David Holmgren's views Permaculture trademark alert
pci at permaculture-inst.org
Mon Jul 16 14:02:07 EDT 2001
I would like to build on David Holmgren's observations here with some
At 12:05 PM 7/12/01 +1000, you wrote:
>As indicated in message from Michael Dehan, I was a late opponent of a
>previous, now withdrawn attempt to trademark Permaculture in Australia by
>persons unconnected with the movement. I am not surprised by this current
>claim by Bill and Lisa Mollison although it is obviously most unfortunate.
When Bill and Lisa first contacted me about giving them my Trademark
application they also mentioned that someone else had applied in Australia
and that they had convinced him to withdraw his application. I was
unwilling to turn over the trademark, should it be granted, to an
individual, nor could I under law since the trademark application was made
by the Permaculture Institute and non-profits cannot transfer assets to any
entity except another non-profit. I ultimately agree to transfer ownership
of the trademark to the Permaculture Institute in Australia, if it were
My thoughts when I applied for the trademark were: Alarm that the word
permaculture was open for anyone to use and therefore my livelihood as a
designer and teacher was imperiled; Anger that Bill had told students
around the world that the word was protected and for their exclusive use,
once certified, and that in fact the protection was non-existent;
Responsibility for the many students that I have taught and to which I had
parroted Bill's statement that the word was exclusive to all graduates of
the certification course.
I made application through the Permaculture Institute and on advice of an
attorney did not apply, initially, in the name of the graduates of the pc
certification course because he said it could be amended later and
would confuse the issue if I applied in the name of graduates.
I received several threatening letters from Bill and Lisa and their
attorney demanding that I turn over the trademark, (which I have never
received), immediately. I wrote Bill that I was saddened by the
constrictive nature of his new view of permaculture and that it flew in the
face of his previous teachings. I also told him that by trying to secure a
trademark I was doing the job that he had claimed to have done in the early
Previous to this I had been accused of stealing his publishing company
"Tagari Publications" from which I spent innumerable hours having to prove
my innocence. Once I did convince them that I was not a thief it was on to
the next phase, defending myself of the charge of trying to steal
permaculture. If we all own permaculture, as graduates, how can we steal it
After having taught with Bill for over five years and considered myself his
friend for close to twenty years it is very confusing and hurtful to find
myself the enemy. I have devoted the latter part of my life to promoting
and supporting permaculture and Bill's work, and still think that his
brilliance as a teacher and promulgator of permaculture is unmatched.
>Various contributors this these list serves have made useful practical and
>philosphical points and Toby Hemmingway's and Scott Pitman's stories are
There are many more stories that have not been made public that are equally
disturbing. Perhaps the lesson in all of this is that boot camp is over
and it is time for the "troops" to become responsible leaders within the
permaculture movement. In many ways I see the conversations generated by
this unfortunate turn of events as a sign of the maturing of permaculture.
>I am head down on completing the manuscript of my own book which could
>infringe Bill's sense of copyright/trademark even more than Toby's. I have
>no intention of engaging in any such exchanges and will publish my work
I think that all of us have to continue our work as in the past and not be
intimidated or deflected by this aberration of permaculture.
>I agree that the work goes on whether it is called permaculture or not and
>as long ago as 1980 considered not associating myself with the promotion
>of permaculture. Over time the good work emerging from the movement
>convinced me the term permaculture was more useful than not and have
>become more solid in that conviction.
I share David's view on this. Permaculture has a very good name in many of
the countries I visit and is growing in popularity in the United States. I
disagree that we should abandon the word and go our separate
ways. Permaculture is also a movement of concerned and committed people
and that may be its most powerful and effective tool. There is name
recognition which didn't exist a few years back and it is invaluable in
convening courses and in some cases working with city officials, and
government agencies. I have worked hard to promote permaculture as have
many of my colleagues and for the most part the results have been an
increase in awareness of the general population and a commitment to healing
>My main concern it that others who have devoted so much to promoting and
>developing permaculture are being treated in this way.
>Although I think Intellectual Property Australia should reject this
>application as invalid by their own assessment, a formal opposition would
>greatly increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome and provide an
>insurance that any future claims are rejected.
>Ideally the opposition should come from the widest representative body in
>Australia such as Permaculture International Limited.
As I said in an earlier dispatch I have until August 27 to appeal the
decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to withhold the
trademark on permaculture. Is that trademark useful to the graduates?;
should we all join in this appeal, or should it be dropped and we take our
chances that the unprotected word will not be usurped by bottom feeders?
It hasn't been the case so far, except with rare exceptions, so this all
may be moot, but in the past people have challenged misuse of the word with
the righteous, (now specious), claim that permaculture was protected by
copyright to the graduates of the Permaculture Certification
course. There is, of course, no guarantee that the appeal would prevail
since permaculture is now considered common domain, according to the
reviewer of my application.
>I would like to acknowledge the work of permaculture colleage Michael
>Dahan in mounting my previous objection which was done at very short
>notice. I am prepared to submit an objection to this current application
It is good to hear your thoughts and concerns on this David, thank you.
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