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Editorial: ‘Bula’ a Great Heritage Worth Fighting For

Fiji may have to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal proceedings in the United States of America to contest the trademarking of the word “bula” by a
29 Sep 2018 13:06
Editorial: ‘Bula’ a Great Heritage Worth Fighting For
A copy of the certificate trademarking the word "bula".

Fiji may have to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal proceedings in the United States of America to contest the trademarking of the word “bula” by a businessman in Florida.

According to intellectual property experts, in order to have the trademark revoked, we have to successfully prove that it is offensive.

But the process will not come easy or cheap.

We will have to fight tooth and nail to have the trademark revoked.

It’s heartening to know that the Fijian Government has promised that it “will fight this trademark with every power international law affords”.

Bula means many things to Fijians. It is our greeting, it also means life.

Since the emergence of reports that Ross Kashtan had trademarked the word “bula”, the title of his business, Bula Nation Inc, Fijians all over the world shared their outrage online.

An online petition was mooted by University of Hawaii Professor, Tarisi Vidilo.

So far, close to 5000 people have signed to get Mr Kashtan’s to reverse his actions.

Professor Vidilo highlighted the following as part of their online petition:

  • Ross Kashtan has appropriated the word “bula” with which he has no personal connection for purely commercial purposes. He is thereby engaging in cultural appropriation and is causing moral prejudice to the people of Fiji by taking the word and declaring it his own by trademarking it.
  • The team and story on the “Bula Nation” website have no relationship with Fiji (the kava is not even sourced from Fiji according to the website and therefore brings absolutely no benefit to Fijians)
  • The use of Bula by “Bula Nation” misrepresent the real meaning and essence of Bula
  • Kava and other medicinal plants have deep cultural meaning and value to Fijians and it is disrespectful to use the word “Bula” in this commercial setting.  We would urge Ross Kashtan to change the name of his commercial enterprise and desist from using the word Bula and associating himself with it.

Taking it further, the Fijian Government on Thursday issued a statement that preparations were underway to lodge neces¬sary documentation with the United States Patent and Trade¬mark Office (USPTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

A copy of the certificate trademarking the word "bula".

A copy of the certificate trademarking the word “bula”.

USPTO is the federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks.

Attorney-General Aiyaz-Sayed Khaiyum labelled the action by Mr Kashtan as “heritage hijacking”.

A Fijian heritage that belongs to less than a million people in a global population of 7.7 billion.

It certainly is a heritage worth fighting for.

ROSI DOVIVERATA

Feedback:  rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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