The day we never thought would arrive is here.
Apparently, there is a person in the USA who has registered the use of the word “heathen” on clothing. That basically means that he can force everyone else in the USA to stop using the word on clothes – and that is exactly what is happening over there.
That is naturally ridiculous. General words should not be available for trademark registration on clothes, medicine, food or whatever. That is why we made up our own word for our brand when we started Grimfrost. We wanted a term that we could invest money into, market and grow without someone else taking advantage of our efforts. That is how trademarks should work if it was up to us.
Unfortunately, those are not the rules people play by. We were also contacted by this person. Apparently he thought that we were in the USA, but luckily we are in Sweden, Europe, where he didn’t have jurisdiction yet.
After a few rounds of communication with different parties, it became clear that a similar situation in Europe was impending. Having a predatory person register words with the aim to go after us (and other businesses) would be a nightmare. Not only that – they would be able to brand the words in a way so they would be associated with racists, nazis etc.
That was not an option.
After consulting both US and European lawyers, we were basically told that disputing the registration in the USA, as well as an impeding registration in Europe would cost immense amounts of money and time, only to be doomed to fail. The only way to avoid such a situation was to register words here in Europe for the clothing that we use – before a predatory person got to it.
We have been involved in the Viking community and crafts since the early 90s. Never before had we seen the need to take these steps.
It would be expensive, and it was a race against the clock, but we started investigating what words were already registered. Shockingly enough, most terms found in our ancestry had been registered in association with one thing or another. Shipping Companies, factories, construction companies etc. have all throughout the years been registering their own trademarks using these terms. Luckily these owners have not been interested in enforcing their trademarks (so far!).
We managed eventually to secure a handful of words for clothing that had not been taken yet – words that risked registration by predatory people. We succeeded with registering Einherjar, Ulfhedin, Heathen and Shieldmaiden - all of which we have used on clothes since 2014.
We have not registered the actual “words” or the meaning behind them. That is not possible. The registrations are only in association with clothes or jewelry.
We are aware of that it provokes people that someone owns the right to use a general word on a t-shirt. But in this case, there were only two scenarios. Either we would own the right, or a far worse candidate would, which would be a disaster for us and other companies here in Europe.
Unfortunately, the third option doesn't exist where these words are not available for registration – no matter how much we wish for it. This seems to be the option most people have been demanding after learning of what has happened - but we can not rewrite the laws.
We are also aware of that a lot of business owners who use these terms on clothes are worried, which is understandable. We have been very worried ourselves. However, we did not create the threat – we just made everyone aware of it and pointed at what was going on in the USA. Luckily we managed to act swiftly and quietly enough to prevent a disaster from happening here in Europe as well. The other option would have been that we and all other European companies would be getting cease and desist letters right now.
Our intention has never been and will never be to go after others using the terms on clothes (which is what the registrations are about). There are no documents, messages, no nothing that would point at such a ridiculous direction. All claiming the opposite are either misinformed (confusing us the with the USA company), or see their chance to either defame us or gain symphaties/advertisement.
We have worked with Viking Age crafts since the early 1990s. We have friends across the world within the Viking community, academics and other businesses. Our community is our life and our blood. Why in the world would we humiliate ourselves and utterly destroy our honor and reputation through forbidding someone from printing a word on a t-shirt?
All we have to do according to EU law is to prove that we are actively using it. We do not have to enforce the trademark to keep it.
When it comes to Heathen communities, this entire ordeal does not effect you in any way. It is about rights to use certain words on clothes - nothing else. Thanks to our registration, you will now have more sources to buy clothes from with specific words on them. The alternative would have been only one source in Europe - a shop that brands the words with racism.
We will continue building our own brand, Grimfrost, using these words on clothes just as we have done in the past – and we welcome all you others to do so as well…an option that we have made possible through our registration.
Worth noting is that we will be continuously firm when it comes to dealing with copyright infringement within other fields, such as copying our designs, copying texts from our website and stealing our pictures and photographs.
Keep safe and stay strong!
Arve, Hegg, Sjöberg and the rest of the Grimfrost Crew
(New blog post with an Update: Open letter to businesses and heathen communities)
PS. We have learned that other companies were planning on registering some of these words, and that we beat them to it. There is no reason to be bitter about it – we just happened to be first fair and square. The good news are that you can still use the words on clothes (which is what the registrations are about). Could you say the same, if you had managed to see through the registration before us?
PS2. It has been suggested, among other things, that we grant indivudual rights to companies to use the terms on clothes. We don't, unfortunately, have the resources to start communicating, administrating, drafting agreements and what not with an unknown number of European businesses. Our hope is that you understand why we had to take these measures, and that we place an immense amount of honor into keeping our word regarding what has been said in this blog post.