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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Hawaiian craftmakers consider trademark

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Native Hawaiians who produce crafts and run other cottage industries met over the weekend to begin a drive to establish a trademark identifying the maker of goods as being Native Hawaiian.

The group comprises the participants in the Native Hawaiian Producer Conference that came together at the University of Hawai'i's Center for Hawaiian Studies. The conference, presented by Hale Ku'ai Cooperative, also provided advice on pricing, marketing and other problems faced by small startups.

But it was creating a mark to set off Native Hawaiian-made goods from knockoffs and products manufactured elsewhere that generated the most excitement among participants, who point to the successes of similar marks used by Native Americans.

"As native people we've just been ripped off so long, how do we fix it?" said Maile Andrade, the UH assistant art professor who presented the trademark idea. "There's a lot of people today, and a lot of tourists, who will buy and spend the extra money if they know it's the authentic thing."

Andrade said the Maoris are among the native groups that have developed a successful trademark, but added that Hawaiians would have to develop their own model, settling issues such as the design and the kinds of products to be covered by the mark.

She offered some of her own suggestions, including establishing various levels of trademarks, distinguishing all-Hawaiian enterprises from collaborative efforts — such as publishing — that would involve Native Hawaiians in key roles.

In most successful models, Andrade said, trademarking is financed and coordinated by a government entity to keep its management neutral.