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Kitasoo First Nation clarifies Spirit Bear vodka lawsuit

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The organization behind Spirit Bear Coffee worked with the Kitasoo First Nation in order to use the name and image of the spirit bear.

The technical advisor to a northwest First Nation is clarifying a lawsuit launched against an Okanagan distillery

The City of Terrace and the Kitasoo First Nation are taking Urban Distilleries to court over its Spirit Bear vodka and gin products. The city and Kitasoo band say they have a trademark over the name Spirit Bear.

Larry Greba is the technical advisor to the Kitasoo band. He says the Spirit Bear is an important symbol to the Kitasoo and so they filed an official mark over the name. 

"Years ago I was told people rarely spoke of the spirit bear to outsiders for fear that they would actually go and hunt and trap and try and take these animals for their pelts."

Greba says other companies have worked with the Kitasoo to use the name Spirit Bear. Canterbury Coffee, for example, has a Spirit Bear line of blends that was developed with the permission of the Kitasoo band and city of Terrace, with proceeds from the licencing deal going to protect and research the bear.

However, he doesn't think a similar arrangement could be reached for Urban Distilleries.

"Alcohol use and abuse is a problem in many communities, and can be acute in First Nations communities as well. And in fact Kitasu itself, or Klemtu, which is actually the village name... has a partial prohibition on alcohol," he says. "It's something, they don't want it associated with the Spirit Bear mark."

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