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incorporated societies

Business briefs

Lego wins trade mark dispute with Zuru

The recent High Court decision in Zuru v Lego[1] is a reminder to all businesses that any use of another trader’s registered trade mark carries significant legal risk. The issue arose when Zuru used the words ’Lego brick compatible’ on the packaging for its Max Build More building brick toys. Lego argued this infringed its registered trade marks.

Zuru attempted to rely on defences that it used Lego’s mark in ‘comparative advertising’ and to ‘indicate the intended purpose’ of its product. The Trade Marks Act 2002 permits the use of another trader’s registered trade mark for these purposes, provided such use is ‘in accordance with honest practices in commercial matters.’ The court rejected the ‘comparative advertising’ defence, finding the statement did not actually compare Zuru’s and Lego’s products in any way.

The court also found that Zuru’s use of ‘Lego’ did alert customers to a characteristic of Zuru’s bricks in that they were compatible with Lego’s bricks, but it was not done in accordance with honest practices. Relevant factors leading to this conclusion included:

  • Zuru intended to gain market share from Lego by selling similar products at a cheaper price
  • There were concerns that Zuru’s actions were a ploy to strengthen Zuru’s legal action against Lego in the USA, and
  • Zuru did not obtain prior consent from Lego or advise Lego of its intention to use Lego’s trade mark.

The court determined that Zuru’s use of Lego in the compatibility statement was a deliberate attempt to leverage off Lego’s established reputation and infringed Lego’s registered trade mark rights.  If you are considering using another trader’s registered trade mark for any reason, we recommend you talk with us early on. Otherwise, you could be on dangerous, and expensive, ground.

 

Start preparing for the Incorporated Societies Act 2022

At long last the Incorporated Societies Act 2022 will come into full force on Thursday, 5 October 2023, replacing its predecessor after 115 years.  Societies can re-register under the 2022 Act from this date, and must do so by 5 April 2026 or they will cease to exist.  When applying to re-register, all societies must file a new or updated constitution that complies with the new legislation.

Other key changes under the 2022 Act include:

  • All societies must have a governing body
  • Officer duties have been set out, and are comparable to, director duties under the Companies Act 1993
  • A person must give consent to become a member of a society
  • Annual general meetings must be held, and financial statements and annual returns must be filed, within six months of the society’s balance date, and
  • Every society must have a dispute resolution process set out in its constitution.

The Incorporated Societies Regulations were released this month. Every society should be drafting or reviewing its constitution in preparation for re-registration. Under s30(A) of the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, existing  trust boards incorporated under that Act, need not re-register under the 2022 Act, but can elect to do so if they wish.  If you need a hand in doing this for your society, please don’t hesitate to be in touch – we are here to help.

 

ESG and directors: The Companies (Directors’ Duties) Amendment Act 2023 becomes law

The Companies (Directors’ Duties) Amendment Act 2023 was passed on 3 August 2023 and is now in force. The legislation clarifies that company directors may consider matters other than profit maximisation when assessing what is in the best interests of the company such as, for example, environmental, social and governance matters.

 

The Act has attracted criticism from, amongst others, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; the New Zealand Law Society; and the Institute of Directors, with many arguing the new legislation will have a marginal impact, if any.  In any event, it acts as a signpost to directors clarifying that profit maximisation is not the only consideration when discharging their duties to act in the best interests of the company.

 

[1] Zuru New Zealand Ltd v Lego Juris A/S [2023] NZHC 1808.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Commercial eSpeaking is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Commercial eSpeaking may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650


Important changes and timeframes

The new Incorporated Societies Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 5 April 2022 replacing the very old Incorporated Societies Act 1908.

 

With 23,000+ incorporated societies in New Zealand, many of us will have some involvement with these organisations and we should be aware of the important changes and timeframes involved in complying with this new legislation.

 

The 2022 Act provides for a transitional period ending on 1 December 2025. By then every existing incorporated society must have decided whether to retain its incorporated status by seeking reregistration. If it opts to reregister, it must check that its constitution (the rules of the society) comply with the requirement of the new Act; failing to register may result in the incorporated society ceasing to be registered and unable to operate.

 

New requirements

The new legislation requires incorporated societies to:

  • Introduce a requirement to have a committee with three or more officers.
  • Specify certain factors that will disqualify a person from being an officer, such as being an undischarged bankrupt or being convicted of a crime involving dishonesty within the last seven years.
  • Introduce duties for officers that will result in them having duties akin to those of company directors. All officers must:
    • Act in good faith and in the best interests of the incorporated society
    • Exercise their powers for proper purposes
    • Exercise the care and diligence that a reasonable person with the same responsibilities would in the same circumstances
    • Not agree, cause, or allow the activities of the incorporated society to be carried on in a manner that is likely to create a substantial risk of serious loss to creditors
    • Not agree to the incorporated society incurring an obligation unless the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the incorporated society will be able to perform the obligation when required to do so, and
    • Not act, or agree to the incorporated society acting, in a manner that contravenes the 2022 Act or its own constitution.
  • Allow a mechanism for members to obtain information from officers to allow for improved accountability of those officers.
  • Provide for certain criminal offences, such as officers dishonestly using their position, fraudulently using incorporated society property and falsifying records, documents or the Incorporated Societies Register.
  • Prescribe that the annual financial statements must be prepared and registered, and prescribe the required reporting standards that are dependent on the size of the incorporated society.
  • Prescribe that large incorporated societies, as set out in the Regulations (still to be published), are required to have their financial statements audited.
  • Have an ongoing minimum number of at least 10 members (the 1908 Act only requires a minimum number on incorporation). Members must consent to become a member and incorporated societies must ensure they have processes to ask for, and record, that consent.
  • Include a dispute resolution procedure in their constitution.

 

These changes are significant. Existing societies should start reviewing their position in light of the new legislation as soon as possible.

 

If you would like some guidance with this process, please be in touch with us. We are here to help.

 

DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Fineprint is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650


Business briefs

Fair Pay Agreements Bill on the table

The long-awaited Fair Pay Agreements Bill was recently introduced in Parliament proposing a framework for collective bargaining of fair pay agreements (FPA).

What is an FPA? An FPA is an agreement that establishes mandatory minimum employment terms (such as wages or hours of work) across an entire industry or occupation that exceed the minimum entitlements outlined in employment law. Currently, an employer and employee are free to negotiate the terms of employment without being subject to fair pay obligations, provided the minimum entitlements in employment law are met.

What is the FPA process? A union initiates the bargaining process by applying to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). If MBIE approves the application, the union begins bargaining with an employer association (that represents employers in the relevant industry).

What does this mean for employers? If the negotiation is successful, all the employers in an industry covered by an FPA would have to provide their employees with at least the minimum entitlements required by the FPA, regardless of whether the employer engaged in the bargaining process.

The Bill also proposes granting employees and unions other rights such as the right for a union to enter a workplace without an employer’s consent to meet with employees to discuss FPAs. This may be confronting to some employers, particularly smaller businesses that may be new to collective bargaining.

Next steps: Public submissions on the Bill closed on 19 May 2022, so we now await the Select Committee’s report. The Bill is expected to become law by the end of 2022.

Proposed legislation to address modern slavery and worker exploitation

The government has released a consultation paper proposing new legislation to reduce modern slavery and worker exploitation in New Zealand and internationally. As currently proposed, the legislation may have a material impact on the way businesses operate in this country.

The paper defines ‘modern slavery’ as severe exploitation that a person cannot leave due to threats, violence or deception, including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and human trafficking. ‘Worker exploitation’ is behaviour that causes material harm to the economic, social, physical or emotional well-being of a person, which essentially includes non-minor breaches of New Zealand employment standards (such as providing no less than minimum wage or annual holiday entitlements).

The legislation as proposed would require:

  • Organisations to take action if they become aware of modern slavery or worker exploitation in their operations or supply chains
  • Medium and large organisations to report on steps they are taking to address modern slavery or worker exploitation in their operations or supply chains, and
  • Large organisations to undertake due diligence to prevent, mitigate and remedy modern slavery and worker exploitation in their operations and supply chains.

Although this proposed legislation is not yet law, businesses should start considering now how these changes will affect the way they operate, and the consequences associated with any breach such as monetary penalties and reputational risk.

Incorporated societies – what’s next?

After many years of consultation and deliberation, the new Incorporated Societies Act 2022 was finally passed on 5 April 2022. The Act’s changes will affect all of New Zealand’s 23,000+ societies.

The legislation puts in place a modern framework of legal, governance and accountability obligations for incorporated societies and the people who run them.

All existing societies have at least until 1 December 2025 to ensure their constitution complies with the new requirements and to apply to re-register under the new Act. Societies that do not re-register by that date will be removed from the register.

Although the Act is now in place, there are still regulations to be developed before existing societies can start the re-registration process. These regulations are expected sometime in the next 12 months.

We can help if you are unsure of your obligations under the Act or would like some help with the transition.

 

Next stage of vaping legislation coming into effect

Changes made to New Zealand’s vaping laws are being phased in, with the next changes taking effect over the coming months. The latest changes require all packaging for smokeless tobacco products and vaping products containing nicotine to include specific labels warning of the health dangers and addictive nature of the products. Critical dates for this labelling are:

  • 11 May 2022: manufacturers and importers (should be achieved by now)
  • 25 June 2022: distributors, and
  • 11 August 2022: general and specialist vape retailers.

The staged approach is to allow for stock rotation of products with non-compliant packaging.

You can find more information on vaping regulation here or don’t hesitate to talk with us if you need some help.

 

DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Commercial eSpeaking is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Commercial eSpeaking may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2021.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650