French Company ‘Bilum’ Responds

Many of you have emailed me and commented on Tubuans & Dukduks about a piece I wrote in February this year regarding the French company ‘Bilum’ and their trademark of the Papua New Guinean word bilum. The piece caused a bit of a stir on the PNG blogging scene and the story was eventually picked up by Radio Australia’s In the Loop Program which resulted with an interview.

Finally in May, I received a response from Helene de La Moureyre, founder and owner of Bilum concerning the article. That response is outlined below:

I’m sorry to reply so late but I wanted to take the time for it, because it is very important for you, and for me.

My activity is pretty small. We are only 3 people and had a lot of work this last month.

I never wanted to steal the know-how and the word bilum to the NPG (she means PNG*) culture.

I use recycled advertising banners and car seatbelts to make my bags, which are completely different from NPG string bags.

I do not copy the NPG method of weaving.

So, there is no risk of confusion between my bags and NPG bags.

Furthermore, the word BILUM is a valid French trademark which was registered by the French Intellectual Property Registry in august 2005.

« bilum » is a brand name, an it will never be the name of any french bag.

Let me explain you our spirit :
Our signature is « unical – ethical – ecological ».
– Unical because each bag is made from a special part of recuperated huge advertising banner. So the apparence of each bag is very different.
– Ethical because they are made in special centers working with disabled people, or people with social troubles, to give them an opportunity to have a job and earn their life.
– Ecological because instead of wasting energy to produce fabric, we use banners which would be burned otherwise, and seat belt from broken cars, to carry the bag. Everything is made around Paris to avoid burning petrol for the transport. The banners are handly washed with eco friendly soap.

Here are our valours and convictions, I’m really sorry if there was any misanderstanding about that.

As you may know, I first received an email from Rick Brittain, who, first, reacted negativly to the use of the word bilum. We had a chance to meet each other. He understood my approach and integrity. We exchanged some NPG bags and my bags. I was very happy, a few weeks later, when I received some pictures of NPG’s women bags workers wearing my parisian bags. I thank them once again for the beautiful bags they offered me.

I hope, with this letter, having given you some ideas of the bilum’s brand spirit.
Hoping to hear from you soon
Sincerily yours,

Helene de La Moureyre

~ by Tavurvur on June 22, 2009.

6 Responses to “French Company ‘Bilum’ Responds”


    Dear Helene de La Moureyre,

    You wrote, “… the word BILUM is a valid French trademark which was registered by the French Intellectual Property Registry in august 2005.”

    Registering the word BILUM as a trademark in French in 2005 does not, in any way or form, solve the issue at hand.

    In fact, registering BILUM as a trademark in French complicates the issue furthermore.

    How and why?

    1. Because the word BILUM is not a traditional or native word in le langue des français. [I live in French, I know the language.]

    2. So, the question to you is: Where and how and why did the trademark owner choose the world BILUM as its trademark?

    3. Since there is no word in the français vocabulary for BILUM, how in the world are you (or your group of 3 persons) engaged in making bags; which conveniently means BILUM in Papua New Guinea tok pidgin language?

    4. Your engagement in making bags from whatever source is NOT a coincidence under the trademark name BILUM! Period.

    5. PNG does not and should not accept your apologies.

    6. In fact, we demand that you de-register the BILUM trademark off the French Intellectual Property Registry.

    7. If this is not done by December 2009, I will be advising the PNG Embassy in Brussels to take the matter up with the French Embassy, the EU in Brussels, as also to the to the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) who is responsible for the promotion of the protection of intellectual property throughout the world, including Papua New Guinea.

    8. Bilum is a growing, grassroots industry which involves 99% women. It has great export potential for Papua New Guinea. We already have PNGean’s making and selling bilums overseas.

    9. Your registration of the BILUM trademark and, engagement in making bags, is not a “simple misunderstanding” that can be swept under the carpet with an apology through this website.

    Papua New Guinean,
    Geneva, Switzerland
    07 August 2009

  2. Has Helen De-Registered the Bilum Trade Mark with the IP Registry in French ?

  3. No, not that I am aware of.

  4. …and I doubt that she ever will, or should.

  5. how convenient for people of the developed countries to use third world icon names o ideas to better thems with no regards to these countries. The word “Bilum” is Papua New Guinean and should remain Papua New Guinean, just because it’s not a bussiness registered in PNG, you feel ok to register your business “BILUM” This bilum means alot more than just a handbag to a Papua New Guinean ladies and [some men].

  6. I think I should probably follow up with Helene from “bilum” in France to see how her company is doing.

    Feeling is still strong as to the usage of the name “bilum” for a commercial enterprise in France – based on the concept of the endemic bilum.

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