When a coffee company uses the name of our towns and provinces for its coffee products, shouldn’t we also be suing it for taking advantage of our place names? Surely it is not an accident that they are using our place names isn’t it? They are doing it because the names of our towns and provinces (in the pictures above from left: Ifugao Brew, Kalinga Brew, Sagada Brew, Benguet Brew) sound exotic and, in the coffee business, exotic sells. There is also some goodwill attached to our place names (in the same manner that there is some goodwill attached to the MacDonald’s brand) that the company wants to take advantage of.
The fact that the company sources some of its coffee from the Cordilleras does not give it the license to use our place names. Neither should it be using our cultural icons such as our bululs, and our wisings, and our indigenous weave.
Unfortunately, even if we endlessly rant about this, there really is no law that would protect us from the commercial exploitation of Cordillera names and icons. So unlike Mac Donalds who can sue Mang Donald’s, we cannot sue this company.
Ideally, there should be a Cordillera licensing office that should be on top of this matter; some sort of an office where companies can pay license fees to if they want to use Cordillera names, icons, and images.
These are one of the things that our Cordillera congressional representatives should be looking into. After all, their primary role as Chyt pointed out in the comments here, is to craft laws [that would hopefully protect our interests as a people].
Who among our Representatives would be up to the challenge? Mt. Province Congressman Victor Dominguez and Benguet Congressman Samuel Dangwa are too jurassic. Baguio Congressman Mauricio Domogan can and should have done it but maybe he is too busy acting as GMA’s gofer whenever she visits Baguio and the Cordilleras. Incoming Kalinga Congressman Manuel Agyao is new so let’s give him a pass. We still don’t know Abra’s Representative-elect so we can’t put the challenge before him/her yet.
So we will be counting on Ifugao Congressman Solomon Chungalao and hopefully Apayao Congressman Elias Bulut Jr. to hopefully do something about this matter.
UPDATE: Here are some interesting readings relevant to this topic: Hawaiian Trademark Study; article on how the Hawaii Department of Agriculture trademarked the Kona Coffee; and an article on the licensing deal between Starbucks and the Ethiopian government. Thanks for our anonymous commenter/s for the tip 🙂