News this week is a reminder to take care when using Maori words or imagery as part of branding, especially on goods such as alcohol. 

The Trade Marks Act prohibits registration if it would be likely to offend a significant section of the community, including Maori. It is not just appropriation that is an issue - certain items should not be associated with each other. 

Helpfully, applicants for trade mark registrations will receive the opinion of the Maori Advisory Committee during their application phase.  This will flag applications (except certain low risk ones) that include a Maori word or phrase and ensure that they go through the Committee for review to identify possible or likely offence.

However those who skip the registration process and just adopt branding are perhaps even more at risk of causing offence if they haven't taken advice on whether a particular word, design or image is appropriate.