air New Zealand to court and call for a Māori boycott of the airline over its bid to trademark "Kia Ora".

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Māori phrases themselves cannot be trademarked. Source: 1 NEWS

Air New Zealand says it has applied to the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office to trademark the logo design on the front of its inflight Kia Ora magazine - not the greeting kia ora. The application was made in May.

Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki says Air New Zealand's "hairbrained (sic) scheme is an insult to all Māori and all New Zealanders during Māori language week".

Mr Tukaki has told outgoing Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon to "pull his head in" and said the council "will not put up with the nonsense of the company trying to trademark Kia Ora".

“Lets be really clear here this is an insult pure and simple. Luxton (sic) and his massive fleet of PR and marketing cronies have come up with another hairbrained scheme from the never never similar to some of their safety videos – my suggestion is stick to your core business because you sure as hell don’t get to trademark Māori words," Mr Tukaki said in a statement.

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

"If Luxton wants to continue this hōhā then prepare for the day when we simply turn around and say – Māori, Māori organsations and iwi – boycott. Not one more Air NZ ticket. And on that point I suggest the largest shareholder go and give this recalcitrant company a good telling off," he continued. 

Mr Tukaki said he's "sick and tired of cultural appropriation" and all Māori are.

"Our language is a national treasure for all of us and we need to respect it. It's not here for business to use it and profit from it as they see fit. So lets all get sensible about this and Air NZ – cut it out," he said.

Mr Tukaki's statement concluded: “Christopher Luxon – I’m no pussycate nor will I put up with this hōhā/nonsense, so if we want to test the resolve or Māori lets dance.” 

Rebecca James, Trade Marks Manager for the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, said Air New Zealand is not seeking a monopoly on the phrase "kia ora" in any form, but is only seeking protection of the "particular stylised forms".

There are currently 19 trade marks containing the words kia ora on the trademarks register, Ms James pointed out.

She said trade mark applications that include Māori words or imagery are referred by the Intellectual Property Office to the Trade Marks Māori Advisory Committee for advice on whether the trademark is likely to offend Māori. 

A trademark cannot be registered in New Zealand if it is likely to offend a significant section of the community, including Māori, Ms James said. 

She said it's possible for a trademark application to be rejected if an applicant is not able to resolve some issues with their application.