Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

I’m being sued by HRINZ

Last week I got an email that I’m being sued by the HR Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ).

I’ve never been sued before (well okay it’s a cease and desist letter, but it feels like being sued and is quite unpleasant).

I’m being sued individually as well as a Director of the new Chartered HR Institute (CHRI). This is what the letter from the law firm says:

1. We have instructions to act for the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand Incorporated.
2. It has come to the notice of our client that you have announced your intention to establish and operate an entity known as the Chartered Human Resources Institute. It is understood that you will operate in direct competition with our client. You have this week taken the further step of launching a website,, establishing an on-line presence for the entity.
3. The purpose of this letter is to advise you that our client still considers that:
a) The use of the word “chartered” in the name you have adopted constitutes a breach of section 14(1), (3)(c) and (d) of the Flags, Emblems, and Names Protection Act 1981; and
b) The use of the words “human resources institute” in the name you have adopted is likely to cause brand confusion and is therefore in breach of section 9 of the Fair Trading Act 1986.
4. My client reminds you that it has considerable goodwill associated with its brand which may be damaged by your activities. If you do not cease your misleading use of the “human resources institute” brand, my client will be compelled to institute proceedings for breach of the Fair Trading Act and the tort of passing off.
5. You are therefore requested to cease trading and operating under the name of “Chartered Human Resources Institute” with effect from the receipt of this letter and to confirm to our client’s barrister, XX that you have done so. If XX does not receive a response which is satisfactory to our client by 5 pm on 29 September 2014, he has instructions to commence proceedings in the High Court.

For the record

If HRINZ or Franks Ogilvie Commercial Law (who have emailed me the letter) had spent a few minutes checking they would have found that:

1. I’m not a Director of CHRI

2. I have never personally announced my intention to form CHRI (because actually I’m not forming it!!)

3. I am not trading under that name. In fact it doesn’t exist yet as it’s still being formed.

And that will be the response I will send to them.

What has been really interesting in this is the many HR people who have emailed me saying they are shocked and appalled by HRINZ’s behaviour and attitude to first not letting the HR Game Changer be advertised in the HR magazine and then to the legal action at even the suggestion of CHRI. Why do they see anything new as such a threat?

As many of you know, I volunteered a huge amount of my time for many years to HRINZ but they were adamant that chartering was not needed and they would never consider this. As a senior HR practitioner I also hadn’t been getting any personal value from being a HRINZ member and knew many other senior HR people who felt the same way but again HRINZ shut down the Auckland branches ideas to try out new ideas to add value.

However if you weren’t happy with it, there was no other choice.

Now there will be.

My involvement with CHRI is the same as many of you. I have registered my interest in knowing more as I would like to join an Institute that will establish chartering for HR and deliver value for senior HR people.

Apparently though, in wanting something new, I’m going to be taken to the High Court.

Just when I thought I couldn’t be more disappointed by our professional industry body, HRINZ manage to disappoint me more. What a completely different experience from my visit to CIPD in London on Monday last week where I met with CEO Peter Cheese and had a really productive and positive discussion about how our industry might be able to overcome some of the challenges we face around the world. Also had a quick tour to see how CIPD are supporting their members and talked to Perry Timms about how CIPD are trying all sorts of new things to add value. For CIPD it’s an exciting time to be in HR and I found it quite inspiring. That’s what I’m hoping CHRI will also be looking to build.

As for HRINZ, I guess I’ll see them in court.


UPDATE: December 2014: Unfortunately we are going to see HRINZ in court. We didn’t agree with HRINZ’s arguments above but this is about trying to improve the HR profession – so we agreed to change the name. HRINZ were advised of this on 9 October. Yet they are still pursuing this to the High Court, now costing myself, Lisa and Fraser tens of thousands of dollars in barrister fees, not to mention the amount of members money they are spending. If they had contacted any of us first to discuss their concerns, we could have avoided proceedings, avoided an enormous waste of money and avoided an extremely stressful and upsetting experience – an experience which HRINZ seems to want to continue indefinitely. What an amazing thank you for the many years of time and effort I provided to them free of charge.

11 comments on “I’m being sued by HRINZ

  1. Vaughan Rivett
    September 30, 2014

    Good luck to HRINZ the suggested name of CHRI isn’t even close! I would treat it as nothing more than a threat.

    However, thank you for sharing this post as you have highlighted the fact that HRINZ isn’t the type of organisation that I would like to be a member of. I had the impression that they were a great brand. Not so now!

    I’ll happily retweet this to 18,500 of my followers. I may also write my own blog post.

    I might also add Franks Ogilvie Commercial Law as a company that I’ll not do business with in the future.

    • angelaatkins
      October 2, 2014

      Hi Vaughan, thank you for the RT!
      I did find it slightly ironic in that trying protect the HRINZ ‘brand’ they have done a huge amount of damage to the brand.

  2. Vaughan Granier
    September 30, 2014

    Hmmm. I engaged with HRINZ briefly around this, and was left with the impression that they were taking a more positive approach.

    I will speak bluntly now, as I feel it is deserved. One blunt weapon deserves another…

    I am appalled at the “iron fist” approach, and even more appalled that has been adopted by an organisation charged with guarding and advancing best practice in the HR space. Attorneys (and I was once one, but I am better now) are known for the destructive “win or lose” approach that is exemplified by this letter. I would have thought that HR leaders would have had the discernment and emotional intelligence to avoid this destructive approach.

    This “iron fist” approach would be decried as an anachronism and a vestige of a different era of HR, and to have it brandished about like this is very sad.

    I too will reconsider my membership of HRINZ when the time comes.

  3. Ryan Ghisi
    October 1, 2014

    Good for you Angela. Keep fighting the good fight…

  4. Tarryn
    October 1, 2014

    Angela, as a fellow committee member and branch president I am appalled by HRINZ’s actions over this matter. You are correct, HRINZ members have been asking for more senior development and recognition for years and HRINZ has refused to be involved. Seems they are afraid of a little competition!

  5. Vaughan Rivett
    October 12, 2014

    What has the outcome of all this been?

    • angelaatkins
      November 13, 2014

      Hi Vaughan,
      It has been an interesting (and stressful) experience, especially as I’m not one of the people involved in setting up the new entity.
      Once HRINZ had made it’s concerns known through the laywer’s letter, the new organisation chose to change its name to avoid an argument. Those of trying to improve HR have got better things to do – this should be about building the HR profession in New Zealand, not about legal action. HRINZ was notified of the change on 9 October. They have decided however to continue with proceedings and are taking myself, Lisa Hunter and Fraser Atkins to the High Court.
      I firmly believe that the proceedings could have been avoided if HRINZ had contacted any of us to discuss this first, before getting lawyers involved and can’t understand why they are continuing now.
      It seems an enormous waste of money, not just for us, but for HRINZ to spend membership fees on.

  6. Karen Schulz
    October 23, 2014

    As an HR practitioner who wont join HRINZ due to what I see and have experienced, this is all good news to me. I look forward to CHRI being fully functioning.

  7. Mike Pritchard
    December 8, 2014

    What the hell is HRINZ? I’ve never heard of them, and now I never want to as they sound like pathologically bad news.

  8. Pingback: Update on being sued by HRINZ | hrmanagementbites

  9. Pingback: Lessons from being sued | hrmanagementbites

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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