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Native Hawaiian Advocacy Group Explores Lawsuit Against Aloha Poke Co.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement began exploring legal options against Chicago-based business Aloha Poke Co. [1] after the mainland chain attempted to enforce a trademark on the name.

The Native Hawaiian advocacy organization says the restaurant is “exploiting” the Native Hawaiian language and “using legal threats” against Native Hawaiian business owners who prepare the cultural dish.

“No one has the right to disenfranchise a culture and a people, as well as dictate what constitutes pono (proper) business practices,” said Kuhio Lewis, Chief Executive Officer of CNHA. “Hawaiian culture is not meant to be a commodity [2] and the continued exploitation of it, our language and kanaka is absolutely unacceptable.”

CNHA is in the process of partnering with other Native Hawaiian organizations and businesses, with consultation from their legal team, to identify the appropriate course of action.

“Fear-mongering and intimidation tactics have no place in our culture,” said CNHA Chairman, Hanalei Aipoalani.

In an effort to “set the record straight,” an explanation was published on a Facebook page for Aloha Poke Co.’s Costa Mesa, California location on Monday morning.  The post says there is a “significant amount of misinformation” being shared on social media, that has caused anger and offense.  The post has drawn more than 4,400 comments over the past four days, many critical of the company’s attempts at trademark enforcement.

Part of the social media “backlash” has come in the form of a petition on change.org [3], urging Aloha Poke Co. to remove “Aloha” and “Poke” from its name. The petition, which started on Monday, July 30, 2018, has garnered the support of more than 130,000 people as of this morning (Aug. 3, 2018).