Air New Zealand has applied to trademark the Kia Ora logo it uses on its inflight magazine.
The airline made the application to the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office in mid-May.
News of the application was met with criticism on social media, where users thought the airline had applied to trademark the phrase, "kia ora".
But an Air New Zealand spokeswoman confirmed the application was simply to protect the logo of their magazine, Kia Ora, which has been around since 2007.
"This is the logo for the magazine title. It's standard corporate practice to have all our logos trademarked and we have just started the process given Kia Ora has recently been through a refresh.
"The word kia ora has been registered to be used for a range of goods and services – dating back to 1992 – both in New Zealand and overseas."
A search on the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office website showed there were 400 registered trademarks or applications that related to "kia ora".
Alex Sims, associate professor in the University of Auckland's department of commercial law, told Stuff the application was unlikely to succeed as it would need to go through Māori Trade Marks Advisory Committee.
"The question is whether 'Kia Ora' is offensive to Māori. On the one hand, it could be argued that is not, but, on the other hand, it does look as though Air New Zealand is attempting to appropriate a very common and important Māori term, which may tip it into being offensive."
Sims told Stuff even if it was granted it would not give the airline a monopoly over the phrase, as the application was only for an image and for magazine use.
For Māori Language Week, Air New Zealand announced te reo as a language option on its kiosks and inflight entertainment.
The airline has faced criticism in the past for its approach to Māori culture, most recently in March over its tattoo policy that did not allow staff to have tā moko.
In June the airline announced a backdown on the policy, and from September 1 has allowed staff to have tā moko and/or non-offensive tattoos visible when wearing their uniform or normal business dress.