Intellectual Property and Cultural Appropriation

Last month saw a debate take place in New Zealand around intellectual property rights and the use of items of indigenous cultural significance.

 

IP Mātauranga Māori

The indigenous people of New Zealand are the Māori.  Mātauranga Māori (Māori Knowledge) is the knowledge originating from Māori ancestors.  It covers Māori world view, perspectives, creativity and cultural practices, as well as the Māori language, Te Reo.

There are provisions within New Zealand’s intellectual property laws that recognise and respect Māori culture and traditional knowledge, prevent its exploitation or inappropriate use, and prevent the registration of IP rights that would be considered offensive by Māori or contrary to Māori values.

The New Zealand Intellectual Property Office has Māori Advisory Committees to which IP right applications are referred for advice should an application be considered to incorporate a Māori element.

 

Kia Ora

“Kia Ora” is a versatile phrase from the Māori language Te Reo.  Often used to say “hello” or “thank you”, it has a deeper meaning and usage as a term of acknowledgement of a person.

 

Air New Zealand Inflight Magazine “Kia Ora”

New Zealand’s national carrier, Air New Zealand, provides an inflight magazine that is also entitled “Kia Ora”, that has been in publication for several years.

Back in May of 2019, the company made a trademark application for a logo mark that incorporated the phrase “Kia Ora”, a move that was controversial and prompted criticism from Māori.

The application itself was a response to a New Zealand multimedia company using the phrase on a digital magazine.

A few months later in September, following discussion with Māori leaders, Air New Zealand withdrew their trademark application.

Although Air New Zealand had only sought to trademark the logo of its magazine (to protect it against potential confusion with another publication) and had not sought to trademark the phrase “Kia Ora” itself, the application still initiated a fresh debate between Māori, IP law experts and the Government around the use, recognition and protection of Te Reo in the context of intellectual property.

With all sides positive on the eventual handling of the matter, there is acknowledgement of the importance of further debate and action around balancing the needs, recognition and protection of indigenous communities and their cultural heritage, with the needs of business and the framework of intellectual property rights.

Alistair Curson

 

References

100% Pure New Zealand. “Māori Culture”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://www.newzealand.com/int/maori-culture/

100% Pure New Zealand. “The Meaning of Kia Ora”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/the-meaning-of-kia-ora/

Air New Zealand Media Release. (2017, September 1). “Air New Zealand says ‘Kia Ora’ to new-look inflight magazine”. Retrieved September 19, 2019, from: https://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/press-release-2017-air-new-zealand-says-kia-ora-to-new-look-inflight-magazine

Air New Zealand Media Release. (2019, September 18). “Air New Zealand calls for more kōrero on te reo trademark issues”. Retrieved September 19, 2019, from: https://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/press-release-2019-airnz-calls-for-more-korero-on-te-reo-trademark-issues

Māori Dictionary. (2019). “Kia ora!”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://maoridictionary.co.nz/search?idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=&histLoanWords=&keywords=kia+ora

McConnell G. (2017, September 15). “Kia ora is everywhere, but what exactly does it mean?”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/96883326/kia-ora-is-everywhere-but-what-exactly-does-it-mean

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Māori IP”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/maori-ip/

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Māori IP: Concepts to understand”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/maori-ip/concepts-to-understand/

New Zealand Intellectual Property Office. “Māori IP: Māori Advisory Committees”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/maori-ip/maori-advisory-committees/

Radio New Zealand. (2019, September 11). “Māori Council accuses Air NZ of appropriating Māori culture”. Retrieved September 19, 2019, from: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/398589/maori-council-accuses-air-nz-of-appropriating-maori-culture

Radio New Zealand. (2019, September 18). “Air New Zealand drops Kia Ora trademark bid”. Retrieved September 19, 2019, from: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/399044/air-new-zealand-drops-kia-ora-trademark-bid

Te Puia. “Kia ora!”. Retrieved September 20, 2019, from: https://tepuia.com/news/kia-ora/

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