Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama: Appeal to stop Air Pacific trademarking 15 distinct masi motifs

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Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama: Appeal to stop Air Pacific trademarking 15 distinct masi motifs

This petition had 1,854 supporters
Pax Viti started this petition to Attorney General Postal Address: P.O. Box 2213, Government Buildings, Suva, Fiji Islands Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and

People should sign the petition because allowing Air Pacific/Fiji Airways to trademark masi/tapa/ngatu motifs will give Air Pacific the exclusive ownership and use of the motifs and prevent masi makers, carvers, tattooists, artisans, craftspeople, fashion designers and artists from using these motifs without Air Pacific/Fiji Airways permission. These motifs have been that have been used by Fijian and Pacific indigenous communities for many generations. 

It would be wrong to allow one single corporate entity to own these motifs as they are forms of cultural expression created many years ago by indigenous communities and should be available freely for the future generations.

I support Air Pacific/Fiji Airways attempt to showcase our culture, by all means USE the motifs, but DO NOT TRADEMARK it, please! I object to trademarking because it will give AP/FA exclusive ownership and authority over the motifs to AP/FA and will limit cultural expression in Fiji by masi makers, carvers, weavers, artisans, craftspeople, artists and fashion designers, who would need Air Pacific permission or to pay a fee, to use these motifs in future. 

We also ask PM Bainimarama to direct the Attorney General to review Fiji's laws and to ensure protection of these masi motifs and other forms of traditional knowledge and cultural expression, from exploitation by foreign and commercial entities, and to ensure they remain freely available in the public domain for the future generations. 



Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a trademark and why should I be concerned about the trademarking of the 15 masi motifs?

Answer: A trademark is a recognizable sign, design or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from the products or services of another organisation. Trademarks are allowed under the law to allow a business to protect and differentiate its products and services from other products and services.


In Fiji, under the Trade Marks Act, a trademark has to be registered by a government official called the Registrar of Trademarks. Under the Trademarks Decree of July 2012, the Solicitor General is the Registrar of Trademarks or Administrator General (RTM/SG). The Solicitor General is the most senior civil servant in charge or permanent secretary to the Attorney General.


On 25/1/13, Air Pacific applied formally to the RTM/SG to exercise ownership or trademark rights over 15 masi motifs. This is after Air Pacific already registered the new logo for Fiji Airways in July 2012.

If the application by Air Pacific is granted, Air Pacific will have a certain bundle of rights over the use of the additional 15 masi motifs.


Trademarks once registered, are then owned by the person or company that registers it, and those owners can then licence the trademark to other people or organisations for a specific use. The owner of the trademark would set the price for the licence for the use of the mark or motif by others. So in this instance, the future use of the motifs would be controlled and licenced by Air Pacific/Fiji Airways. This would have serious ramifications on the future use of the motifs by masi makers in Fiji who have used these marks for generations, and for other artisans like carvers, tattooists, craftspeople, artists and fashion designers who may wish to use these motifs in the future. So in objecting to the trademark application by Air Pacific, you will be supporting masi makers, artisans and other craftspeople who would wish to use these motifs in the future, without having to ask Air Pacific’s permission, or pay Air Pacific the trademark licence fee.



2. Isn’t it normal for a business to trademark their logo to protect their business?

Answer: Yes it is normal for businesses to do so, and Air Pacific has already registered the new logo for Fiji Airways in July 2012. This objection relates to the new trademark application by Air Pacific, for another 15 masi motifs.


These 15 masi motifs border the new Fiji Airways logo in the piece of masi that Air Pacific commissioned from Makereta Matemosi in 2011.


The TM applications advertised in the Fiji Times on 25/1/13 are NOT for the Fiji Airways logo, but for 15 additional masi motifs.


We applaud and are proud of the use of these motifs by AP/FA on their livery and merchandise, but do not agree with AP/FA trademarking and gaining exclusive use and ownership of these motifs.


The new Fiji Airways website shows pictures of the planned use of the motifs in the livery and on the exterior of the new Fiji Airways planes. The photos look good and instill a sense of pride in our culture. The TM application says the motifs will be used on livery, uniforms, bags and other merchandise. 



These fifteen designs are basic elements of Fijan kesakesa art - almost like the letters of an alphabet, used in various combinations to create art that is laden with meaning. If Air Pacific trademarks them, the company would have the right to block anyone else from using them. The only people who should ever have such rights are those who have traditional custody of these motifs, and these are island communities - past, present, and future!  For example, the alphabet – A, B, C etc. Allowing Air Pacific to TM these motifs is like allowing Coke to trademark the letters “C” “O” “L” “A”.



3. Since they paid for the piece of masi, doesn’t Air Pacific OWN it?

Yes Air Pacific owns that particular piece of masi made by Makereta Matemosi, but Makereta did not create unique masi motifs in the piece, she used masi motifs that have been handed down over the generations in her community. She is not the creator or the only user of those motifs – there are hundreds more masi makers in Fiji who use some or all of these motifs too. So in short:

§  she doesn’t own the TM to the motifs since she didn’t create it from scratch

§  since she doesn’t own the motifs, the motifs are therefore not hers to give to Air Pacific for a price

§  many people commission masi pieces for weddings, significant occasions, but they do not consider that they can then reproduce the masi motifs just because they’ve paid for one piece

§  even the border arrangement that Makereta did is not unique – many other masi pieces from Moce have exactly the same border stenciling arrangement


And Air Pacific is calling these motifs by the names by which they are already known in different parts of Fiji, so these are NOT NEW and UNIQUE motifs, they are the SAME motifs that have been used by generations of masi makers, carvers and artisans in Fiji and the Pacific. That’s why it is wrong to allow only one entity, Air Pacific to own these basic masi motifs, or the building blocks for the art of masikesa, and why your support is crucial to object to this trademark application. The grant would set a precedent for the future, allowing corporate organisations or individuals who commission cultural pieces, to then trademark and keep them from those who make those pieces and from the wider community.


4. Rather than just objecting, do you also have a solution to this issue?

Yes, we object to the trademarking of these motifs and all cultural expression, and are asking the government to look at Fiji’s legal framework, to protect these motifs and all other forms of cultural expression from being TM’d and otherwise being appropriated by an individual, organization, corporation or external body, because they are in the public domain, are used in various provinces in Fiji and in other Pacific islands, and they should remain so.


WE SAY THAT RATHER THAN ALLOWING AIR PACIFIC TO TM THESE MOTIFS, THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO PROTECT THESE MOTIFS AND OTHER FORMS OF TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND CULTURAL EXPRESSION. For example the South Pacific Commission (SPC) in 2002 published the Model Law for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and all forms of Cultural Expression for the Pacific countries. The Model Law is an example that the Pacific countries can change to suit their own conditions, to protect traditional knowledge and cultural expression. Fiji did from 2003 start drafting a new law to protect indigenous intellectual property but the draft is languishing somewhere in the government – we ask that it be dusted off and reviewed and updated, and published to protect our culture as a matter of priority.


We recommend that government prioritise the review of this model law and enact new laws to protect cultural expression. Mechanisms should be established requiring the Registrar of Trademarks and Solicitor General to enquire widely with custodians of traditional knowledge when applications that appear to copy, or mimic cultural expressions are presented for trademark purposes. For example the New Zealand government requires the Registrar of Trademarks to send to the Maori TM Advisory Board all marks that appear to be Maori motifs. Something similar could be setup in Fiji – a matter for the government to prioritise and take action on, to see what safeguards and mechanisms are suitable for Fiji.



5. Isn't it only masi makers and other artisans who have the legal right to complain against the trademark application?


ANSWER: Yes, only masi makers and other artisans have the legal right to object to the trademark application. This formal legal Notice of Opposition to the Trademark Application can only be filed by a lawyer at theRegistrar of Trademarks office in Suvavou House, Suva, with the appropriate fee ($11.50) for each objection to each motif being registered as Air Pacific has applied to do. We are aware that other custodians with legal responsibility for the motifs are also objecting in this manner. However this issue is very important because it could set a precedent for other commercial entities to try to trademark other expressions of indigenous traditional knowledge and culture which are already in use in the public domain, for many years, that it is important that as many of us as possible raise our hands, and be heard by Objection, through the petition, or by letter directly to the PM, AG and government authorities. 


6. So why should I sign the petition and take action?

ANSWER: It may seem like because you are only one person, you would not have an effect on the government’s decision – but together, many of us individuals can work together to make a difference!

Numbers are important when we are trying to persuade the government that the grant of the trademarks to Air Pacific are a bad idea and not in the national interest ultimately.


The risk is that the grant of TM to Air Pacific would set a precedent allowing commercial entities to trademark or gain exclusive use and authority over, widely used cultural motifs, that are in the public domain.


So we are aiming for a few thousand signatures and in April, before the 19/4/13 deadline for objections, copies of the petition will be delivered to the Prime Minister and Attorney General and Solicitor General/Registrar of Trademarks. We also seek volunteers to gather signatures for the petition. These will be all put together and given to the PM/AG/SG. 


If you are willing to print out and gather signatures for the petition or willing to volunteer to help with this, then please email


7. So what can I do as an individual to object to the TM application?

Answer: Speak up and let your voice and views be heard:

§  Sign the online petition here - 


§  Join the facebook group Na Noda Masi and keep up to date with various actions that are taking place to counter this TM application - Stay engaged with the process during the time remaining and see what else you can do besides writing a letter of objection and signing the petition on the NODA MASI page. Please go and LIKE the NODA MASI facebook page where other actions to voice our objection to the TM application is being organised. The NODA MASI page is here - 


§  Write a letter to the Registrar of Trademarks/Solicitor General expressing your concern. Email . Send a copy of your letter to


§  Write to the Air Pacific CEO David Phlieger and ask that the TM application be withdrawn and that instead, Air Pacific encourage the government for a new law to protect cultural expressions. Air Pacific should also acknowledge the women and communities where these motifs come from and showcase them on their inflight information, magazines etc. Email


§  Talk to relatives who are masi makers: If you have an aunt, grandmother or cousin who is a masi maker, please tell us their name. We need to contact all masi makers, carvers, artisans and craftspeople who have used these motifs, because they have the responsibility to object to the motifs they have used before, being registered by Air Pacific. Their objection is to be filed by a lawyer – if they have their own lawyer, that’s fine, if not, email us on and we’ll put them in contact with a prominent lawyer who has offered to file the legal objections. Ask them about the 15 masi motifs and if they know the history and origin of those motifs, and if they use them, where they learnt it from, how long they’ve used it. Record this with notes or on audio/video. Ask them their views about Air Pacific’s attempt to own or trademark these designs and if they would be forced in future to ask or pay Air Pacific a fee to use the motifs. Make a copy of your recording and put it on the internet on youtube or facebook and send a copy of the transcript/contents to  


§  Write to the Attorney General who’s permanent secretary is the Solicitor General and Registrar of Trademakrs. He is also the Minister for Public Enterprises – he appoints the Air Pacific Board. Email or post your letter to P.O. Box 2213, Government Buildings, Suva, Fiji Islands. Or fax it to +679 330 5421


§  Write to the President who has the responsibility to unify our nation and to protect the nation and our culture – see address below. Making your voice heard means this issue will be discussed at the highest levels of government for hopefully a reversal of Air Pacific’s trademark applications since it is 51% owned by you and I, the people of Fiji. 


§  Write to the Prime Minister as Minister for Indigenous iTaukei Affairs. These motifs are cultural expressions and fall within his responsibility as Minister responsible and as PM responsible for the whole of government. The government owns the majority shares (51%) of Air Pacific and this issue requires balancing the interests of the company and the government need for returns from Air Pacific, against the interests of the indigenous and Pacific community that use masi in traditional ceremonies and in forms of art. This TM application is a significant event for the protection of indigenous cultural expression and his views and action are important for the whole of Fiji to see. Recently he overruled a decision by another Minister, and it would be easier to nip this in the bud by preventing trademark status to Air Pacific, than to try to reverse the decision after the fact. Email or or send your letter to PO Box 2353, Govt Bldgs, Suva or fax it to +679 3306 034. Copy the letter to the PS PMs’ office and PS iTaukei affairs (address below)


§  Write to the Minister for Education and Culture Mr. Filipe Bole - Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts. Private Mail Bag, Government Buildings, Suva or fax your letter to +679 3303511.


§  Write to the Minister for Women Dr. Jiko Luveni and ask her to intervene on behalf of the many women who are masi makers and craftspeople. Write to Ministry of Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Allevation. PO Box 14068, Suva, Fiji. Or fax your letter to +679 3312357 or email



8. Why bother because the government owns Air Pacific and has the power to grant the trademark anyway?

ANSWER: We have to try don't we. The enormity of the task before us should not discourage us from having hope that we CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Together we can try. The recent success of the campaign to stop the SCC from removing the Ivi Tree in the Suva Triangle was successful in persuading the government and the SCC that it was a BAD IDEA and recently the PM overruled another Minister’s actions following public representations made to him. So we can only try our hardest and see what results.

Keep it positive..keep it aimed at the common good of all, as here-in lies such opportunity.

A possible best case scenario:

Air Pacific/ Fiji Airways publicly pays tribute to the original kesakesa designers from all the Fiji provinces, as not all 15 designs are endemic to Moce. They withdraw their bid to outright own the kesakesa, limiting their copyright to all things airline. They continue to showcase our cultural art to the world, feeding a growing market of cultural tourists to our shores, which in turn supports local art in all its forms.

Culture & Heritage custodians, intellectuals and enthusiasts continue to research, express, communicate, create awareness and encourage and learn from our ancients, working toward a just and fair legal framework to protect and nourish art in all its forms: Spoken, written, visual & performing. The government reviews and amends the Trademark Act to allow input from cultural custodians (like the Maori Trademarks Advisory Board in NZ) whenever a mark looks like a cultural motif, and the Registrar is obliged to check the cultural mapping registry before he processes TM applications. 

With all the enthusiasm we may even see a local publication on Masi Kesa that will take us back to a time when masi was being produced widely throughout Fiji, highlight the patterns, their origins and meanings– The only publication I know of is : Catherine Spencer & Rondo B B Me., 2004 Fiji Masi, An Ancient Art In A New Millennium, which incidentally was co-sponsored by Air Pacific.

We could go even further and include learning about our traditional art forms in our school curriculum. The list can go on and on.


9. What about the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs – why haven’t they advised the government long before now to protect indigenous culture, traditional knowledge and cultural expression?



1.) The Ministry has been aware of the need to protect cultural expression and traditional knowledge ever since international companies began patenting the genes of indigenous tribes and trademarking cultural motifs in other parts of the world. The initiative to have our legal framework strengthened came from increasing concerns regarding the misuse, misinterpretation and misappropriation of aspects of iTaukei culture without due acknowledgement according to the custodians.

In the Pacific, the South Pacific Commission (SPC) began in the 1990s to look at a draft model law for the Pacific island countries to implement with the support of the South Pacific Council of Arts and UNESCO. The SPC Model Law was finalized in 2002 after it was negotiated between the Pacific country members of the SPC, but none of the Pacific countries have enacted such a law. The Ministry hosted with the SPC several meetings in Fiji with indigenous groups from the Pacific, including colonized Pacific countries in the 1990s and early 2000s that resulted in the Model Law.


The Fiji Cabinet in 2003 authorised the Ministry to draft a domestic version of the law that was appropriate for Fiji and the draft Bill is now with the Attorney General’s Chambers. Former Legislative Draftsman Alipate Qetaki (now General Manager of the iTaukei Lands Trust Board led the drafting effort over several years).

The draft law is termed "Legislation on Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights" and will assist in the protection against exploitation of traditional knowledge and expression of culture abundant in local settings. Currently, the iTaukei Institute of Language & Culture is working closely with the Department of Culture and the Attorney General's Office in the drafting of the legislation.

2.) The Ministry also carried out the CULTURAL MAPPING PROGRAM for the 14 provinces of Fiji from 2004. The main objective of this initiative is to collect and document aspects of iTaukei culture such as ceremonies, dialects, and heritage sites which stories are well and alive in local villages. With the continual loss of one's fervent grasp of the local cultural ideals and value, a team of researchers is tasked with the important responsibility of documentation, editing and input of information into a database for future generations. The program foresees the timely research of all the various vanua around Fiji 'before knowledgable elders pass away'.

In their archives, you will find that the community of Namuka-i-Lau has already been surveyed and all the designs by Makereta Matemosi have been registered. They don’t belong to her; they belong to her community and are common designs shared by other elders in tattooing, crafts-work, masi making and etc. 

The Cultural Mapping Register was transferred to the Attorney General’s Office in 2008 by authority of the Cabinet. Currently the Itaukei Ministry has also embarked on recording all Kesakesa motifs in Fiji. The Institute of Language and Culture has also received complaints from the custodians of the masi motifs that Air Pacific is trying to trademark.


10. What about Fiji’s Chiefs, what are they doing to safeguard our culture?


The Great Council of Chiefs (Bose Levu Vakaturaga) approved the cultural mapping exercise carried out by the Ministry’s Department of Culture, having previously expressed their concerns to the Government about the need to protect indigenous culture, traditional knowledge and cultural expression.

The GCC had also approved and participated in the discussions within the MSG and with other Pacific countries through the SPC Model Law process in the 1990s and 2000s.

However the legislative program (how government prioritises the laws it needs to change or bring about) is the prerogative of the government of the day which decides which government resources will be allocated to certain legislative imperatives. The GCC can only make recommendations to the government.

This week the Fiji Native Tribal Congress has authorized the filing of formal Notices of Objection to the Air Pacific TM application to the Registrar of Trademarks/Solicitor General on behalf of two paramount chiefs and to also file a report with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues which is meeting in March 2013, about the TM application.



The objection appeals must be made by 19 April 2013 (19/4/13) or within 3 months from the date the applications were advertised in the Fiji Times (25/1/13). This means that the objection window period WILL END on 19/4/13.


For those living outside of Fiji, the contacts for Fiji’s various embassies are listed below, including emails, postal addresses and other contact info . Remember to copy your letter to the Permanent Secretary for each Ministry you write to. 




President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau

P.O. Box 2513,Government Buildings Suva

Phone: 3314 244

Fax: 3301 645



Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama

Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Strategic Planning, National Development and Statistics; Public Service; People's Charter for Change and Progress; Minister for Information, National Archives and Library Services of Fiji; Minister for I-Taukei; Minister for Sugar Industry, Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources.

Location: 3rd and 4th Floor, New Wing, Government Buildings, Suva

Postal Address: PO Box 2353, Govt Bldgs, Suva

Phone: 3211 201

Fax: 3306 034



Colonel Pio Tikoduadua

Permanent Secretary

Office of the Prime Minister

4th floor Govt. Bldgs. New Wing Suva

Postal Address: PO Box 2353, Govt Bldgs, Suva

Tel - +679 3211201

Fax: +679 3211273

Email –


Mr. Savenaca Kaunisela

Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs

Ministry of iTaukei Affairs Headquarters

P O Box 2100 Government Buildings, Suva, Fiji Islands

iTaukei Trust Fund Building Complex (North Wing)

87 Queen Elizabeth Drive, Suva

Phone: (679) 3100 909

Fax : (679) 331 2530


Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Anti-Corruption, Public Enterprises, Communications, Civil Aviation, Tourism, Industry and Trade

Postal Address: P.O. Box 2213,Government Buildings,Suva, Fiji Islands

Telephone: +679 330 9866

Facsimile: +679 330 5421



Mr. Sharvada Sharma

Solicitor General & Registrar for Trademarks

Postal Address: P.O. Box 2213,Government Buildings,Suva, Fiji Islands

Telephone: +679 330 9866

Facsimile: +679 330 5421



Mr. David Phlieger


Air Pacific Limited


Email –

Email –


Ms Elizabeth Powell

Permanent Secretary for Public Enterprises, Tourism and Communication and Civil Aviation

Postal Address: P O Box 2118, Government Buildings, Suva

Phone: (679) 3305411

Fax: (679) 3310816


Mrs Mere Vuniwaqa

Acting Permanent Secretary, Justice, Electoral Reform and Anti-Corruption

GPO Box 2226, Suva

Email –

Telephone: (679) 3308600

Fax: (679) 3303676


Mr Filipe Bole

Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts

Postal Address: Private Mail Bag, Government Buildings, Suva. 

Permanent Secretary for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts: Dr Brij Lal

Office Location: Marela House Suva

Phone: 3314477

Fax: 3303511


Minister Dr Jiko Luveni

Ministry of Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Allevation

Postal Address: PO Box 14068, Suva, Fiji.

Acting Permanent Secretary: Mr. Joe Koroivueta

Office Location: 5th Floor, Civic Towers, Suva

Phone: (679) 3312681

Fax: (679) 3312357


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