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Paeroa man doesn't want Coca-Cola to trademark 'Kiwi' phrase

The battle between a Paeroa businessman and international drinks giant Coca-Cola is heading to the High Court.

Tony Coombe is trying to stop the New Zealand arm of Coca-Cola Amatil trademarking the phrase "World Famous in New Zealand" but suffered a setback last month when an Intellectual Property Office commissioner found in favour of Coca-Cola, saying registration of the phrase was not illegal and the trademark could proceed.

Coombe previously co-owned and ran the L&P Cafe in Paeroa, and owns a non-trading company named World Famous in New Zealand. He believes the phrase is a "Kiwi-ism" and belongs to all New Zealanders.

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His lawyer says there were flaws in the legal decision and appeal papers were lodged in the High Court at Wellington this week.

Coombe said he had spent $30,000 on his case so far. The High Court appeal could cost a further $15,000 but he was confident of success although support for his battle was split with some questioning whether it was worth the effort.

"We have gone down the track so far and personally I think it is important," he said.

Coombe's lawyer, David Marriott, said the "world famous" phrase had been adopted by New Zealanders to describe a wide range of local success stories "almost taking the mickey out of ourselves", as well as a television programme, a book, a compilation music album and celebrities.

Coca-Cola Amatil, which last year delivered a record net profit of A$449 million ($563 million), wants to trademark the "world famous" slogan which promotes its L&P, or Lemon and Paeroa, soft drink.

It says that its advertising agency invented the slogan in 1993.

It applied to trademark the phrase in 2004, which was accepted in 2007 before Coombe took action against the decision.

A Coca-Cola Amatil spokesperson said the company was pleased with the commissioner's decision.

It decided to seek trademark rights because of the company's investment in creating and promoting the phrase.

Estimated product sales of goods under the L&P mark have averaged over $9 million a year between 2000 and 2005.

- NZPA