PROTECTING AND PRESERVING TRADITIONAL NAMES
Name Sanctuary is a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect traditional names from being trademarked by individual companies.
Over the years, many traditional and commonly used names have been trademarked including "Plant Spirit Medicine" (Elliot Cowan), "Four Thieves" (Young Living), "Fire Cider" (Shire City) and many more.
Name Sanctuary was created in 2016 in response to "taste of herbs" being trademarked.
For many years, Melissa saw education as the one facet of herbalism that could not be regulated out of existence (cottage herbal product companies are disappearing in the face of new guidelines from the FDA and clinicians operate on the edge of the law except in states where Health Freedom Acts have been enacted).
When she was told that her "Taste of Herbs" class offered in her rural Vermont community was a violation of this trademark, she suddenly realized that though the Constitution would guard our freedom of speech and the right to preach the herbal gospel, capitalism would urge us to regulate ourselves.
"In my bones I feel that herbalism is the people's medicine.
I want to preserve access to herbal education and to herbal medicine." - Melissa LK
We cannot afford to trademark traditional class names. If you cannot call a class by it's proper name, it is very hard for people to know what you are offering. Imagine if Universities had trademarked all of their class names! There might be three or four operating because the rest would have such a nonsensical list of classes they wouldn't be able to function.
This would create a world where there are gatekeepers of herbal knowledge. The price to enter would be high.
As western herbalism embraces traditional forms of medicine, there are many opportunities to trademark names and concepts that might seem unique (like taste of herbs) but which are central to other traditional systems. In Ayurveda, the tastes are so central that you learn about them before you learn how to make a cup of tea.
As more and more people trademark class and product names, there will be more and more pressure for everyone to do so.
The open, sharing, abundant heart of American herbalism will close up.
Right now, herbalism in the United States is like our beloved medicinal weeds - spreading with wild abandon.
It's easy to fall into a position where you use a traditional name for a class or product and finding unexpected success decide to follow conventional wisdom and trademark the name. However, trademarks were meant to protect unique brands and products to decrease confusion in the marketplace.
This means that "taste of herbs" is not only protected, but any derivation of it offered in education (and especially online education) that could be confused with "taste of herbs". So the "6 tastes of herbs" (Ayurveda), "5 tastes of herbs" (Traditional Chinese Medicine), "10 tastes of herbs" (David Winston), "4 tastes of herbs" (Phyllis Light), "flavor of herbs", etc. cannot be used either. Nor can any derivation where "tastes" or "herbs" is replaced with its translation in another language. With these constraints one would be hard pressed to come up with a name for this topic that would make sense.
Unfortunately the USPTO is notoriously overworked and underpaid and trademarks are often given with little market research. In the world of trademarking, the law is nebulous enough that the validity of trademarks are hashed out in court, with the company with the most money trumping. Names that are common in the herbal community will seem obscure enough to get a pass. Unless we want to let these names go or try to wrestle them back out of the hands of individual companies, we must find a different way.
HOW IT WORKS
In order for a non-profit, like Name Sanctuary, to own and maintain trademarks, it must do two things:
- Own the trademark
- Use the trademark
Name Sanctuary will apply for and obtain trademarks, but it will also be a repository for existing trademarks.
Using the trademark is the part that has previously stumped people. If you don't use a trademark, you lose the trademark. You use trademarks by keeping them in trade.
Name Sanctuary will do this by operating an online store that will support herbalists and companies who are already making products or offering classes with traditional names. So, for example, if "bitters" was our trademark, we would sell "Name Sanctuary Bitters" on our website. But another company who is already making and selling bitters would fulfill the order with their product under our label (which is a common practice in retail).
HOW IT PROTECTS THE NAMES
Name Sanctuary will never enforce its trademarks. This means that everyone can use the name forever.
Name Sanctuary will never sell or transfer its trademarks to an individual company.
No one else will be able to trademark these names for their private exclusive use.
WHAT IS NAME SANCTUARY DOING NOW
Name Sanctuary was founded by Melissa Laurita Kohl and Jerri Kohl. Melissa has many years of non-profit management experience and her husband, Jerri, is a software developer who holds a patent, which he specifically got in order to let it lapse so that his technology would be open and available to everyone. His patent is still regularly referenced. Their infant son provides plenty of motivation to pass on an herbal tradition that we can be proud of.
Currently, we are:
- Forming a Board of Directors
- Seeking a trademark lawyer or funding to hire one to help create templates for trademark transfers and trademark applications
- Seeking funding to create our online store
- Seeking a 501C3 umbrella
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Join our board! If you are interested email Melissa@FungiFloraFolkschool.com
Spread the word!
If you have a trademark that you would like to transfer to Name Sanctuary please let us know.
If you are struggling with your own herbal trademark violation, please let us know.
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