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HoneyNZ v MPI


Andrew Brown QC has recently won a case in the Court of Appeal declaring that the trade mark MANUKA DOCTOR is not an implied health claim or implied therapeutic claim under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. MANUKA DOCTOR is a successful honey and cosmetics brand. Until early 2015, the owner of the MANUKA DOCTOR brand, Honey New Zealand (International) Ltd had been exporting MANUKA DOCTOR branded honey to a number of countries. MPI determined that the brand name was an implied health claim and implied therapeutic claim‚ under the Food Standards Code and thereafter refused to issue export certificates for MANUKA DOCTOR product. This prevented export of the product.A High Court Judge determined that MANUKA DOCTOR was an implied health claim, because it implied that, in an unspecified way, the honey in the jar was good for you. This meant that the trade mark was prohibited on the grounds of consumer protection.The Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court‚ judgment, finding that the Food Standards Code is not intended to cover general claims of unidentified health benefits. The Code was consumer protection legislation, aimed at claims of specific measurable health effects. Any gap in the Code was met by the existence of the Fair Trading Act. The Court also found that a claim that MANUKA DOCTOR is good for you would not mislead consumers into purchasing the product. The Court also agreed that MANUKA DOCTOR was not an implied therapeutic claim. The decision is significant as it clarifies the law in an area where there has been no judicial consideration previously.  See decision attached below.