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Govt Should Answer Questions Over 'Maori Made' Bid

Monday, July 23 2001

ACT Commerce Spokesman Stephen Franks says the Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce should answer the unusually frank condemnation from one of the leading intellectual property law firms about Creative New Zealand's attempt to corner all rights to the term Maori Made.

"AJ Park says these applications could never have succeeded under current law ' and so $23,000 of taxpayers money has been utterly wasted. However the ministers should tell New Zealanders under what criteria Creative New Zealand would license use of these trademarks if it could get them. Would it be on subscribing to politically correct cultural censorship, or could anyone with the right DNA claim a licence ' or would it simply go to the highest bidders?

"These issues remain relevant because the agency's grab has been made while a bill is pending to change the law to require the trademarks registrar to recognise complaints of cultural offence. People alleging cultural offence could gain a form of veto on trademarks involving Maori terms or symbols.

"This becomes potentially sinister for Maori and other New Zealanders who want to develop their crafts using drawing on traditional symbols if they happen to be offside with the PC establishment.

"Even worse would be if it is simply preparation for another money grab. The bill and these applications could legitimise ransom demands from use of something that looks essentially New Zealand, like for example a Koru shape. Air New Zealand is said to have had to pay to retain the Koru on its tail for example.

"If rent grabbing becomes the norm New Zealand will look less distinctive as people stick to safely international signage and symbols rather than risking looking too local.

"There could hardly be a better way of destroying the vitality and relevance of a language or culture than subjecting its use to licensing and payments to the beneficiaries of the status quo," Mr Franks said.

Ends


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