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7 Trade Mark Strategies for Māori Businesses in NZ

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Māori businesses play a vital part in the unique culture and diversity of New Zealand’s business sector. As such, safeguarding the distinctive cultural identity core to your business requires you to protect your intellectual property (IP) effectively. This article will discuss how this can be achieved through seven trade mark strategies for Māori businesses in New Zealand.

1. Understand the Significance of Trade Marks for Māori Businesses

Trade marks have both cultural and economic significance. In addition to protecting your brand and giving you exclusive usage rights, your trade mark also represents your unique identity as a Māori business. Protecting your IP through a trade mark allows you to contribute to the promotion and preservation of Māori culture through your business. 

2. Embrace Cultural Symbolism

Māori businesses will often incorporate traditional designs into their goods and services. You should therefore embrace cultural symbolism when creating your trade mark strategy. For example, you should identify visual elements that have cultural significance and resonate within the Māori community. These can include:

  • patterns;
  • symbols and motifs;
  • colours; or
  • references to Māori history.

Including such symbolism in your trade marks helps establish a connection with consumers seeking businesses with Māori heritage.

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3. Consult with Cultural Advisors

As a Māori business owner, respecting cultural protocols is a paramount consideration. You may choose to consult with elders or other cultural advisors to ensure that your trade mark strategies align with Māori values and traditions. This will improve the balance between your commercial interests and protecting cultural sensitivity

4. Establish Collective Trade Marks

Your business may be part of an ‘association’, where you operate or collaborate with others under the same cultural identity. In such instances, you may benefit from collective trade marks. These are particularly relevant in industries where collaboration is common, such as tourism. 

A collective trade mark recognises each business’ separate participation while representing a shared cultural heritage. Such trade marks can help to reinforce the unity and strength of the Māori community in the business sector.

5. Educate the Community on the Importance of Trade Marks

It is important to empower the Māori community with knowledge about trade marks continuously. You can participate in educational initiatives or outreach programs to educate others about how trade marks can help to preserve this shared cultural identity. In the long-term, this benefits your business, as you can unify with other Māori businesses against potential misuse or misappropriation of cultural symbols.

6. Monitor and Protect Against Misuse

All businesses should be vigilant about trademark monitoring to protect against misuse of their trademarks. However, this is even more important for Māori businesses, which need to look out for the misappropriation of cultural symbols.

You must implement a solid trade mark monitoring strategy to identify any instances of trade mark infringement quickly. This may require collaboration with culturally aware intellectual property professionals. You should also be aware of tools offered by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), such as its Trade Mark Check, which allows you to search for marks similar to your own. It is imperative you quickly take action once you identify any misuse. This both protects your business and sends a message that they must respect culturally meaningful intellectual property.

7. Consider Trade Mark Licensing

You may seek to share your cultural heritage with a broader audience. In that case, you should consider engaging in cultural licensing. 

Cultural licensing involves granting permission to third parties for cultural symbols or designs to be used in specific conditions. This allows you, as a Māori business owner, to control your marks while expanding your brand reach. However, such licensing agreements must be well-drafted to ensure that you have proper control over your trade marks’ use and can still shape how these cultural symbols are presented to the world.

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Key Takeaways

Māori businesses ensure that cultural sensitivity and diversity remain a vital part of New Zealand’s business sector. In order to strike the delicate balance between IP protection and cultural identity preservation, you need to implement a unique and effective trade mark protection strategy. Some key trade mark strategies to consider as a Māori business owner include:

  • understanding the significance of trade marks for Māori businesses;
  • embracing cultural symbolism;
  • consulting with cultural advisors;
  • establishing collective trade marks;
  • educating the community on the importance of trade marks; 
  • monitoring and protecting against misuse; and
  • considering trade mark licensing. 

If you need assistance protecting the intellectual property of your Māori business, our experienced trade mark lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

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Emily Young

Emily Young

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