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French firm rips off the PNG 'bilum'

The Tubuans & Dukduks blog has revealed that a French firm – calling itself Bilum and claiming its creations are “eco-ethical fashion” – has taken out a patent on that working accessory of women throughout Papua New Guinea, the bilum. The firm produces bags and accessories using recycled advertising banners and manufactures straps and handles from recycled car seatbelts.

Unfortunately this so-called “eco-ethicality” doesn’t extend to real life true to goodness ethics, such as the reluctance that might be felt before ripping off a national cultural icon, claiming it for yourself and inducing some patenting authority to go along for the ride. This is poaching pure and simple.

Rick Brittain, a Cairns’ man works in PNG, said: “My original concern was that the name ‘bilum’ has basically been monopolized and has been removed from its PNG roots. I met with Helene [the firm’s owner] earlier this year, and found out that the company she operates is a predominantly non-profit, recycling centre, using people with special needs to manufacture her bilums. Good luck to her, and I have no problem with that, and she is a genuine lady with genuine concerns for our planet.”

That may be the case, but surely Madame Helene went a step too far when she took out the patent on the name 'bilum'.

You can read more on the Tubuans & Dukduks blog at http://garamut.wordpress.com

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