Houston, we have a trademark.

So, fire cider. It’s causing a  micro-controversy in the world of herbalists right now–as a small business in my area has trademarked the words “fire cider” as their own property. A lot of people are pretty mad. And I say: great! I think one reason it has hurt us herbalists is that we tend to live in a fantasy world where we don’t fuck each other over, much, where “it’s all good” and we share everything. “Herbalists don’t have lawyers!” we might say. But maybe we are wrong. Maybe we are a bit naive, eh?

In some ways herbalism is very big business indeed. An inclusive definition of herbalist is very nice and feels great. But is it right? Have we been cast out of a paradise of hugs and nourishing infusions into the cold cruel world of capitalism and copyright law? And if so, is it being revealed to us, in an uncomfortable way, how our illusions have not set us up to fight back properly?

In a way I am thrilled about this controversy–not just because I enjoy debate and exploration, though I do, but because how do we know what we stand for until it is threatened? How do we know what others are like, for real, underneath, if these controversies don’t come up? How do we know if our inclusive vibes are really the right way if they are never challenged?

To me, this issue is asking a lot of questions of us and that questioning can propel us forward into the reality of 2014, into the reality of what we value and where we will choose to go next. The conversations this is starting are very important and would not be happening without the trademark issue. So for that, I say thank you to Shire City herbals and their legal counsel. 

Did they underestimate the power of a large community of radical  herbalists to organize against them, underestimate the power of the people’s long-standing home remedies and the power of commonly held intellectual property? I believe so. Do I feel for them, sitting in front of their computer feeling the weight of this massive outcry? I do. Will I offer them a nervine and a second chance? Most likely, yes. And do I hope this brings about substantial conversation and change, not just a big ol’ facebook bitchfest? Darn tooting I do.

My friends, this is our moment. The outcome will contribute to the shape of community herbalism of the future, and it is important that we form coherent arguments for and against business models, trademarks, intellectual property and other legal issues which can affect herbalism as a whole. Before we make comments, let’s ask ourselves, deep down, what side are we on here? and why? I have no desire to speak for the entire “herbalist community” but I do, indeed desire to ask questions of this community and it is my wish that, through this debate, we will come to know ourselves and each other better. 

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3 thoughts on “Houston, we have a trademark.

  1. one thing that i’ve been wondering about today is where the other instances are, or will be. i actually hadn’t heard about the Young Living / Thieves Oil thing until all this.

  2. I love your post. You have conveyed just what I am feeling, and thank you for giving this little controversy another strong, sweet voice. I wish that Shire City Herbals would just admit their mistake and start taking steps to change – because I think they would find that most of us hurt and angry people would soften and might start sending a whole lotta love their way. I do not see that this would have been such a mess if they had either trademarked a more specialized name, or had responded to initial inquiries with kindness. This is a wake-up call, a reminder that we have to pay attention. The herbal community needs to continue thinking about and discussing what it means to be in business, and what is going to happen when the really big companies start to pay closer attention. I agree with you that this outcome will help shape the future of community herbalism, and so everyone should consider signing the petition to protect that which should be open to all : https://www.change.org/petitions/united-states-patent-and-trademark-office-revoke-fire-cider-trademark . Love & light & fire cider for all.

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