Open letter to EU businesses and heathen communities
We have received a lot of questions regarding the word Heathen that we registered for use on clothing and on jewelry. It is impossible for us to answer everyone individually, so we see no other way than share information prematurely. As a result, the following blog post contains a lot of text, presenting a complex situation. We urge the reader to read the whole blog and analyze what is written.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Many of you (including us) have received cease and desist letters when trading with goods with the word heathen. These letters originate from a USA Company who has registered the trademark heathen for clothing, and apprently also in a number of other categories, such as cups, mugs etc. They have now turned they eye towards Europe after shutting down a number USA shops. Most of you know the Company, but we would prefer that we not bring the name up in public. The last thing we want to give them is publicity and more business.
As a preventative measure, against this US company doing the same here, Grimfrost secured the same trademark in the EU. This means that when it comes to the EU, the USA Company have no jurisdiction at all, so you can disregard all infringement notices dealing with clothes and jewelry. Would the infringement notices come from a platform also trading with the USA, then they are only valid would they detail goods being sold in the USA.
We would like to point out that the USA Company cannot oppose the use of the word heathen in the USA unless used in association with a category of goods they have trademarked. So far we are aware of clothing, cups etc.
Worth noting is that Trademarking a word is not the same as copyright or a patent - a lot of people seem to mix those up, as well as what they stand for respectivelly. Words from our ancestry have been trademarked thousands of times in asssociation with different products. They can, however, not get a copyright or a patent on them.
HEATHENS vs USA COMPANY
We are aware of the resistance in the USA within heathen communities that now has grown to a situation where they want to take the USA Company to court. We considered briefly sitting out a possible court situation where the USA Company would have to defend its claim, but we realized quickly that it wouldn’t be an option. If it even got to court, it could take years, and meanwhile they would have picked up the word in the EU as well (where a new court battle would have been required). We were looking at years and years where no one would be able to use the word heathen on clothing – and the outcome of the possible trials was far from certain. There are bands, businesses, heathen communities, etc. who all rely on using this word on clothing.
In our book, it is not about whether you are Heathen, Christian, Muslim, or merely spiritual. It is about the fact the word Heathen should carry the same weight as all the other words associated with faith. If you want to support the movement in the USA, go to this petition: ipetitions
HEATHEN TRADEMARK - OUR PLAN
We applied for the trademark in September 2019, basically only days after we received an infringement notice from the USA Company. It had to be done in the quiet, since any hesitation or public consultation could have resulted in us not receiving the registrations. We needed a clear path.
We received the trademark on January 17, after which we have been investigating different ways of making it available to everyone. It is after all a general English word that does not belong to any culture, person or Company. The solution needs to be time and cost effective, since merely registering a trademark is costly business.
It has so far been a complicated matter that has required frequent communication with our legal advisors. It has also claimed much more time and resources than we ever imagined.
Our initial plan was to make the trademark part of the public domain in the EU. However, there were several questions that needed to be sorted out:
- Was it even possible to donate a trademark on clothing and jewelry to the public domain?
- If it was possible, how would it be accomplished? What were the costs?
- Would a public domain word carry less weight than a trademarked word (in the USA) when it came to the legal situations many EU Companies were finding themselves in now on Amazon, Etsy and other online global platforms? EU businesses need the proper paperwork to counter the cease and desist letters that allows them to carry on their business.
- Could we accept that the USA Company who are causing so much trouble also gained access to the word in the EU through it being a part of the public domain?
Another question is whether we should we pursue the trademark heathen on jewelry in the USA as well? We have a priority right to it, and it would effectively ensure that everyone there could call their jewelry “heathen jewelry”, rather than a jerk picking it up and forbidding the term “heathen” in association with jewelry. Do we want a situation where a Thor’s Hammer can not be called a piece of heathen jewelry?
That raised new questions that we have not even had time to address yet:
- Is it possible to donate a jewelry trademark to the public domain in the USA?
- If so, how does that work in the USA in comparison to the EU?
- What will the US legal advice costs and other associated costs be? We would already have to pay an additional 2000 USD for the registration.
WHERE WE ARE NOW
As you can see, it is a complex situation we have at hand – a situation that requires research, cost management, proper legal advice and time (we have a business to operate as well!). We had therefore planned to go public with everything once we had the facts at hand. The last thing we wanted to do was throw out mere ideas, diffuse plans and different scenarios. It would just lead to speculations, rumors and eventually grief if we couldn’t see through the option everyone wished for.
Unfortunately, due to a storefront in England deciding to start a series of inflammatory posts regarding our registrations (without knowing even a fraction of what was going on), we were forced to jump the gun and go public with the facts we had at hand – namely that we had registered the trademarks and why.
It is very unfortunate that it had to happen the way it did. Our integrity, honesty and good manners have always been of the greatest importance to us, as has our ancestry that we have worked with for 30 years. All those things were now questioned publicly and quite unprofessionally by the UK storefront, and as a result by a heathen community that we care dearly for.
To be honest, it did hurt that we were treated as if we were no better than the USA Company causing problems, when we in fact were paying considerable amounts of money for intellectual property that we planned to give away free to all, which includes competing businesses and heathen communities - the very groups giving us a hard time.
This blog post is also posted prematurely, but we have no choice. We are receving questions continuously, and we can see that our reputation is still at stake with certain people who need to hear the truth.
We do not have final answers to the problems listed above yet. We count on hearing from our legal advisors later this week, which will hopefully cast more light on the situation and how to proceed.
Update February 10, 2020:
In regards to our initial plan; It is apparently not possible to donate a trademark to the public domain since that is where it originates from (It is a different story with a copyright - which can be donated to the public domain). This leads to our Plan B which is to launch a non-profit foundation that will safekeep the trademarks. That is a completely different legal challenge. We will start investigating the costs associated with it, as well as how the foundation can keep the trademarks without losing them due to not actively using them.
Update February 11, 2021:
Another year has passed, and what a year it has been. The Pandemic has ravaged across the world, and continues to do so in full force when this is being written. Let us all hope that we can get rid of it during 2021.
As mentioned above, we considered pursuing a registration for the Heathen trademark in association with jewelry in the USA in order to protect the term, letting everyone use it as they wished. We did follow through with the application, but it was rejected based on existing trademarks (that weren't on Jewelry, which was a bit odd). It ended up costing us thousands of US dollars for nothing. This means that all of you, our American brothers and sisters, need to fend for yourselves.
We will not invest more time or money into protecting the word "Heathen".
Even though we appreciate them, we do not have the time to administrate offers of help, links etc. regarding the problems we are trying to solve. We have capable legal advisors who are doing their job.
For more info and background to this blog post, please read: The day we never thought would arrive is here
When it comes to the other trademarks that we got registered on January 17 for clothing and jewelry, Shieldmaiden, Einherjar and Ulfhedin, we have a plan in works as well. They are culturally significant words for us, being a part of our pre-Christian Scandinavian heritage. We are therefore consulting not only legal advisors, but also acknowledged authorities in Scandinavia regarding how they should be made available to all in the best manner. That is another quite complex situation that we will give word on when we have all the facts at hand. Until then, feel free to use them on clothing and jewelry with our blessing.