Who owns the rights to 'Nek Minnit'?

Auckland skater Levi Hawken spawned the catchphrase 'nek minnit.' His video has clocked up 1.7 million views on YouTube. Picture / supplied, still from video.
Auckland skater Levi Hawken spawned the catchphrase 'nek minnit.' His video has clocked up 1.7 million views on YouTube. Picture / supplied, still from video.

The man behind 'Nek Minnit' has lost the right to trademark the phrase - but in a new twist may soon have it back.

Professional skateboarder and comedian Levi Hawken posted a video on YouTube last August, in which he says: "Left my scooter outside the dairy - Nek Minnit ...", before the clip cuts to a shot of his destroyed board.

The phrase went viral, entering everyday Kiwi language and being parodied in advertising campaigns, songs and even on political billboards.

However, Mr Hawken failed to trademark the phrase.

Auckland business Makan Distillers saw an opportunity to make money from its popularity, and when its marketing department researched the phrase, they were surprised to find it had not been registered.

The company applied and were granted the rights with the intention of using it in a campaign for a new soft drink.

Makan director Vas Patel said he first learned Mr Hawken was upset about losing the rights last week.

He understood Hawken hadn't been aware of the process of registering a trademark.

Mr Patel has not spoken to Mr Hawken, but today offered to hand over the rights if he was willing to reimburse the "couple of hundred bucks" it had cost to register.

"I felt bad for the guy because he came up with the idea. I'll help him out 100 per cent . I'll give him all my love and help," he said.

Asked if he was concerned he might be losing the rights to a potentially million-dollar-earning phrase, Mr Patel said he wasn't concerned about money: "It's about making friends too. Brands come and go so we'll know if 'Nek Minnit' is going to work."

Intellectual property consultant Murray Stott said anyone could apply to register for a trademark if it wasn't already owned, but they had to adhere to some regulations.

"It's first in, best dressed. They tick a box claiming that they're using what they're applying for or they intend to use it. If they don't use it within three years it can be revoked,' he said.

About 30 per cent of existing New Zealand companies had no formal intellectual property protection, he said.

Levi Hawken could not be reached for comment today.

- NZ Herald

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