21 Sep 2018

Petition launched against trademarking of 'bula'

4:00 pm on 21 September 2018

A Fijian academic has started an online petition against the trademarking of the word "bula" by a US businessman.

Bula Kafe in Florida

Bula Kafe in Florida Photo: Facebook / Bula Kafe

Florida-based Ross Kashtan has trademarked the word which is in the title of his businesses including a kava bar.

He said he has great respect for Fijian tradition and only trademarked "bula" in the US to protect his business.

However, there's been outrage among Fijians over the move.

A petition was started by Dr Tarisi Vunidilo, an academic at the University of Hawaii, who calls the trademarking shocking, saying it lacks Fijian consent.

She said the petition gained over 2000 signatures within a day, and should be presented to Mr Kashtan.

"On the petition we've actually outlined some of the things that we're concerned about, that we feel that Bula Nation is very inappropriate and quite disrespectful from a Fijian point of view, and I hope that he'll take some action."

She said the use of "bula" for purely commercial purposes was a big issue for Fijians.

"As a Fijian person, one thing that is important to us is before you take something that is not rightfully yours, the most important thing is to request for it. And for us, the best way is through consultation."

Hopefully other business people will learn from this and consult other agencies first if they wish to take a similar step as Ross Kashtan in utilising a word intrinsically linked to someone else's culture, she said.

Questions over the authenticity of Mr Kashtan's motives are only compounded by the fact that the kava he sources for his business is from Vanuatu, not Fiji.

"So why is he using Bula for his Bula Nation, and in that way there's a lot of misrepresentation," she said, adding that Mr Kashtan appears to have no relationship with Fiji whatsoever.