February 2, 2014

I’ve been asked by a few people to comment on the fire cider controversy.

In case you haven’t heard about it, a small company has managed to trademark the term “fire cider” – one that’s been used widely by herbalists for decades (if not longer). (My video recipe for it is here; Rosemary Gladstar’s is here; it’s a great recipe to have on hand for wintertime.)

My take on the matter is that the USPTO made a mistake.

It’s very obvious when you read the guidelines for trademarking that this term doesn’t meet them. There is abundant evidence supporting this, including the use of the phrase in several of Rosemary Gladstar’s copyrighted texts, and umpteeen gazillion herbalists who’ve been selling the product both online and in retail stores for decades including my mentor Monica Rude, of Desert Woman Botanicals, who was making and selling fire cider for years before I began working with her in 2001.

There’s been so much anger & vitriol around this situation. I agree that it’s hurtful. It feels like an attack on the field of herbalism – and my first response was a fight/flight “fight back” type of thing. However, if there’s two things I’ve learned from seeing clients for all these years they are:

a) I don’t always – or even usually – have the full back-story and

b) it’s possible for someone to be a good person, smart, ethical and still disagree with me or choose a different actions than I would have.

I don’t know why this small company chose to TM or why they refuse to revoke the TM given the evidence that’s been presented. I’m not sure if I can know or even if it’s my business to know. I don’t think it’s my job to judge them morally or ethically because of their decision. (Even though I did. I still wish I hadn’t. And I am working on this). But I do know that the whole reason we have laws is just for situations like this. So that we have rules & guidelines to fall back on when two parties disagree.

In this case, the USPTO clearly made an error. The guidelines do not permit the trademarking of this term. So I personally support the path that asks the USPTO to revoke the TM, which was given in error.  Period. That’s my take. I don’t want to spend my time and energy railing against the small company because frankly, life is just too short. The law is still the law, whether I like it or not. In this case, it supports what I believe to be true and therefore it’s just a matter of falling back on it. I’m happy to rally & support those who are working on this level, and I’m not going to fight with the small business involved.

So there we have it. If the law actually allowed the trademarking of the term, I might have a different response. As it is, I think it’s important to follow through with whatever steps are needed to make the USPTO aware of the error and to correct it. I’m on board with that. Let’s leave the hate behind, though.

About Camille Freeman, DCN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for practicing herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a former professor with the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I taught physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating for 17 years. 

~ More to Explore ~

Sign up for weekly Practitioner Notes from Camille.

Tips, resources, & encouragement for herbalists & nutritionists, delivered to your inbox most Thursdays.