HONOLULU - A Kane'ohe Kumu Hula says she may be forced to change her hula school's name after a former student filed for trademark rights to it in Japan.

Halau Ka Liko Pua O Kalaniakea is a group many respect here in Hawai'i and Japan. The halau has won numerous awards at the prestigious Merrie Monarch Hula festival and takes pride in keeping it's traditional hula lineage alive.

But in the coming months, it could lose what it calls it's identity.

"It isn't just a name. It has meaning to me, my family, my students," said Kumu Kapua Dalire-Moe.

The revered kumu hula said a former student, made plans to leave her Kane'ohe halau in October. But refused to sign a paper stating she would refrain from teaching any of the group's choreography. Dalire-Moe said that's standard practice.

Since then, the student has filed papers to own the group's name in Japan.

"People are willing to take take take and then figure out, 'Oh my gosh. I think I can capitalize off of this.' Exploitation of our Hawaiian culture seems to be something that is rising and it's sad to say...to even use the word. It's hurtful,"' Dalire-Moe explained.  

Local trademark Attorney Seth Reiss said contesting a trademark case that's already been filed can be tough.

"It's either difficult and expensive or impossible. And there's generally two grounds to challenge a foreign registration where the US owner has not filed first and one ground, if the market is well known or famous," Reiss explained.

According to Reiss, challenging a case like this can cost thousands upon thousands of dollars and drag on for years.

Dalire-Moe said at this point, she isn't sure if she can afford a fight like that. She wants to warn fellow kumu to consider trademarking their own halau names.

"If we don't do something now, then our future generations...sadly enough to say, one day may not be able to claim anything as theirs because you're going to have people in Japan popping up with licensing saying, 'No I own this.' Or you're gonna have people in Korea saying, 'No, this is mine,'" Dalire-Moe exclaimed.

For her, hula is life. Her training stems back to her mother, the late hula icon Aloha Dalire. She says she felt her mother's guidance through this tough time.

"She sent an army of people to stand alongside me and for that I'm very grateful, truly grateful and very humbled to know that our people are proud Hawaiians," Dalire-Moe explained tearfully.

Island News did not yet hear back from the student behind the case. Dalire-Moe will fly to Japan this week to seek legal counsel for the matter.