I was interviewed on Radio New Zealand National about 'Heke' beer

May 1, 2018

There is a brew-haha fermenting over the use of the term 'Heke' on beer.  Waiheke Brewing Company has released a beer called 'Heke', short for 'Waiheke Island'.  Ancestors of Hone Heke, a famous Maori activist, are opposed to use of their ancestor's name in association with alcohol.  Radio New Zealand National interviewed me to ask who is going to win the case.


I see this as a case of offensiveness, not ownership. Let's face it, people's names are hard to own. There are plenty of cases of unintentional offence - the Lego Bionicles characters with Maori names that were said to trivialise and inappropriately use Māori culture and the Fiat car advertisement with women doing the Ka Mate Haka in a culturally inappropriate way.  What about Koran for wine, Redskins for a football team -  actual examples from the US? The legal question isn't whether any offence was intended, but is it offensive to a particular group?


The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand has the power to prevent registration of a trade mark that is offensive.  Hone Heke's ancestors can't sue Waiheke Brewing Company just for being offensive though, but is it a good PR move for Waiheke Brewing Company to market a product that causes offence to a particular group?  


You can listen to the interview here




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