Hawaiian organizations to educate businesses in wake of Aloha Poke Co. incident

August 17, 2018 6:50am HST via Pacific Business News

Native Hawaiian business organizations are working to educate their members about the current trademark and patent system in the wake of a recent incident that has garnered national attention.

The Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce plans to work with other Hawaiian organizations, like the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, to implement programming in light of this recent case, in which Chicago-based Aloha Poke Co. sent cease-and-desist letters, to businesses using "Aloha" and "Aloha Poke", some of which were sent to Native Hawaiian-owned businesses.


In a statement issued about two days after the company came under scrutiny, Aloha Poke Co. said it holds two federal trademarks for it's design logo and the words "Aloha Poke". Sending the letters, the company argues, "is a very common practice used across industries, and in particular, the restaurant industry to protect the use of a business' name and brand".

Hundreds of individuals protested Aloha Poke Co. in Chicago last week


Robert Piper, a previous president and current board member of NHCC, told Pacific Business News that the recent controversy has caused the chamber to "look into working with legal experts (as well as cultural practitioners) to educate, inform, and empower Native Hawaiian businesses to successfully navigate and work within the current trademark and patent system."

Piper also said that the organization will implement these educational efforts into its "programming and planning infrastructure," and also plans to work with elected officials to "improve the system of trademarks so as to address the long standing and on-going issue of the proper treatment of native culture, knowledge, and values in the field of trademark and patents."

Zack Friedlander opened Aloha Poke Co. in Chicago in 2016, though he was replaced as CEO in May by former Potbelly executive, Chris Birkinshaw, who was brought on to expand the brand. It currently has 10 locations in Chicago, and five others in Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles, Wisconsin and Washington D.C.

Article by Katie Murer, reporter for Pacific Business News