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    Have questions about trademarks, about our trademark, and how that might affect other makers of vinegar tonics? We've got answers!

    Who are you folks?

    Hi there, we are Shire City Herbals. Amy, Dana, and Brian started making Fire Cider® in 2010 in a church kitchen just a block from our apartment. Since we got started we have grown from our original 3 to a company that employs 11 individuals, we have met a boatload of wonderful people, done a lot of shivering at farmer’s markets, and each one of us has personally given out well over 100,000 sample shots in person. That’s a lot of tiny sample cups (don’t worry, our sample cups are compostable)! Our mission is to make the most awesome whole food tonics possible, and get them to as many people as we can.

    What kind of a company are you?

    Like a bottle of Fire Cider®, we are small and mighty! We are committed to building a model of sustainable family-owned business here in our beloved home town of Pittsfield MA. Everything we make is certified organic, our warehouse is solar powered, and our employees are all paid a solid living wage with good benefits. One day we’ll open up a Willy Wonka-style factory and invite you over, but we’re not quite there yet.

    Why do you have a trademark?

    Simple, to protect our company and hard work. A trademark is a name or symbol used to identify the origin of goods or services in the marketplace. A trademark is only about the name, and only about sales in the commercial market. A trademark does not cover recipes, books, blogs, or classes. If you’d like to go straight to the source, here is the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USTPO) page explaining everything. Get some popcorn, trademark law is not simple.

    What did you trademark?

    We trademarked the name Fire Cider in the category of tonics. Trademarks don’t cover recipes, or anything outside of commercial sales, and don’t affect anyone making, taking, teaching, or talking about their own remedies under any name. Commercial use of the name Fire Cider for things outside the category of tonics is also unaffected by our trademark. For example, there is a style of hard cider known as Fire Cider, there are mixed alcoholic drinks called Fire Cider, and these uses all coexist.

    When and how did you get your trademark?

    We were granted our trademark for Fire Cider® in 2012. We hired an Intellectual Property (IP) research company to search for conflicts before filing our application, and when they found none we applied for the trademark. The USPTO ran their own search for conflict, confirmed no other use of a conflicting name in commerce, and our trademark was approved after an 8 month process. We did everything we could to insure that we would not be infringing on anyone else's IP.

    Does a business have to enforce a trademark?

    Absolutely! If a business doesn’t defend a registered trademark then it can become indefensible, and the hard work that goes into getting the trademark in the first place would be for naught. Without our trademark another company could use our brand, and the accumulated goodwill we have spent years building, as a platform to sell their own product.

    Have you had to enforce your trademark?

    As with most businesses, the answer is yes. Enforcing our trademark starts with the equivalent of a no parking sign: a reminder of what the rules are and how to follow them. The majority of the time it has been a case of someone just not knowing about our trademark, and has been easily and amicably resolved.

    What does your trademark mean for other businesses?

    Since a trademark is solely used in the commercial market to identify the source of a product, the only conflict would arise with another company looking to use our brand name to sell a competing product. That’s it. This is to protect the consumer from confusion. There are many, many rules and regulations to follow when selling commercially, including not infringing on anyone else’s intellectual property rights. People who want to refer to a recipe name can keep doing so.

    Can this affect Etsy sellers?

    Etsy is a large and globe-spanning business, by using it and similar online platforms, people are able to gain the reach and visibility of a large corporation. Indeed, that is the whole point of using such online platforms! By selling on such platforms people are entering into the commercial marketplace. Regardless of how small their company may be, all the laws and regulations that govern being a real business apply, including respecting existing trademarks.

    Has your trademark affected the herbal market?

    We believe there is plenty of room for everyone who wants to sell herbal tonics, and we welcome anyone who wants to join us. As far as we can tell the only impact our success has had in the marketplace is to open the door for more vinegar tonics to become more widely available than when we got started.

    Is your trademark a threat to herbal traditions?

    Herbal traditions and the practitioners who have fostered them exist entirely outside the realm of commercial sales and trademarks. Anyone passing on recipes through books and classes, making, taking, teaching and sharing recipes and tonics under any name are all totally unaffected by any trademark. Our trademark doesn’t prevent anything that was already happening before it was granted to us, it only prevents businesses who want to compete with us from using our brand name to sell their product.

    Is your trademark setting some sort of legal precedent?

    No. All of the issues at hand have been argued countless times before, all are very standard, and there is nothing precedent-setting going on. The commercial market for herbal tonics, teas, and remedies is full of many thousands of trademarks already and has been for a long time, yet they all coexist with traditions peacefully. A few handy examples: Pregnancy® Tea, Super Echinacea®, Adrenal Health® capsules, ESSIAC®, Echinacea Plus® and many others.

    What if I want to sell my tonic under the name Fyre Cyder?

    Trademarks exist to prevent confusion in consumers about the source of goods and services. Look-alike and sound-alike names are confusing and thus not allowed. To go straight to the source, the USPTO has a helpful video that explains this and other concepts.

    I have more questions.

    Feel free to contact us at legalquestions@firecider.com