A food chain that trademarked its name set off a series of discussions about intellectual and cultural property that prompted another state to take action. While intellectual property might seem clear-cut in Texas, there can be complicating factors. For example, trademarking something of cultural significance might not be as effective as some people hope.
In 2018, the restaurant chain Aloha Poke Co. trademarked the name “Aloha Poke.” The company is based in the continental United States and does not have any ties to the state of Hawaii. After trademarking its name, it mailed cease-and-desist letters to restaurant owners of Native Hawaiian origin in both Alaska and Hawaii. These entities were told to stop using the word aloha in their businesses despite their ties to the cultural meaning behind the name.
The battle over the intellectual property of the culturally significant word led to a new resolution from the Hawaiian legislature. The resolution created a task force that will create legal protections for cultural intellectual property, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions. The new resolution also emphasizes that Hawaiian cultural knowledge that has been developed for thousands of years are the collective intellectual property of Native Hawaiians.
Businesses in Texas expect that they will be able to protect their intellectual property, but there are sometimes complicating factors. Trademarking cultural aspects of indigenous people can be problematic and difficult to enforce. Businesses who are worried about facing these types of issues should consider speaking with an experienced attorney who can provide more detailed insight into the matter.