Extremist group Action Zealandia threatened with legal action after appropriating 'New Zealand Made' Kiwi trademark

The tweet has yet to be removed, despite the owner of the iconic trademark, Buy New Zealand Made, threatening the far-right group with legal action.
The tweet has yet to be removed, despite the owner of the iconic trademark, Buy New Zealand Made, threatening the far-right group with legal action. Photo credit: Action Zealandia / Twitter

A far-right extremist group has been caught appropriating an iconic Kiwi trademark on social media to push their nationalist agenda. 

The widely-recognised trademark - a white Kiwi bird above the slogan 'New Zealand Made', set against a black background - is the symbol of Buy New Zealand Made, a Wellington-based campaign that promotes locally-made products.

For an annual fee, local manufacturers are able to authenticate the origin of their product by displaying the licensed trademark, which is recognised by more than 87 percent of New Zealanders, according to data collected by the campaign.

However, one organisation that did not pay to display the logo is Action Zealandia, a white supremacist group and self-proclaimed "movement of young nationalists dedicated to the revitalisation of our people, culture, environment and community". Last year, the far-right extremists publicised their relationship with the Nordic Resistance Movement, a far-right Scandinavian organisation linked to several bombings. The group also attacked a shared electorate office belonging to two National MPs in January 2020, accusing one of being a "known Chinese Communist spy". 

On Wednesday, Action Zealandia uploaded an index to its website outlining where its supporters could buy New Zealand-made products. The organisation then tweeted a link to the index, encouraging its followers to "support local".

"As nationalists, it's vital to help create a stronger society. A way of doing this is to support goods that are manufactured in NZ. This index is something we've created that exists as a resource for people to buy products that are NZ made," it said. 

To illustrate the tweet, Action Zealandia uploaded an image of the New Zealand Made trademark - a move the Buy New Zealand Made campaign strongly rejected.

In a tweet shared on Sunday night, the campaign responded to the misuse of its logo, threatening prosecution against Action Zealandia. 

"The NZ Made Kiwi is a licensed trademark. Unauthorised use is liable to legal action," the campaign tweeted.  "Any further illegal use of this trademark by Action Zealandia will be prosecuted. 

"We are committed to equality and inclusion and reject racism or white supremacy in any form by anyone or group."

In a statement to Newshub on Monday, Buy New Zealand Made executive director Ryan Jennings reiterated that the campaign condemns racism or white supremacy "in any form by any group or individual".

He said the campaign received a complaint on February 21 regarding the unauthorised use of the trademark by Action Zealandia.

"Trademark breaches are identified and enforced rigorously to protect the rights of licence holders and the standing of New Zealand's brand," Jennings said.

"We have communicated to the organisation they have not been granted a license to use Kiwi trademark and risk legal action by continuing to display it."

According to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), the owner of a trademark is responsible for monitoring the way it is used and protecting it against infringement. 

"To make sure you get the best out of your protection, you need to safeguard and maintain secrecy, be prepared to communicate your legal rights and, if necessary, defend your rights through legal action," says its website.

Under the Trade Marks Act 2002, the courts are able to compensate owners of registered trademarks for infringements of their logo. 

Rebecca James, a trademarks manager at IPONZ, confirmed to Newshub that under the Act, imitating a registered trademark for commercial gain or the infringement of copyrighted works is a criminal offence under the Act.

"A person convicted for such activity may be imprisoned for up to five years or fined up to NZ$150,000. The New Zealand Police are able to investigate and prosecute trademark counterfeiters," James said.

The appropriation of the logo by Action Zealandia is an association the campaign desperately wants to shake - however, while the misuse of trademarks is incredibly easy, preventing it can be a much more strenuous task.

"It is very easy to reproduce or appropriate trademark material in the digital age," James said. 

"Rights holders need to be vigilant to protect against undesirable use."

Action Zealandia is yet to remove the tweet.