Please join us in sending trademark-free Fire Cider to the Medic and Healer Council at the camp. The water protectors on the front lines need trademark- free Fire Cider!!! Remember, if it has a pirate on the label, it is trademarked!!!
AMAZING NEWS to report on the lawsuit Shire City brought against the herbalists Mary Blue, Nicole Telkes and Katheryn Langelier!!!! On May 12, 2016, the federal court in Massachusetts dismissed five out of the ten claims that Shire City had brought against the 3 defendants. The claims that were dismissed were all based on the three defendants’ participation in the movement to cancel Shire City’s “Fire Cider” trademark registration. Shire City had claimed that the 3 defendants’ activities had caused Shire City $100,000 in damages.
3 defendants had asked the court to dismiss these claims under the Massachusetts Anti-SLAPP statute, which prohibits lawsuits that are based upon constitutionally protected petitioning activities. The defendants submitted lots of evidence to support their motion, including the Free Fire Cider website and the Traditions Not Trademarks Facebook page. The court held a hearing in mid-April where attorneys for both Shire City and the defendants presented their arguments to the court. The three defendants are represented by Verrill Dana, LLP, a New England law firm. In the end, the court agreed with the three defendants and dismissed the five claims that were based on the defendants’ participation in the efforts to cancel Shire City’s trademark.
Although this is good news, the litigation is not over yet. Shire City has also brought claims against the three defendants for trademark infringement. The defendants did not seek dismissal of the trademark infringement claims under the Anti-SLAPP statute and so the lawsuit continues on those issues. These types of cases take a while to resolve and so it may be many months before we know what will happen to the rest of the lawsuit. Regardless, this decision was good news for Mary, Nicole and Katheryn!! Keep sending good thoughts their way over the next few months!
I wanted to write to you all to give you more information.
Our notice yesterday on the Sage Mountain Facebook page was to inform others that another very popular, and in this case ‘ancient’ herbal name has been trademarked. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we’ve been concerned would happen. Once a popular herbal product name is trademarked, concerns are raised that many of our most popular herbal products could be trademarked by companies and corporations. We can do something about this; it just takes effort and dedication and your willingness to stand up for our herbal traditions. If we allow the trademarking of 4 Thieves/ Thieves Oil and Fire Cider, every other commonly used herbal product will be up for grabs. The vital thriving small herbal business community that has grown up in the last 4 decades will not be the same; popular herbal products that we’ve sold freely, will no longer be available for us to sell.
We had heard that YLO’s had been granted the trademark on Thieves Oil, but had not heard of them enforcing their trademark on small herbal companies. Our posting came after we received information about a small herbal company being contacted about trademark infringement. Ruthie Hayes, an herbalist who sells 4 Thieves Vinegar on Etsy had received a notice of trademark infringement from Young Living Essential Oils, LC alleging that “certain material on Etsy is not authorized.” Etsy, in accordance with their Intellectual Property Policy deactivated the 4 Thieves listing specified as infringing. Yes, its true that YLO’s product is an essential oil, and Ruthie’s herbal product is a vinegar, but YLO’s now owns the name which means that they are the only company allowed to sell 4 Thieves/ Thieves Oil.
What makes this situation particularly disturbing is that YLO trademarked the name, apparently without anyone in the herbal world aware of it, and now own the rights to a name that is several centuries old. This is the very same thing that happened with Fire Cider. No one was notified until after the public opposition period (that allows people to object) so no one had the opportunity to voice opposition to the trademark. Unfortunately for Ruthie this is the second notification she’s received; the first was from Shire City for selling her wonderful product called ‘Fuego Cider’, which Shire City objected to (never mind that she was selling her product first)! Ruthie comments, “This is the second time that a big company has picked on me about my products. The first being Shire City, for using the tag “fire cider” in my ‘FUEGO CIDER’ product listing. I am so saddened and discouraged because it so blatantly goes against the true spirit of herbalism that we strive to uphold.” Ironically enough, Ruthie is our 2015 ‘Fire Cider Fairy Queen’; she won the award for the best Fire Cider at the International Herb Symposium in 2015!
What we can do:
1) Voice your opposition. Continue to contact Shire City and Young Living Oils letting them know you object to the trademarking of traditional herbal names.
2) Continue to talk to the stores asking them to support the traditional herbal community that has brought the voice of herbalism to the American people. Our objection isn’t about the companies that produce these products or the products themselves, but to the trademarking of names and recipes that have been long considered commonly owned, shared freely, and passed down through the ages. These are our legacy herbal products and need to be maintained for everyone to be able to make and sell as they please. As always, please be polite and courteous!
3) Boycott! Many people in the herbal community feel boycotting is too strong a stance, but refusing to place your money where your values aren’t met is one of the best ways of making your intentions real. Boycott the stores and boycott the product; and let the store owners and buyers know why. The company may be a good company run by wonderful people, but nonetheless, they are trademarking products that don’t belong to them, regardless of the amount of money they paid for them. They belong to all of us!
Young Living Oil about 4 Thieves: Dana Barger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Shire City Herbals about Fire Cider: email@example.com
Check out our Fall Newsletter here! NEW LAWSUIT from Shire City Herbals against Temple Turmeric!
Trademark Battle Heats Up!
Three small business owners who are part of a national grassroots movement to try to cancel the trademark on the term ‘fire cider’ are being sued for $100,000 in damages by the holder of the trademark, Massachusetts-based herbal company Shire City Herbals.
The new lawsuit is Shire City Herbal’s latest response to a petition filed in June of 2014 with the US Trademark Office to cancel the trademark on the term “Fire Cider, a common product made by many small herbs farms and herbalists. The trademark petition is based on extensive documentation that the term ‘fire cider’ is generic and was in widespread use in commerce for several decades before the trademark was issued.
The civil lawsuit filed federal court in Springfield, MA in April against Nicole Telkes of Austin, TX, Mary Blue of Providence, RI and Katheryn Langelier of Union, ME seeks damages of $100,000 for lost business due to the defendants alleged activities. In February of 2014, two months before the lawsuit was filed, Amy Huebner, owner of Shire City Herbal’s publicly stated that the boycott “effectively doubled their business”.
Telkes, Blue and Langelier are represented by attorneys from the law firm Verrill Dana in both the trademark petition and the new civil lawsuit.
“Words that are the name of a product itself (like “Fire Cider” or “Bloody Mary”) are not trademarks, so others are free to use them to describe or identify their goods. There are mechanisms in place for the public to help the US Patent and Trademark Office correct an error like this when it allows a generic term to be registered. It’s unfortunate that the registrants took the more aggressive step of suing Mary, Nicole and Kathi in federal court just because they are standing up for everyone else. We are honored to work with them to free “Fire Cider” so farmers and others can continue to use it as they always have.” said the defendants lawyer, Rita Heimes.
Telkes, Blue and Langelier have more than 40 years of combined experience as herbalists, farmers and educators. In fact, Telkes and Blue originally met volunteering in a post hurricane Katrina health clinic, offering disaster relief support in New Orleans in 2006.
Defendant Nicole Telkes explained her reaction to the civil lawsuit as well as her concerns about the Shire City Herbals trademark. “At first I was very shocked and overwhelmed to be sued for $100,000. It’s definitely not something I ever imagined happening to a health practitioner. But, the trademark petition needs to move forward. My biggest concern is that if Shire City Herbals is allowed to ‘own’ the name of a product that they neither created nor named, it sets a dangerous precedent. Certainly, there is a direct threat to the traditions of herbalists, which is why a grassroots movement has sprung up fight for this product. But, what about other the names of other legacy products and the broader implications? Could a chef petition to trademark a popular food product like ‘chicken noodle soup’ or ‘BBQ chicken pizza’ or an architect trademark the ‘hip roof’ and then try to halt commercial sales of long standing, existing products?
Mary Blue echoed Telkes’ resolve, “We knew when we chose to represent the herbal community in the cancellation proceedings that this would be a possibility. However, the importance of protecting generic traditional terms outweighed the threat of a lawsuit from Shire City Herbals. We have gotten the evidence we need from the Free Fire Cider movement to win this, and we will continue to move forward in the cancelation efforts.”
Katheryn Langelier of Herbal Revolution Farm and Apothecary, also surprised by the suit, changed the name of her herbal tonic Fire Cider no. 9 to Fire Tonic No. 9 in spring of 2014 after being contacted by a representative of Shire City Herbals. “I changed my product name but I have stood behind the petition to revoke the Fire Cider trademark. I’ve been making Fire Cider since the 1990s, but now myself and many other small business owners are no longer able to use the term or sell our version. This trademark has had a direct and negative impact on small herbal businesses who are trying to make a living doing what they love, which is to work with plants.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
DONATE to the Fire Cider 3 Legal Defense Fund
Freeing fire cider is no longer going to be free. There are multiple costs associated with this effort, including legal fees, website hosting, travel and consultant fees. This lawsuit pushes the Fire Cider 3 legal fees up to $30-$50,000. These herbalists have their businesses at risk to protect our herbal traditions, and they working overtime on their defense, collecting evidence to prove that Fire Cider is generic, all while trying to run small herbal companies!! They need our support. Please consider donating to the Fire Cider 3 legal defense fund.
SHARE this story
- Facebook – Almost 5,000 likes!
- Twitter – Almost 500 followers!
- Share it on your blog (and then drop us a line and let us know!)
- Contact your media connections and share the story. The more press coverage we can get, the better!
- Tell your friends to sign the petition – there are almost 10,000 signatures at change.org !
CONTACT Shire City Herbals and tell them your thoughts on the issue:
Use your own words and stick to the facts. Check out the free fire cider FAQ page to be fully informed of Trademark not Traditions stance, then form your own opinion and contact them if you feel that this is an important matter. Traditions not Trademarks is demanding that Shire City Herbals drop the lawsuit on the Fire Cider 3, and revoke the Fire Cider trademark.
SUPPORT the Boycott
Contact your local stores that carry Shire City Herbals Fire Cider. Their label has a pirate on it, which is very fitting. They are pirating herbal traditions!! Find out more about the boycott on our site.
SUPPORT small local herbal companies!
Buy Fire Cider from a local producer. If it has a pirate on the label, it is trademarked!!
SEND IN YOUR STORIES
Do you have a story about how you first learned about Fire Cider and how you began making it? Did your experience help others? Do you sell it? Send it in a written or video form and we may add you to the site. You can reach us using our contact form or directly via email.
ABOUT THE HERBALISTS BEING SUED
Nicole Telkes is a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild. After a decade of botanical studies and community organizing, she founded The Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in Austin Texas. Since 2003, the school has provided on site learning in both in and around Austin focusing on bioregionalism and community herbalism. The Wildflower School is one of the most established, and in depth holistic herbal training programs in Texas and the Deep South, serving over 300 students a year. They are part of the United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network, participating in permaculture and sustainable herb projects with students, and clients. Nicole has been a Practicing Herbalist for 17 years. Nicole is a founding member of Traditions not Trademarks.
Mary Blue founded Farmacy Herbs in 2006, which is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Mary has been a practicing herbalist and farmer for 15 years. She was awarded The Northeast Herbal Association Community Herbalist Award in 2008 for her dedication and commitment to the herbal community (northeastherbal.org), and numerous other local awards for community work. She has been featured in Bust magazine, the Providence Journal, Providence Business News, on local TV shows and in numerous other local publications. Mary offers free herbal/ nutritional and hospice support for cancer patients, and offers free herbs, classes and consultations to the homeless and recovery community in Providence, RI. She represented American herbalists when she spoke at the United Nations Council on Women in 2012 and at the USDA Women in Agriculture conference in 2013. She is a founding member of the following community groups: Herbal Aide, The Northeast Community Herbalist Convergence, Providence Recycle a Bike and Traditions not Trademarks.
Katheryn Langelier founded Herbal Revolution Farm and Apothecary in 2009 and is located in Union, Maine. Her commercial products include a variety of herbal tonics, elixirs and tea blends. Her workspace features gardens and fields where she organically grows medicinal plants and wild gathers from around the beautiful state of Maine. Katheryn has been learning about plant medicine for more than 20 years, gaining much of her early knowledge from farmer’s she apprenticed for. She has worked with kids and adults in wilderness and farm settings, sharing knowledge about wild edibles, medicinals and sustainable gardening. Herbal Revolution has received multiple awards including: “Best Overall Herbal Product and Product Line” from the American Herbalist Guild and three different awards for the Elderberry Plus Maine Mushroom and Roots Elixir.