Many indigenous communities have started to claim IP rights over their cultural assets, such as art, music and ceremonies, as well as technical, agricultural and ecological practices and knowledge.-
Recently, the cause was initiated on the site change.org, in which the Argentinian company Las Blondas S.A., doing business as RAPSODIA, is requested to stop plagiarizing traditional aboriginal products. In this particular case, the signors of a petition claim that the “Marion Missy” blouse, included in the Fall Winter 2016 campaign, is a copy of the original design of the zapoteca community of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, Mexico.
In the signors’ opinion, Rapsodia has been infringing aboriginal icons and patterns for several years, and to the petition demands the reparation of this situation, through the discontinuation of the products, or the production of them through the alleged owners of the design, paying the fair price for usage, as well as the payment of damages.
In connection to this last point, the group who initiated this complaint claim that the manufacture of these products is carried out by a cheap workforce overseas, thus seriously affecting the aboriginal community, who cannot fairly compete.
Should this petition succeed, it could be a precedent in defense of the de facto protection of aboriginal IP, as a cultural asset of a determined community or country, as is this case. On the other hand, it could also mean a serious blockage for the fashion industry, involving millions of dollars worldwide. If the involved parties (indigenous community v. Rapsodia) initiate the court actions, it will likely be up to the local authorities to determine the next step and decide whether the case should be furthered to the litigation stage.
There are two possible outcomes to this case. Either the initiation of court actions, or this staying as an on line petition with no further escalation. Regardless of the outcome, the sustained appearance of similar cases is triggering the debate in connection to the importance and the relevance of the protection of indigenous culture as de facto intellectual property.
Questions to be addressed include:
Should the different expressions of indigenous culture be protected without a prior registration before an official authority?
Which is the protection that should be given to clothing, considering the fleeting nature of the fashion industry?
For more on this last subject please refer to Moeller’s earlier post: EU & LATAM Fashion & IP.
Source: Proceso.com.mx (Spanish only)