Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

A most inconvenient decision for store chain 7-Eleven

Decision-makers in New Zealand have refused to trademark the company's stripes - saying they're not distinctive enough. Photo / iStock
Decision-makers in New Zealand have refused to trademark the company's stripes - saying they're not distinctive enough. Photo / iStock

It's one of America's biggest brands but 7-Eleven can't earn its stripes in New Zealand.

For four years the world's largest chain of convenience stores has been lobbying the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (Iponz), trying to get its orange, green and red striped branding approved as a trademark in this country. But despite the chain's 56,600 stores across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, decision-makers in New Zealand have refused to trademark the company's stripes - saying they're not distinctive enough.

The application was filed on August 20, 2012, but in December last year, Iponz issued 7-Eleven with a notice of intention to reject the trademark.

Dissatisfied, the Texas corporation moved to challenge Iponz and sent in Wellington patent attorney Elena Szentivanyi.

Legal documents from a February 18 hearing reveal that Szentivanyi "provided thoughtful and thorough submissions on 7-Eleven's behalf", primarily arguing that the company's branding is distinctive and that no similar marks are registered in New Zealand.

But Iponz will not budge, and its summary of findings point to the Trade Marks Act 2002. It found that "the device mark in issue does not have the distinctive character required".

Szentivanyi said she was not permitted to comment, including whether 7-Eleven would appeal the decision or walk away from the New Zealand market entirely.

The company holds a number of trademarks in this country, including different versions of its main logo, one of which features the three stripes.

- Herald on Sunday

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