The infamous Polar Vortex has been rippling over the nation for weeks now and the knee high ice on the mountain is hard as cement. I can no longer follow the comings and goings of the wild beasties; coy-dogs, fisher cats, moose, deer and foxes, because their trails leave no mark. The only exceptions are the wild turkey tracks that festoon the hardened snow in the driveway. A bleak winter for sure.
At the same time the wider world is heating up as Russia flexes its muscles and expands into Ukraine. I am old enough to remember when Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Russians. I remember the outrage I felt because the US did nothing – as a European born child of the post WWII era the sight of tanks rolling into cities was just too vivid to ignore, even from the safe distance of the USA. I am a bit older now and I understand the dangers of flinging a country gleefully into the fray (think of the wasted lives from the catastrophic wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan). I suspect there is not much Americans and the West can do, once the Russian Bear starts dancing. It feels like the Cold War is heating up once again.
Meanwhile, there is a hot little drama unfolding in the Herbal world as well. Our tiny little microcosm of society has even made it into National Public Radio in recent weeks. The looming controversy has to do with a company from Vermont (of all places) that has decided to patent a folk remedy that has been around for decades (and longer) called Fire Cider. At this time they are issuing “cease and desist” legal orders to any small purveyor of the product that happens to carry it on their website.
This kind of strong arm theft and protectionism of a folk remedy sets a very dangerous precedent. Old hippies will remember the popular “Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap”. Thankfully Dr. Bronner did not try to copyright the term “Castille Soap” which is essentially what this miserable little company “Shire City Herbals” has done. A boycott is in progress. Read more here;
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO MAKE THIS A BETTER WORLD – the Fire Cider controversy heats up!
TAKE ACTION STEPS!
*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. SAMPLE BOYCOTT LETTER AT BOTTOM OF THIS EMAIL: Please send store responses here.
* Submit any information you might have through the centralized submission form.
* Continue to share the petition.
*Volunteer your time and expertise. We need organizers to help start bio-regional groups! SUBMIT YOUR INFORMATION HERE.
* Flood the market with Fire Cider!! Sell your own in stores, and at Farmers Markets. Check out the “How to make a Fire Cider” label on our Blog.
* Write a blog post about Fire Cider! Post pictures. Let’s get the Google hits on our side!
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 and product “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 and desist 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 and desist orders?
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. He asserts that he had no other knowledge of fire cider outside of this experience within his family. However, there are many different versions circulating online of how Dana learned to make Fire Cider, including the possibility that he learned about it during his time at the Southwest Institute for Healing Arts. 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,
UNIFYING POINTS OF THE ANTI-TRADEMARK HERBAL MOVEMENT
These can be used in articles, talking to the public, radio shows….
* The term “Fire Cider” was coined by Rosemary Gladstar. She has published copyrighted books coining the term “fire cider” from the 90’s, and has freely shared this term since the 1970’s. This term has become a generic herbal term that many herbal companies sell their own version of. This anti-trademark fire cider movement sprang up after a business trademarked term, “Fire Cider”, bringing to light a bigger issue within the herbal community, trade-marking common herbal terms. The herbal community is now fighting to keep them in public use.
*This is not about Shire City Herbals as individuals or their business, this is about defending a generic herbal term and keeping it in public use. Shire City Herbals responses to the issue are not accepted by this community, and we are reacting with an organized response. This grassroots movement is working to protect other generic herbal terms as well as “Fire Cider”.
*We have a petition going to revoke this, with over 3000 signatures in the first 48 hours. This demonstrates that this term is generic and should not be trademarked.
* There is an active boycott, with herbalists/ supporters contacting retailers of Shire City Herbals Fire Cider, and returning their product to the stores. This boycott will end when the term “Fire Cider” is back in public use.
* This type action opens the door to trademarking of traditional medicines for profit. The biggest reason that this is dangerous is because herbs and herbalism have always been widely available to everyone. Trademarking traditional terms will change the herbal market into something that looks more like what the pharmaceutical industry looks like right now, with corporations owning words/terms that were previously accessible to the public.
*This anti-trademark movement is working towards keeping traditional herbal terms in the hands of small businesses, teachers and the general public. Through legal measures, a boycott, and a petition, we are working to protect herbalists from being penalized for using terms that have always been in public use.
SAMPLE BOYCOTT LETTER
I am writing to raise your attention to a public controversy regarding one of the products you carry, Shire City Herbal’s Fire Cider.
“Fire Cider” is an herbal product that has been made and sold by numerous small companies since the early 1980’s. The name was coined by Rosemary Gladstar over 35 years ago, she has shared the name and the basic recipe freely since then to thousands of people; it’s as common as “Elderberry Syrup” in the herb world. The name and recipe are published in Rosemary’s books from the 90‘s and pamphlets from the 1980’s. But even more importantly, there are many herbal companies that use this term for a similar product – every producer has a slightly different recipe, but almost everyone markets it as “Fire Cider”.
The manufacturers of this particular Fire Cider, Shire City Herbals, hired a lawyer and trademarked the name, and have started taking legal action against other herbal companies that sell Fire Cider. People who have been selling this product for over 30 years have been told that they can no longer call what they sell “Fire Cider”, because Shire City Herbals has the exclusive rights to use that name.
Why should you care about this?
This type of action will open the door to trademarking of traditional medicines for profit. The biggest reason that this is unethical is because herbs and herbal terms have always been widely available to everyone. The precedent of trademarking traditional herbal terms could change the many vibrant, varied herbal businesses into something that looks more like what the pharmaceutical industry looks like right now.
This company has been approached by Rosemary Gladstar and thousands of supporters asking them to remove the trademark, and they will not do this. We do not object to trademarking an original product and original name, but Shire City Herbals claimed and then trademarked a product and name that was made and sold by many small herbal business’s long before they ever sent out their first bottle of Fire Cider. We are not objecting to their using the name, we are asking them to trademark it under their own original name, such as Shire City Fire Cider, so that other companys that have been making and selling Fire Cider can continue to do so.
We would like you to consider removing Fire Cider made by Shire City Herbals from your shelves until they revoke the trademark. Please consider contacting the company and encourage them to remove the trademark. If keeping herbal products and their commonly used names free and in public use is important to you, then this is a great way to show it!
There is an active petition asking the United States Patent and Trademark Office to remove of trademark. At this time we have over 7000 signatures.
The public also showed their support for this issue on World Fire Cider Making Day, February 2, 2014 with thousands of people making their own versions of Fire Cider.
Thank you for your time,
In other health related news, General Mills recently announced that Cheerios will now be made *without any genetically modified ingredients*. But genetically modified organisms are still lurking inside other General Mills cereals like Chex, Honey Nut Cheerios, Golden Grahams, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Lucky Charms.
I just took action to demand that General Mills remove GMOs from all of its breakfast cereals. Please do so too.
Some personal goings on;
A RECENT INTERVIEW
UPCOMING SPEAKING EVENTS AND APPEARANCES
- June 4-9, 2014
I will be doing workshops at the 2014 annual Dowsers Convention
Friday, Listening to Trees
Monday, Scottish Fairy Lore
in Lyndonville, VT
- June 21 and 22, 2014
Mutton and Mead Medieval Festival Renaissance Faire, Montague, MA
10:00am to 6:00pm
I will be selling books at YE CELTIC BOOKS AND HERBALS
- September 5-7, 2014
Tree Medicine Tree magic
A weekend intensive in Pennsylvania on making tree medicines and learning Irish tree lore
- Herbal Healing Intensive
October 18, 2014 – April, 2015
Two Saturdays a month, 1-5 PM near Amherst, MA
A six month intensive. Covers Western herbal Materia Medica, formula making, case taking, Chinese Five Element Theory, Homeopathic First Aid, Flower Essence Counseling, plant identification, ethno botany, and hands on herbal techniques such as poultices, tinctures, salves etc. An herb walk outdoors, slide shows of plants and hands on preparations are included. Over 400 pages of handouts are included with the course. A certificate of completion is offered at the end.
And as usual, below you will find the rest of the past Moonth’s news. Enjoy!
- A prehistoric forest emerges from the sea in Wales
- Did Iron Age weapons in burials mean warriorship or were they symbolic?
- Grave of Gaulish warriors and women found near Paris
- Genome proves Clovis point makers in America were of Asian origin
- Stuckley’s early drawings of Stonehenge
- A 6000 year old monolith topples in Perthshire
- Burren remains, 1500 years old
- The story of Seahenge
- Ancient Britons preferred milk over fish and chips
- Pictish symbols deciphered
- Viking Rune Stones deciphered
- A 4000 year old female burial uncovered in Dartmoor
- Earliest human footprints in Europe found – from 800,000 years ago
- Did a mythical island off the West coast of Ireland once exist?
- Scottish folklore and song (video)
- Imbolc in Appalachia
- Traditional Welsh Recipes
- American Groundnut, our northern wild potato
- Mulungu – great herb for depression, anxiety, stress
- A Yahoo list for plant foragers
- Passenger Pigeons, Mammoths, to be resurrected via DNA
- Ten reasons humans need nature
- Lions – on the brink of extinction – a man who loves them (video)
- Second giraffe gets a reprieve – for now – at Denmark zoo
- The migration of the monarch butterflies may soon be history
- Bee deaths and how to stop them
- A giant tree felled by wind in Ireland
- How wolves change rivers (video)
- Tree roots are key to stabilizing Earth’s climate
- A massive hexagon on Saturn
- Evidence for water on Mars
- The IRS Witch hunt has cost 14 million , so far
- Proof that lax gun laws = more murders (well, duh)
- Making sense of the Dunn verdict
- Lakota Nation gears up to protest the Keystone Pipeline
- The Used-To-Haves, the new Poor in America
Keep the faith everyone, Spring is coming!