Australian retailer YARN Projects has withdrawn an application to trademark the word “tidda” after facing backlash from the Indigenous community.
In a now-deleted Facebook post (although the statement remains live on the brand’s website), YARN Projects confirmed that the trademark application has been withdrawn, issuing a lengthy apology for the hurt this caused the Indigenous community and asserting that the intention was not to personally profit off the trademark.
The news comes after more than 13,000 people signed a petition entitled “Stop trademarking culture” in an attempt to prevent the word, which means “sister, best friend, aunty or mentor” from being trademarked.
“Tidda is an Aboriginal word meaning sister, best friend, Aunty or mentor. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should continue to have the rights to use our languages and not have this taken away from us. Especially by non-Aboriginal people,” the petition, started by Yarli Creative’s Madison Connors reads.
“This claim was lodged on the 2nd of June 2019. This Claim will be accepted on March 12, 2021. This should not have gone through. It is important non-Aboriginal people understand the significant impact this has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business across Australia.”
According to the screenshot posted by Yarli Creative, the trademark application was to cover “athletics bags, cosmetics bags, courier bags, diaper bags, duffle bags, gym bags, leather bgs, luggage bags, make-up bags, travel bags, weekend bags, work bags, bags for sports, bags for toiletry kits, bags for use in sports for carrying sports clothing, beach bags, book bags, casual bags, changing bags and ornaments for bags,” which could have a detrimental impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses who may sell these sorts of products.
In just over 24 hours, the campaign has amassed over 13,000 signatures, with thousands flocking to social media to discuss the important issue using the hashtag #stoptrademarkingculture.
Supporters further reiterated the point that the word “tidda” holds significance to Indigenous Australians and shouldn’t be trademarked.
“Tidda is our term used freely by us only. No non-Aboriginal person uses it and they can’t misappropriate our culture,” supporter Rhonda Hagan wrote.
It’s unclear if the petition was the direct reason for YARN Projects withdrawing the application, however their lengthy statement also acknowledged that although they have a long history of working with Indigenous artists and designers, “clearly there is more to learn.”
Thankfully, YARN Projects has since removed the application without the need for Simon Birmingham (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) to take action and seem open to further educating themselves on why the Indigenous community was hurt by their actions. However, the issue of cultural intellectual property is far bigger than just this one case.
It’s important to note that although the petition specifically mentioned YARN Projects, Madison has since spoken out to clarify that her intentions are not to tear down one individual, rather, she wants to address the deeper issue at hand here that allowed culturally significant words and phrases to even be up for trademarking in the first place.
“My petition is not a personal attack on the individual. It is not my intention to tear the person down. Although it started with one instance, I think there is a much deeper discussion which needs to be had about protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures,” she wrote on Instagram.
Although the claim that sparked the petition has been withdrawn, the issue of cultural intellectual property is far bigger than one trademark application, and it’s something that will keep happening if people in power don’t do something to stop it.
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