Hollywood actor Michael B Jordan’s application for a trademark on the use of the word “J’Ouvert,” which is the title of the Black Panther star’s new rum, cannot really be stopped.
This is according to a few cultural experts who weighed in on the matter, which has been a hot topic for the past few days.
President of the Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) Rubadiri Victor, told Guardian Media in a zoom interview, “You can’t stop him from trademarking the rum. It’s territorial rights specific to the product in the US. The issue is going to come up with the attendant downstream rights on products.”
Victor explained this meant if Jordan ever decided to merchandise the J’Ouvert name brand.
“Say like T-shirts with the term J’Ouvert on it. Or J’Ouvert rum parties, which are Trinidadian J’Ouvert rum parties. When they try to exercise their downstream rights with the brand, that’s where complications and stuff are going to happen.”
He said, using the name J’Ouvert, Jordan also ran the risk of the corruption of his brand with anything that the J’Ouvert festival does.
“Let’s say a headline reads, “15 held after J’Ouvert shootings.” So it’s a complex thing on both sides,” he asserted.
Victor made the comments, in wake of a social media post made last Saturday, by the A-lister’s girlfriend, Lori Harvey, advertising the launch of Jordan’s latest business venture, which involves his rum titled J’Ouvert. The post showed a well-packaged box with the controversially named rum finished with two bottles of T&T’s Angostura Bitters brand—Angostura Orange and Aromatic Bitters, along with a recipe on how to make old fashioned J’Ouvert rum.
The post garnered a hailstorm of criticisms from locals who believe the actor who applied for a trademark on the use of the word, is culturally appropriating a brand synonymous with T&T.
A petition to stop the trademark has even been started by Caribbean blogger and podcaster, Jamie “Jayblessed” Alleyne, who took to her Facebook page on Sunday, expressing her outrage and asking locals to sign the petition, which up to yesterday garnered over 3,000 signatures.
Alleyne even called out unscrupulous stakeholders, whom she believes might be secretly involved in Jordan’s J’Ouvert titled spirit.
But while the word J’Ouvert was not unknown to millions with approximately 300 Trini-styled Carnivals across the globe that has incorporated the popular T&T J’Ouvert Carnival concept, Victor said where Jordan may have erred was his failure to form a partnership with a living brand.
Meanwhile, Josh Rudder, former CEO of the Copyright Organisation of T&T (COTT), also noted under the existing circumstances there was no infringement on Jordan’s part.
In an email interview Rudder wrote, “No infringement would have occurred by Mr Jordan if by law he was able to trademark ‘J’Ouvert.’ He can register the trademark in T&T and any other territory once available. Availability meaning there is no similar mark or registration under the same classification of goods and services.”
Speaking on the issue of how T&T can protect its cultural brands, entertainment and sports lawyer Carla Paris, said there is an area of intellectual property law called “Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCE) and Traditional Knowledge.”
“It refers to practices, which are integral to the cultural, and social identities of indigenous and local communities, embody know-how and skills, and transmit core values and beliefs. The protection of these traditional practices are related to a country’s promotion of its creativity, enhanced cultural diversity, and preservation of cultural heritage,” Paris explained
The host and founder of the YouTube series—The Business of Carnival had a few words for the people in charge.
“It is imperative that the Government ministries and state agencies who are charged with the responsibility for developing and promoting our cultural products, look seriously at the matter of determining which of our TCE’s should receive distinct focus and protection in our national IP laws.”
National Carnival Commission Chairman, Winston “Gypsy” Peters was also contacted for comment, but Guardian Media is yet to get his response.