It's a Cowichan Sweater by Any Other Name

Posted by Daniel on Oct 10, 2009 - 7 comments


The brouhaha over the Hudson's Bay Company and its Cowichan sweater that isn't a Cowichan sweater calls to mind an incident that occurred in Vancouver in the 1980s. There was a restaurant on Broadway calling itself Chevy's Diner. The decor simulated a '50s burger joint and the name was supposed to evoke that era.

General Motors, the manufacturer of the Chevrolet, was not amused. The giant corporation owned the name, and variations of it, and threatened to sue the tiny restaurant if Chevy's did not become something else. Realizing it could not fight GM, the restaurant changed its name.

We all know that large corporations -- like GM, like the Hudson's Bay -- protect their copyrighted labels and names with a vengeance. Just see what would happen if the Cowichan band wanted to build a car and call it the Chevy. But apparently the HBC is able to rip off the traditional design of the Cowichan sweater (shown at left), a BC icon not to mention a source of Cowichan livelihood, without so much as a by your leave.

The HBC is being disingenous when it says its sweater is NOT a Cowichan sweater. Whether or not the new design follows exactly the design of the original -- it probably doesn't -- is beside the point. The company is playing on the goodwill and recognition factor of a product long associated with the Cowichan people. Respect should be shown.