Māori words and designs


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Māori words and designs

Māori words and designs must first be assessed before IP protection can be granted to them.


The Māori Advisory Committees provide advice to the Commissioner on applications that include Māori words or designs. This includes imagery and text, as well as items that appear to be derived from Māori elements. These applications are assessed to determine if they are, or are likely to be, offensive to Māori.

Previously, several Māori words and images in trade mark applications were exempt from assessment. However, this changed in 2018 to ensure that all relevant trade marks are assessed by the Committee.


The Māori Advisory Committees will provide advice to the Commissioner if your application includes elements such as:

  • Māori geographical names (eg Aranui)
  • Māori words or images (eg ‘kiwi’, or the koru design)
  • anything that could be considered offensive or ambiguous in relation to the particular goods and services that its trade mark represents (eg traditional Māori cultural instruction)
  • any design including Māori imagery applied to an article that could be considered offensive or ambiguous
  • an atua or tīpuna (ancestors) name/image
  • an association with wahi tapu – a place sacred to Māori in the traditional, spiritual or religious, ritual, or mythological sense
  • a word that may be regarded by whānau/hāpu/iwi as having mana (high importance).

More information