Nek minnit: a lesson in protecting your assets!

Friday 9th March 2012

Last night on TV One’s Fair Go, the story of Levi Hawken and his ’Nek Minnit’ success was in the spotlight again, but this time maybe not the spotlight that Levi wanted.

We all know the story of the 20 second You Tube clip which brought fame to Levi Hawken and fame to the words ‘Nek Minnit’. What Levi and his friends didn’t realise while having fun that day was that they had created something that they could profit from.

When anything popular is created, people will try to get a piece of that popularity—in this case, t-shirts and merchandise that allow the consumer to so show their support/connection to the You Tube clip.

Should Levi protect the trade mark ’Nek Minnit’?   Yes the words were around and known, but before Levi’s You Tube clip, could you have made money from them? Probably not.
Should others profit from someone else’s fame or idea?  Again, probably not.

Protecting your trade mark or any other intellectual property isn’t something that should be easily dismissed. You never know who may try to profit from you.
A registered trade mark can be obtained in a minimum of six months, but once registered you may be able to take action against use after the filing date of your application.

Is it too late for Levi now?  From the comments and support on Facebook after the Fair Go story it’s clear to see who to public think should own the rights to ‘Nek Minnit’. If you can show reputation to a trade mark then under the Trade Marks Act 2002 you should be able to obtain registered protection.
In Levi’s case it is good to see that Mr Vintage has acknowledged that the sales of their t-shirts were related to Levi’s use of the ’Nek Minnit’ phrase and are compensating him accordingly.

To date this isn’t the case with the clothing store Supré.  While they are using ‘Nek Minute’ (different spelling) there is case law to say that different spellings aren’t enough to avoid confusion.  Surely Supré realise that before the release of the You Tube clip they would not have made money from the ‘Nek Minute’ t-shirts.

With regards to the filing of the trade mark application by Makan Distiller, Levi would have had the opportunity to file an opposition against the registration, should the mark be accepted by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ).  Fortunately, it was announced on Fair Go last night that Makan Distilers were prepared to withdraw their application with IPONZ if Levi wished to apply for the ‘Nek Minnit’ trade mark himself.

In any situation it’s always better to have some protection than not.  If in doubt, having a chat to us will help you head in the right direction.

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