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Monday, June 24, 2024
Hawaiian 'Intellectual Property' Group Convenes
By News Release @ 11:59 PM :: 314 Views :: First Amendment, Greenmail, OHA


News Release from House Democratic Caucus, June 24, 2024

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – On Monday, the Native Hawaiian Intellectual Property Working Group (NHIPWG) comprised of experts in native Hawaiian law, indigenous intellectual property, and cultural practitioners held its first meeting at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol.

The working group was established following the adoption of HCR108 by the House of Representatives in 2023. This resolution urged the creation of a nine-member working group to study policies and legislation concerning native Hawaiian intellectual property. Representative Darius K. Kila, who introduced HCR108, explained that the formation of the group represents efforts to protect the intellectual property rights of Kānaka Maoli, as well as their cultural expressions, language, and art form.

"Today demonstrates native Hawaiians leading the charge in protecting and preserving their cultural legacy. The establishment of the working group stems from a profound concern over the blatant exploitation and dilution of native Hawaiian culture, language, and artifacts for profit across the globe," said Representative Darius K. Kila (D-44 Honokai Hale, Nānākuli, Mā‘ili). "The group's primary objectives are to draft and propose substantive legislation and policies that can be enacted in the upcoming legislative session."

During the first meeting, NHIPWG members voted on leadership roles and elected Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine to serve as Chair, and Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation Executive Director Makalika Naholowaa to serve as Vice-Chair. Additionally, the group approved Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, Representative Darius K. Kila, and Representative David A. Tarnas as non-voting members. These legislators will participate in policy discussions and provide additional support to the working group.

Discussions taken place at today's meeting included examples of disputes over indigenous intellectual property that have taken place within the past decade. For example, Aloha Poke Co., a Chicago-based food chain, sent cease-and-desist letters to Hawaiian poke shops to stop using "Aloha" and "Poke." Similarly, a baking mix company ʻOkina recently faced backlash for trademarking the name of a Hawaiian diacritical mark.

"You can't trademark aloha. It's not for sale," said NHIPWG Chair Vicky Holt Takamine. "We now have a working group that will develop policies and procedures to educate the general public about native Hawaiian intellectual property and protect our cultural rights as native Hawaiians in our own ancestral home."

"This is the first time native Hawaiians are being invited to give our manaʻo and participate in the conversation about governance, coming up with ways to improve our law so we can better protect the intangible assets like native Hawaiian intellectual property," said NHIPWG Vice Chair Makalika Naholowaa.

The concept of preserving intellectual property is widespread among indigenous groups, which have developed strategies and frameworks to protect their collective rights. Examples include the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, funded by the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Toi Iho registered trademark for Maori art and artists, supported by a charitable trust; and the Alaska State Council on the Arts Silver Hand Program for Alaska Native artists, funded by the state.

"This initiative holds monumental significance, offering groundbreaking opportunities for indigenous communities in Hawai’i, and across the United States. It paves the way for these communities to assert true control and direction over their culture, language, arts, and artifacts. The potential impact of this work is boundless, promising a future where indigenous heritage is respected, preserved, and celebrated," said Rep. Kila.

The Native Hawaiian Intellectual Property Working Group currently has eight members, with one vacancy awaiting appointment by Senator Ron Kouchi. The group will meet twice a month to deliberate on policies and ideas for the 2025 legislative session. They are scheduled to submit a final report no later than forty days before the commencement of the 2025 legislative session.



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