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Artist keen to protect designs

For more than 10 years, Usoalii Soke Toleafoa never knew that his designs and business could be protected from copycats.

Usoalii is part of a three-day sub-regional multi-stakeholder practical workshop on intellectual property, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions at the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Resort and Bungalows. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer yesterday, the father of five from Lalomalava, Savaii said he was excited to be part of the event because it helped him learn about intellectual property and how to protect his designs. 

Usually, his designs are products of his imagination, and most times they depended on the needs of his customers. 

“I do printing and I also create my own designs. I print lavalavas, ies, t-shirts. I have been designing for more than 10 years, doing my own stuff at home,” he said. 

“There were no workshops or trainings for us like this before, and now I know it’s better for me to protect my design and my business.” 

 Usoalii said in many cases in the past, people have been stealing his designs and making it their own, but he never did anything about it. 

“If I do my designs on my lavalavas, someone will copy that one. Like pumas, most people copy pumas to do on their lavalavas, but I have my own designs and someone used it, and I never knew there was an idea to protect those kinds of things.

“I don’t know how many times my designs have been stolen, but if I create my own design, then I would find them in other stores with the same design a few weeks later. I think maybe someone tried to copy my design.  

“I don’t care about that now. So I think, after this meeting I will get a license for my business to protect my designs because they express my thoughts.” 

Usoalii said he usually sells his product for $15 tala, but once he gets a license for his business, he will double or triple his earnings. 

"When I was at the School of Fine Arts, the principal wanted me to attend a local competition by UNESCO, then I was awarded for that design, but I get nothing from that. And there was the arts festival in Samoa called the Talamesina, so I won that with my design. But I get nothing.”

The 45-year-old is also a photographer and has been for more than five years. He said designing is now his side job apart, but his photography skills has enhanced his design ideas. 

 “I take wedding, birthday, funeral, passport size photos. I really like the environment, sometimes when I go out, I take photos of flowers, and try to combine those photos and draw it, and do my own design from that one,” Usoalii said. 

Moving forward, Usoalii plans to grow his business with new ideas and innovations, and especially registering to protect his products. 

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