By TIM MURPHY
Published: June 3, 2007
Chief Katonah’s Descendants Oppose Stewart
Descendants of the Indian chief for whom the Village of Katonah is named have joined efforts to block Martha Stewart’s home-improvement empire from patenting the town’s name for her line of furniture.
Ms. Stewart’s company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, “has no right to exploit the name of one of our ancestors for her own profit and gain,” said Steven Burton, a member of the Deer Clan Council of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation. “Trademarking our ancestor is wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Mr. Burton lives in New Jersey, but says his tribe’s roots can be traced throughout the tristate area, including Katonah, whose land was sold to white settlers in the 1680s by the Indian chief who is its namesake.
Last week, Mr. Burton and other Indian descendants of Chief Katonah joined “Nobody Owns Katonah,” a campaign organized by the Katonah Village Improvement Society against the patent request. The society formally filed its opposition to the patent request in late April; Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has since filed a motion seeking the dismissal of the opposition.
Mr. Burton said that he had no problem with the company using the name Katonah for a product line, which it already does — the line is sold at Macy’s — just as he had no problem with the town’s use of the name.
“But she wants to trademark it, and that’s a whole different ball of wax,” Mr. Burton said. “Trademark Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter or Prince of Wales instead.”
Lydia Landesberg, president of the Katonah Village Improvement Society, said that her group appreciated the tribe’s support. “This is a moral issue about protecting the identity of our village,” she said.
Diana Pearson, a spokeswoman for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, declined to comment on the tribe’s opposition to the patent. (Other Indian leaders nationwide have echoed their opposition, The Associated Press reported last week.) Company representatives have said that they were only seeking a patent to prevent knockoffs of Ms. Stewart’s Katonah line, not to stop local merchants from using the name.
But Ms. Landesberg is skeptical. “If they get the trademark, anybody who wants to open a business here using the town’s name will need to seek their permission,” she said. “They could really stop just about anybody.”