The trademark “Seediq Bale,” registered by a movie director for a film he made with the same title, will be invalidated as a result of opposition by the Sediq, the nation’s 14th officially recognized Aboriginal tribe, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said yesterday.
Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), known for his 2008 hit movie Cape No. 7 (海角七號), which enjoyed the second-biggest box office success in Taiwan’s cinematic history after Titanic, has had his latest film registered with the government as a trademark and subject to promotional tie-ins aimed at advertising the major four-hour production, which cost at least NT$600 million (US$19 million) to make.
The film — an ambitious dramatization of the Wushe Incident, in which a Sediq hero led a rebellion against Japanese military forces in the 1930s during the Japanese colonial period in what is today’s Renai Township (仁愛) in Nantou County — features a 15,000-strong cast and was produced by a 400-member production crew from Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
The IPO said it was working on nullifying the Seediq Bale trademark after consultations with the Council for Indigenous Peoples on the issue.
IPO officials said they agreed with council officials that “Seediq Bale” has deep cultural significance for the Sediq and that it represents an important agent for ethic identification and a call for historical awareness.
The office added that another trademark application case for the Seediq Bale name filed by the Farmers’ Association of Sinyi Township (信義) in Nantou County will also be rejected.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉), who represents Aboriginal constituents, said the IPO should review the trademark-granting operations that led it to approve “Seediq Bale” as a trademark in the first place.
Walis Pelin, an Aborigine and former head of the Council for Indigenous Peoples, joined a group of Sediq from Renai Township led by tribal leader Wumin Sabu on Wednesday to protest against Wei’s movie company, as well as the IPO, for the trademark fiasco.
The protesters demanded that Wei apologize to the Sediq and withdraw his trademark registration.
Walis Pelin said he was personally informed by Wei that the director “is willing to yield the trademark title” to show his respect for the Sediq.
The protesters, however, took offense at the term “yield,” arguing that the phrase Seediq Bale — meaning “a real man” in the Sediq language — is a common asset that belongs to all Sediq in the country and not something that anyone outside the tribe has the right to “yield.”
“The word Seediq is not a commercial product. If Wei was culturally inspired rather than just a businessman, he would know how to respect an ethnic group and its name,” Wumin Sabu said.