A trademark enables businesses to distinguish their products or services from similar ones offered by competitors. A trademark must be unusual enough that buyers identify it with only one trader. Once a trademark is registered, the ® symbol may be used with it.
‘Sure to rise’
Thomas Edmonds was a Lyttelton grocer who started selling baking products after his customers complained about the unreliable baking powder they were using. In 1879 he sold his first batch of 200 tins, telling his customers that their baking was 'sure to rise'. In 1912 the firm of Edmonds registered the rising-sun trademark for its baking powder. This trademark is still registered today and has become a New Zealand icon.
Taranaki has a high rainfall, and in 1913 New Plymouth tailor William Broome invented a woollen work shirt with special waterproofing to cope with the conditions. He called it the Swanndri, because it shed water like raindrops off a swan’s back. The same design was still being made under the Swanndri trademark almost a century later.
It is not always easy to prove first rights to a trademark. The family of Taranaki man John Cowie claim that he began making a plastic version of a traditional Japanese sandal in the late 1940s, naming it the jandal (from ‘Japanese sandal’). However the trademark was registered in 1957 by an Auckland businessman named Morris Yock. In the 1980s and 1990s the trademark owners threatened legal action to prevent cheap imported copies from being sold as jandals. Since the late 1980s, even the real jandal has been imported from Malaysia.
A new fruit that became popular in New Zealand from the 1930s was first named the Chinese gooseberry, because the seeds had been imported from China. New Zealand growers began exporting the fruit to the US in the 1950s. It was the height of the Cold War, and growers were advised to change the name to make their product more politically appealing. The name ‘kiwifruit’ was proposed in 1959 and later became standard. However New Zealand did not register the kiwifruit trademark internationally, so any country in the world may use it. In 2017 China produced half the world’s kiwifruit. To distinguish 'Kiwi kiwifruit', the trademark Zespri was registered in 1997.
New Zealand was the first country to commercially farm deer. In the 1980s deer farmers aimed to export more farmed venison and were determined to avoid the mistake made by the kiwifruit industry by selling their product under a unique name. The New Zealand Game Industry Board decided to register a trademark for export-quality venison, which could only be used by New Zealand deer farmers. Thousands of possible names were considered. The one chosen was Cervena, from Cervidae (Latin for deer) and venison.