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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Women’s Group Opposes Trademarking Of Fijian Motifs
Fiji Airways attempting to brand 15 traditional tapa designs

By Reginald Chandar

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Feb. 3, 2013) – The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) has strongly objected the attempt made by Fiji Airways to trademark the traditional kesakesa designs. According to reports, Fiji Airways is moving to trademark 15 motifs.

Executive Director Virisila Buadromo in a statement said FWRM is against any attempts to commercially trademark cultural designs which are part of the Fijian culture and have always been available to people and communities.

She said the move by Fiji Airways directly contravenes national, regional and international norms and standards on protection of societal intellectual property and public good. "It is also in direct violation of various articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially Article 31," Buadromo said.

"This is also a contravention of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW], as women in Fiji are still the primary producers of such masi designs, and therefore various economic, social and cultural rights of women would be directly and indirectly affected by such an illegal and unethical trademark system."

While the movement believes that the use of the traditional designs and the extensive promotion the logo designer received at the launch of the Fiji Airways new look was commendable, this latest action clearly shows how Fiji Airways wants to possess and control culture.

"We strongly urge Fiji Airways to withdraw their application, and urge the Administrator of Trademarks to dismiss their application if it is not withdrawn," said Buadromo. "We also urge relevant authorities to create public awareness on this issue which will dissuade other entities from attempting to corporatize public and cultural designs."

FWRM will be joining the many concerned individuals and organizations in writing a letter to the Administrator of Trademarks. Meanwhile, Air Pacific which will fly as Fiji Airways from next month is expected to comment on the issue tomorrow.

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