Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, speaks during a ceremony commemorating the settlement of an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, speaks during a ceremony commemorating the settlement of an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Saga over garment design copyright infringement ends with ceremonial fire

The case was settled in March.

A ceremonial fire in front of the Walter Soboleff Building on Friday marked the end of a legal battle over alleged theft of intellectual property that stretched back to 2019.

During the ceremony, family members of acclaimed weaver Clarissa Rizal and clan leaders gathered and immolated an example of a commercial garment at the center of the case

The specific lawsuit was over the fashion company Neiman Marcus’ “Ravenstail” coat, which SHI alleged in a now-settled suit was “blatant” copyright infringement of a design created in 1996 by Rizal, renowned Chilkat- and Ravenstail-style weaver.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Lily Hope, daughter of famed artist and weaver Clarissa Rizal, watches the burning of a commercial garment at the center of a ceremony commemorating the settlement in an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Lily Hope, daughter of famed artist and weaver Clarissa Rizal, watches the burning of a commercial garment at the center of a ceremony commemorating the settlement in an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

“We resolved it not only in accordance with U.S. law but by Tlingit law and practice,” said Rosita Worl, president of the Juneau-based nonprofit that protects and propagates Southeast Alaska Native art and culture, during the ceremony. “Tlingit law is very clear in protection of our intellectual property.”

The ensuing lawsuit leveled against Neiman Marcus by the Sealaska Heritage Institute was settled in March.

“In Tlingit laws, names and designs are protected. This is the purpose of this ceremony,” Worl said. “Today, we will be burning one commercial coat to transfer its spirit to Clarissa Rizal.”

Lily Hope, Rizal’s daughter and traditional weaver and artist of no small repute herself, spoke as well, urging other artists to come work with Indigenous artists to honor the art form.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, speaks during a ceremony commemorating the settlement of an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, speaks during a ceremony commemorating the settlement of an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

“Come to us. Work with us,” Hope said during the ceremony. “Help us to elevate our designs together.”

Taking a name or design violates a sacred law in Tlingit culture, said Ricardo Worl during the ceremony, with the ceremony held Friday intended to bring closure to Rizal, family and clan. Other speakers, including members of multiple clans echoed the themes of propriety, and the maintaining of culture, language and law.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Participants in a ceremony commemorating the settlement of an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company take cuttings of the commercial garment at the center of the case on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Participants in a ceremony commemorating the settlement of an intellectual property lawsuit against a fashion company take cuttings of the commercial garment at the center of the case on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

With speeches concluded, the group burned an example of the Neiman Marcus garment in front of the Walter Soboleff building along with an offering of food burned in the fire for Rizal. Family members and related parties were also given parts of the commercial garment.

Rosita Worl also thanked lawyer Jacob Adams, a specialist in Indigenous intellectual property rights, who assisted in the case.

She said that as a result of the conditions of the settlement, they were forbidden from offering almost any remarks about the case.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Participants burn an example of a commercial garment that led to a now-settled intellectual property lawsuit in a ceremony commemorating the settlement with the fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire Participants burn an example of a commercial garment that led to a now-settled intellectual property lawsuit in a ceremony commemorating the settlement with the fashion company on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

More in News

Image via Alaska Board of Fisheries
Statewide shellfish meeting rescheduled

This comes after the board bumped back its Southeast and Yakutat shellfish meeting

A State of Alaska epidemiology bulletin can be found at https://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/pages/default.aspx.
State updates STI protocol after reported drop

The state has been experiencing an outbreak since 2017

The Kenai Fire Department headquarters are photographed on Feb. 13, 2018, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Police identify remains found in burned car

Kenai Police and Fire departments responded to a car fire at Beaver Creek in Kenai on Jan. 7

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses members of the press on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (Screenshot)
Dunleavy talks upcoming session, lambasts media

In a press conference Monday, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy discussed his goals… Continue reading

Courtesy photo / Juneau Raptor Center
This golden eagle was rescued by the Juneau Raptor Center over the summer after being found weak and thin.
Rescue center, birdwatchers look back on 2021

Juneau Christmas bird count was way down this year.

This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (NICT via AP)
Tsunami advisory issued after eruption

An undersea volcano erupted Friday near the South Pacific island of Tonga, triggering concerns of damaging waves across Pacific coastlines

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Multiple public works projects underway in Soldotna

Soldotna City Council received an update on eight different projects

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Hospitalizations rise as state reports increase in COVID cases

There were a total of 112 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Friday

Most Read