clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The famous Maasai tribe battles for legal rights to its name

New, 35 comments
HKTANG FLICKR Maasai people tribe
HKTANG FLICKR Maasai people tribe

The Maasai people are one of the best known tribes in Africa, and their name has been used to brand everything from pens to car accessories to designer clothes. A group that hopes to represent all of the Maasai, led by an elder named Isaac ole Tialolo, is now working to claim rights to the brand and receive licensing fees from companies like Louis Vuitton and Jaguar Land Rover. He's been working with a nonprofit for four years to try to solidify the tribe's legal claim to the intellectual property, as detailed in a new Bloomberg Businessweek report. Their legal argument could be a weak one, depending on who you ask, but there's precedent for large corporations to acknowledge a tribe's right to its name and pay fees for its use. And the Maasai could use it: leaders are hoping to help improve water supplies with whatever money they can get.