AUSTIN, Texas, May 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Three small business owners who are part of a national Free Fire Cider grassroots movement to try to cancel the trademark on the term 'fire cider' are being sued for $100,000 in damages by the holder of the trademark, Massachusetts-based company Shire City Herbals.
The new lawsuit is Shire City Herbal's latest response to a petition filed in June of 2014 with the US Trademark Office to cancel the trademark on the term "Fire Cider," a common product made by many small herbs farms. The trademark petition is based on extensive documentation that the term "fire cider" is generic and was in widespread use in commerce for several decades before the trademark was issued.
The civil lawsuit, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-30069-KAR, filed in federal court in Springfield, MA in April against Nicole Telkes of Austin, TX, Mary Blue of Providence, RI and Katheryn Langelier of Union, ME, seeks damages of $100,000 for lost business due to the defendants alleged activities. However, in February of 2015, Amy Huebner, owner of Shire City Herbals publicly stated that the boycott "effectively doubled their business."
Telkes, Blue and Langelier are represented by the law firm Verrill Dana in the trademark petition and the new civil lawsuit.
"Words that are the name of a product itself (like 'Fire Cider' or 'Bloody Mary') are not trademarks, so others are free to use them to describe or identify their goods. There are mechanisms in place for the public to help the US Patent and Trademark Office correct an error like this when it allows a generic term to be registered. It's unfortunate that the registrants took the more aggressive step of suing Mary, Nicole and Kathi in federal court just because they are standing up for everyone else. We are honored to work with them to free 'Fire Cider' so farmers and others can continue to use it as they always have," said the defendants' lawyer, Rita Heimes.
Telkes, Blue and Langelier have over 40 years of combined experience as herbalists, farmers and educators.
Defendant Nicole Telkes of The Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in Austin, Texas shared her reaction to the lawsuit: "At first I was very shocked and overwhelmed to be sued for $100,000. It's definitely not something I ever imagined happening to a health practitioner. But, the trademark petition needs to move forward. My biggest concern is that if Shire City Herbals is allowed to 'own' the name of a product that they neither created nor named, it sets a dangerous precedent. Certainly, there is a direct threat to the traditions of herbalists, which is why a grassroots movement has sprung up fight for this product. But, what about the names of other legacy products and the broader implications? Could a chef petition to trademark a popular food product like 'chicken noodle soup' or 'BBQ chicken pizza' or an architect trademark the 'hip roof' and then try to halt commercial sales of long standing, existing products as has been done in this case?"
Mary Blue of Farmacy Herbs echoed Telkes' resolve: "We knew when we chose to represent the herbal community in the trademark cancellation proceedings this would be a possibility. However, the importance of protecting generic traditional terms outweighed the threat of a lawsuit from Shire City Herbals. We have gotten the evidence we need from the Free Fire Cider movement to win this, and we will continue to move forward in the cancelation efforts."
Katheryn Langelier of Herbal Revolution Farm and Apothecary, changed the name of her herbal tonic Fire Cider no. 9 to Fire Tonic No. 9 in 2014 after being contacted by Shire City Herbals. "I changed my product name but I have stood behind the petition to revoke the Fire Cider trademark. I've been making Fire Cider since the 1990s, but now myself and many other small business owners can't use the term or sell our version. This trademark has had a direct and negative impact on small herbal businesses who are trying to make a living doing what they love, which is to work with plants."
For more information, visit www.freefirecider.com. The Free Fire Cider movement is a project of Traditions not Trademarks.
SOURCE Free Fire Cider