Aviation

Air New Zealand backs down on ‘Kia Ora’ trademark attempt following uproar

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Air New Zealand has dropped a trademark application for its Kia Ora inflight magazine logo after consultation with Māori leaders.

Last week, the Māori Council threatened to boycott the airline after it applied to trademark the masthead of its in-flight magazine. The airline claimed it was trademarking the logo, not the words ‘kia ora’.

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon said 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,” Luxon said.

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

The airline said it applied for the trademark after another organisation used the Kia Ora name on a digital magazine.

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.

“Ngāi Tahu, along with many other iwi, also face challenges navigating the trademark law. 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 the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Wai 262 claim ‘Ko Aotearoa Tēnēi’,” Bennett said.

Pania Tyson-Nathan chief executive of New Zealand Māori Tourism said Air New Zealand has done “more than any large company to support the growth and awareness of Māori language and culture in Aotearoa and around the world.”

“The fact that it listened to the voices of respected Māori leaders in order to better understand well-expressed concerns over the trademark logo issue speaks volumes to the character of the airline.

“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.”

Last week, Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki told TVNZ the airline’s “hair-brained scheme [to trademark Kia Ora] is an insult to all Māori and all New Zealanders during Māori language week.”

“Let’s be really clear here: this is an insult pure and simple,” Tukaki said.

“The logo commercialises the words … we have no problem with them using the words, but they should not be attempting to link trademarks to them, even if it is only a logo,” Māori Council spokesman Brent Reihana told TV3.

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