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US Software Company Trademarks Maori Word 'Koha' in NZ

John Kelcher
Candidate for Waimakariri

23 November 2011

IPONZ approves Koha Trademark

American Software Company Trademarks Maori Word in New Zealand

Once again the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) have granted a trademark on a common word. This time it is the Maori word Koha, which means gift or donation.

The Horowhenua Library Trust have used Koha as the name of their open-source, online library catalogue system, developed by Katipo Communications in 1999.

American firm PTFS/Liblime have applied for the trademark of Koha and this has been granted by IPONZ. Though the strength of PTFS/Liblime’s mark is thought to be weak, a challenge by the Horowhenua Library Trust would be expensive and time consuming.

Recently IPONZ have made controversial decisions over common words, such as the Green Man Brewery’s beer called “Raddler” (German for cyclist), small cheese-makers using the generic term “Vintage” and the exclusive use of the American slang term by a Taihape café called “Brown Sugar”.

Green Party candidate for Waimakairiri, John Kelcher, has spoken out against IPONZ’s decisions, particularly about Fonterra Brand’s threats of legal action over the use of ‘Vintage” by small cheese makers.

“It seems strange that IPONZ, a part of the Ministry of Economic Development, would favour a private American company over a community based New Zealand Library. I expect that opposition from Maori groups will be vociferous. Their attempt to pinch the Maori word Koha is highly symbolic and will not go unchallenged.”

“I think we should be looking at the legislation and culture of IPONZ. We must insist they start working for the common good of New Zealanders, instead of brokering aggressive and dubious claims over common words for private gain. Nobody wins here, except the lawyers.

A fund has been set up to collect donations for mounting a legal challenge. http://koha-community.org/plea-horowhenua-library-trust/



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