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Air NZ backtracks on trademark bid after Maori outrage

Air New Zealand has taken a hard hit from the coronavirus crisis, so the government stepped in

Air New Zealand backed down on plans to trademark a logo of the Maori greeting "kia ora" Wednesday after indigenous groups accused it of cultural theft.

The flag carrier justified the application last week saying it wanted to protect the masthead of its in-flight magazine Kia Ora.

The magazine's title is a greeting commonly used by all New Zealanders and the Maori Council said the Kiwi flag carrier had no right to trademark it.

The council threatened a boycott over the issue, saying the airline was trying to commercialise the Maori language.

Air New Zealand said it had reconsidered after talks with Maori groups, calling instead for the government to review trademark laws relating to Maori words and phrases.

"While Air New Zealand had set out to trademark just the Kia Ora magazine logo rather than the words themselves, we have inadvertently sparked a much-needed discussion between Maori, intellectual property law experts and government," it said in a statement.

"The current trademark situation does not reflect the sometimes differing and legitimate views of both the Maori and legal communities."

Air New Zealand refused to clarify whether the application had been withdrawn or was still before the Intellectual Property Office and could be revived in the future.

"We are not actively pursuing the application," spokeswoman Anna Cross told AFP when questioned about the trademark bid's status.