In recognition of the cultural and intellectual property (IP) rights of New Zealand's indigenous Maori, and following a long history of consultation, the New Zealand Trade Marks Act 2002 includes specific provisions relating to the establishment of an Advisory Committee to guide the Crown on the registration of trade marks in New Zealand that are or appear to be derived from Maori text and imagery. The role of the Committee is to review such trade marks and advise whether registration or use of the trade marks is likely to cause offence to Maori.
The Ka Mate haka, popularly performed by New Zealand's All Blacks Rugby Union team, is a Maori haka composed by Te Rauparaha, war leader of the Ngati Toa tribe of the North Island of New Zealand. It is culturally significant to Maori and is recognised as an icon of New Zealand. A trust representing Ngati Toa and other descendents of Te Rauparaha have attempted to register the haka as a trade mark in New Zealand. The registration of the haka as a trade mark would provide the Ngati Toa and others with a legal means to protect the use of the haka from culturally inappropriate use and use for commercial gain.
This trade mark application was rejected by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand in December 2008 although this decision may be appealed by the applicant and subject to a decision of the Ombudsmen.
The IP rights of the Ka Mate haka were however recognised in the Treaty signed on 11 February 2009 between the New Zealand Crown and various trusts representing Maori including Ngati Toa. The settlement for the Ngati Toa is reported to record the authorship and significance of the haka to the Ngati Toa and therefore the Crowns recognition of these rights. It will be interesting to see whether the Treaty has an influence on the fate of the application for registration of the haka as a trade mark.Amanda Jones