Should you trademark a greeting?

Bula Kafe in Florida Photo: Facebook / Bula Kafe

According to this article at Radio New Zealand, Pacific leaders meeting in New Zealand are outraged by the commonly-used Fijian greeting, “bula” being trademarked by a US businessman who runs and owns three businesses spread across Florida – Bula Kafe, Bula on the Beach and Bula Coco Beach. Many people have left negative reviews of the businesses on Facebook. The “bula” logo has appeared on many of products and advertising, from signage and bottle branding, to “bula babe shorts”. It is not the first time US businesses have been accused of cultural appropriation. For example, Illinois restaurant chain “Aloha Poke Company” has recently copped criticism for sending cease and desist letters to other restaurants using the word “aloha”. The New Zealand Minister for Pacific Peoples said: “This is a disturbing revelation and will be distressful not only to Fijians in New Zealand but to all Fijians throughout the world. It is unbelievable that a company from another country can trademark what belongs to another group of people.”