Ross Kashtan, a US businessman who runs a Florida kava bar and coffee shop named Bula Kafe applied for the protection of the word BULA which is originally a Fijian greeting. The café sells a range of kava drinks, mildly narcotic which is a traditional drink in the Fiji islands.

Bula means ‘life’ in English and is a common greeting in Fiji. It is generally used to give life to someone when greeted and means health when said twice. It's also used in the word for hospital and is even part of the Biblical term for messiah. In order to promote tourism, the country has even coined the phrase Bula Spirit as a marketing slogan.

It has a lot of cultural significance and there was a huge outcry when the work was registered in the US. Fiji has said that this is a blatant case of “heritage-hijacking”.

The Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum has clarified that they would have never given permission to anyone outside Fiji to claim ownership of the word so dear to them for commercial purposes. The word is so deeply rooted in their national identity that it has become synonymous with Fiji. A single person controlling the use of the word so close to their heart is offensive, tone-deaf and wrong. Even kava has deep cultural meaning and value to Fijians and the commercial use of the word is disrespectful.

Many people associate the word Bula with Fiji. It is also associated with the word kava, a traditional drink. The main purpose of using the word for the bars in Florida was to capture the vibes of the island by selling their traditional drink which has become quite common among the tourists.

There have been accusations of cultural appropriation against the businessman. The Fijians have raised considerable questions as to why there was no permission taken from them before registering the word.

The outrage has significantly spread across the country affecting all age groups including teens. Fiji now officially wants to contest the trademark with the USPTO and take up the issue with WIPO.

23 aug, 2018


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