Koha trademark controversy

The Exemplar Of Stupid: Koha Vs Liblime Trademark, November 22, 2011 by Michael J. Parry

 It would be inaccurate for me to say I don’t get angry; it’s just takes a lot for me to really let rip. The following situation makes my blood boil so much that in writing this I am having to be very careful steps not to break a lot of my self imposed rules around rants. Please feel free to add appropriate swear words and angry gesticulations while reading.

Joann from Horowhenua has put out the following call:

Plea for help from Horowhenua Library Trust

Horowhenua Library Trust is the birth place of Koha and the longest serving member of the Koha community. Back in 1999 when we were working on Koha, the idea that 12 years later we would be having to write an email like this never crossed our minds. It is with tremendous sadness that we must write this plea for help to you, the other members of the Koha community.

The situation we find ourselves in, is that after over a year of battling against it, PTFS/Liblime have managed to have their application for a Trademark on Koha in New Zealand accepted. We now have 3 months to object, but to do so involves lawyers and money. We are a small semi rural Library in New Zealand and have no cash spare in our operational budget to afford this, but we do feel it is something we must fight.

For the library that invented Koha to now have to have a legal battle to prevent a US company trademarking the word in NZ seems bizarre, but it is at this point that we find ourselves.

So, we ask you, the users and developers of Koha, from the birth place of Koha, please if you can help in anyway, let us know.

For those of you who don’t know [which can’t be many] the background, in the late nineties the Horowhenua Library Trust decided not to go down the traditional path of changing their LMS and developed open-source product called Koha. This was given to the world and is now used widely internationally. A few years ago a company in the US called PTFS/Liblime attempted to hijack Koha and turn it into their proprietary LMS. They have also sort to claim ownership of the name Koha.

Sadly it looks like they are going to be successful. Now we have the ridiculous situation that they will deny the very people who originally developed Koha the right to use that name.

What is even more stupid is that the Maori Advisory Board to the Trademarks people has approved this. Yep, they are happy to give a Te Reo term to a US company as a trademark.

(15) Comments

  1. Mere Ropata-Box

    Many M?ori think its forward thinking to share our culture with non-M?ori in an effort to develop fiscal relationships with many rewards and personal promises of endearment to come. This is obviously one of many examples of this on-going tirade of culture trade-offs. The needs of one or two people in powerful decision making positions far outweighs the needs of the many people, like you and I who have to sit back and watch our beautiful and bountiful culture being bastardised all over the world. This is an historical practice of M?ori mai ran?...if your looking for someone to blame, blame us...M?ori are so brilliant at selling ourselves down the road......

  2. Karena de Pont

    This whole situation seems unbelieveably stupid to say the least. You would think that the Maori Advisory Board would do some research before reaching their decision. It's just cruel and unjust and totally unnecessary.

  3. Mitch

    Haere tonu te pakanga. Don't give up, continue to fight this on principle. If you allow this to happen then it may never end. This is a well known M?ori word that should not be trademarked by anyone. 'Nek minute' they will trademark the word 'M?ori' and we will have to pay to use it. ?nei ra taku "koha" ki a koutou: At this stage the best approach is to discuss the issue directly with the Minister of M?ori Affairs, Pita Sharples, or the Minister in Charge of the Ministry of Economic Development, Gerry Brownlee, as trademarks fall under his portfolio. It may also pay to discuss this with Chris Findlayson with his role as the Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations or even Murray McCully who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Also consider writing a letter to the M?ori Trademark Advisory Committee informing them of your disappointment and the approach that you will be taking. The members of the M?ori Trademark Advisory Committee can be found on the M.E.D website. (http://www.iponz.govt.nz/cms/trade-marks/the-trade-mark-process/examination-step/maori-trade-marks-advisory-committee).

  4. Thomas

    You can understand why the Crown practically refused the WAI 262 claim can't you. Some cases like this is partly how that claim came to be. This is not new...hello Moana from Moana and the Tribe... Kia ora being a cordial or something in Australia...the list goes on and on. And yes the Maori Advisory Board...probably are all non Maori haha.

  5. lazza

    this is well and truly the most hurtful and insane thing i've heard in a long time. however, be careful when you paint all americans with one brush karen. lots of americans have spent tireless hours working on koha for free, fighting this battle and raising awareness of things maori and tikanga to the rest of the world. including this one. who is married to the one who developed koha. vast generalization of cultures is hurtful. as i suspect you will know.

  6. Jim Pitara

    Karoha Koha - I could be wrong but it seems obvious that if the american company are successful in claiming the name Koha, that your organsiation di not think to register it previously...is that correct? If so, I support and understand your plight however when you get involved in a business venture using trademarks and names that are of indigenous origin, you must uhnderstand that it is considered business not tikanga. Business does not recognise Tikanga or any other indigenous protocols when operating in this capitalist market. I say save your money, let it go and everyone else in this situation that has not registered their Maori trademarks or business names yet, better do so immediately. Jim

  7. Hinerangi Himiona

    This sux! Would love to hear the Maori Advisory Panels side of the story, can anyone get them to respond? It's one thing when foreigners to our culture go for broke to capitalise of it but another when our own enable them to do so.

    1. Mei - Sth Kaipara

      Kia ora tatou Its this type of short sighted thinking...that impacts on all of us. Reminds of Good Buy - Good Bye. Yes, agreed Wai 262 was never going to be supported at Govt level. Yes, Moana M has articulated her taake and voiced her concerns re: Germans now owning her ingoa... The Maori Advisory Panel...who are they? They need to be accountable and transparent. We need to take stock of our 'taonga' ...they need us more than we need them! Think about it! Mauri ora, whenua ora, taonga ora.

  8. Karen Te Papa

    What do you mean that the Maori Advisory Board has approved this? Who are the members of this board, and how much have that company paid them?. It is at times like this that I just want to curse and vent, but if I do that then I make our people look like losers. How are an American company even thinking they have a right to the word Koha. Do they even understand the meaning, or the kaupapa of this word?, wake up America!!! You are not the only country in this world. Just because you and your government refuse to acknowledge the indigenous peoples of the America's, it does not give you the right to steal from other cultures. To Horowhenua Library: You have my full support, and I will endeavour to help in any way I can. Kia Kaha!!!!!

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