Letter From Rosemary Gladstar Feb 14, 2014

community fire ciderDear Friends,

The saga of Fire Cider continues….

I wish to thank you all for your ongoing support. It’s been amazing to see how many people have mobilized over this issue and who are willing to support free ownership of Fire Cider. To me this issue is larger than just fire cider. However, in this moment it is most important that the name  “Fire Cider” be returned to its rightful owners, the herbal community, many who have been making, using, and selling Fire Cider longer than Shire City Herbals has been in existence. When I first made Fire Cider, named it such, and taught hundreds of other people how to make it through my books, videos, classes, and conferences, I never imagined for a moment that anyone would think they could claim it as their own, or worse, deny others the right to sell it.

I believe in trademark laws, and I believe in supporting the success of small and large ~ yes, large ~ businesses as well but only if they demonstrate the ethics and integrity that have been part of the herbal community and movement since it was seeded in the early 1970’s. But, this is clearly a case where a company claimed ownership of something it neither created nor named. In fact, we have written documentation, including copyrights that Fire Cider was in existence in the 1980’s.

I read Shire City Herbals’ recent response to why they feel they have the right to keep the name they trademarked. Though I thought their letter was well written and very tactful, I also found it very interesting how they have rewritten the story in their best interest. In ‘their story’ they become the victims and the herbal community becomes the bullies who are trying to destroy ‘the small business that puts food on their table’. Though, yes, sadly there have been accusations and less than positive messages hurled from both sides, Shire City Herbals fails to mention the thousands of thoughtful well written emails/letters supporting their business but requesting they drop the trademark and suggesting viable win/win solutions.

They have also failed to mention that when they sent out the cease sales letters, that it meant that other small companies who counted on the sales of Fire Cider to put ‘food on their tables’ no longer could do so. And further, they failed to mention that there are companies who have been selling Fire Cider at farmers markets, local food stores, online, and through their catalogues far longer than Shire City Herbals has been in business. What happens to these companies when they get their cease sales letters?

It was interesting to read in an earlier email from the Shire folks that Dana had learned to make Fire Cider from his grandmother, who he claims fed it to him as a small child.  Dana has stated on his blog that he learned about the name Fire Cider from his roommate who was studying at the Southwest Institute for Healing Arts. That the name came from the “herbal underground”. If he did learn about it in his studies than they knowingly trademarked something that wasn’t truly their own.

Finally, in ‘their story’ they claim they are the protectors of the name Fire Cider and trademarked it so that other larger companies wouldn’t grab it. This seems to be one of their main arguments for holding onto the name. I appreciate that Shire City Herbals feels protective of ‘their’ name and wants to protect big companies from grabbing the trademark but we propose that there is a wiser, fairer and better option, one that benefits everyone, not just their company. From their lenses, they become the crusaders for herbal medicine bringing the knowledge of fire cider and its benefits to the masses, ignoring the hundreds of people that have been doing this quite successfully before them. No one denies their success, but they are following in the footsteps of a huge movement started long before they sent out the first announcement of their company or trademarked their first product.

Perhaps this whole discussion is tied into the intellectual property rights of the herbal community, much like the property rights of indigenous people? Who has a right to ‘own’ these formulas and claim title to names that have been used by thousands of people? What’s the future of popular products/names like Zoom Balls, Kava Chai, Healing Salve, Kloss’s Liniment, or even Elderberry Syrup? Will they too get claimed and tied up in private ownership? It’s an interesting and challenging process. Let’s do what we can to get Fire Cider back so that other companies can sell it in their local farmers markets, local stores, online and in catalogues. Shire City Herbal folks can of course continue as well, but should do so under a trademark of their own unique name like Shire Fire Cider or whatever they choose.

In addition to addressing the issues with Fire Cider, let’s do something bigger. Let’s do what we can to create a legal safe haven, or an ‘Herbally Owned’ trademark (thanks to Sara Katz for this one), where we can safeguard Fire Cider and other popular ‘public’ formulas so this doesn’t occur again. All of this time and energy is well spent, I feel, if we can intentionally create a way to ensure that all herbalists will have equal access to our herbal traditions now and in the generations to come.

This is a great wake up call! I have appointed a core team that I entrust to lead us through this, we continue to need your support however you are able to give it. Let’s go for it, together!

With you in herbal ways,
Rosemary Gladstar
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> Contact your local stores to inform them of your thoughts on this issue. We are asking people to continue to communicate their concerns in a direct and respectful manner.
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STAY TUNED FOR:
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> Printable materials to provide to your local stores, including recipe cards, fliers and takeaways.

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