23 Nov 2011

Maori Trademark Advisory Committee has limited powers

7:09 pm on 23 November 2011

The chair of a panel which advises on the trademarking of Maori words says its powers are limited - but it does give tangata whenua some say in the process.

The comment follows an attempt by the Horowhenua Library Trust to block a trademark bid by an American company to gain rights over the name, Koha.

The name was adopted by the trust about 12 years ago.

The Intellectual Property Office Commissioner has approved the application by the United States company, PTFS/LibLime.

As part of the trademark process, requests for the use of Maori words are generally run by the Maori Trademark Advisory Committee.

Its chair Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka-Tibble admits the authority of her committee is limited.

She says in the mid-1990s there was an expectation by Maori to have a far greater role on trademark matters.

Mrs Waaka-Tibble says the primary role of the current committee is to tell the Intellectual Property Office Commissioner if a trademark proposal is offensive to Maori.

In this year's Waitangi Tribunal decision on the WAI 262 claim, the report recommended setting up a new commission - which would hear objections to taonga being used commercially.