Demeter Shows Us What Is What?
uai at alltel.net
Tue Jul 4 07:11:16 EDT 2000
At the end of December I got a call from Greg Willis of
Agri-Synthesis, Inc. of Napa California, advanced biodynamic consultants to
wine growers and farmers worldwide. Demeter had waved their trademark on
the term BIODYNAMIC at him as a threat. This ignited a discussion
concerning the Demeter Association's trademark of the term BIODYNAMIC. Some
called it the Biodydnamic Trademark Wars and a few feared it signaled a
schism in biodynamics. That discussion quieted down with the proposition
that Demeter should place their trademark of the term BIODYNAMIC in the
public domain protecting it for any and all to use. Would Demeter
precipitate schism by prohibiting anyone from use of the term Biodynamic?
This issue was far from settled.
Nevertheless the advantage of having BIODYNAMIC trademarked and in
the public domain is it would put a roadblock in the way of government
efforts to usurp the term as they mean to with ORGANIC. Since biodynamic
agriculture dates back to the mid 1920s before the organic movement the
government cannot claim biodynamic means another form of organic. This
makes biodynamic certification attractive for growers seeking to
distinguish their quest for excellence from government organic.
Seemingly this proposition fell on deaf ears and locked hearts. I
want to present what has happened so far and hopefully I will ask the right
questions. If other questions suggest themselves, please contribute them to
this discussion. Included are the e-mail addresses of the Demeter
Association and the Biodynamic Gardening and Farming Association (BDA) and
hopefully this time the discussion will draw direct response.
Many want to know that this is about and what is BIODYNAMIC anyway?
I'll review the trademark discussion and append recent documents along with
an article about biodynamics for the August ACRES, AUSTRALIA in separate
posts. If this is too long hang in there and summaries will follow.
Outsiders are invited to join this discussion. Biodynamic is the
next step in certification and we don't want our word usurped as with
organic. Everyone committed to excellence in agriculture has an interest in
this whether they realize it or not.
Briefly, The Demeter Association, a Massachusetts for-profit
corporation operating out of New York, obtained registration of the mark
BIODYNAMIC from the US Patent and Trademark Office. I don't know the exact
date but they received registration of the mark in October, 1999. They also
registered the mark "Demeter Certified Biodynamic" and well they should. No
one objects to that. But to trademark the term BIODYNAMIC is almost as
arrogant as trademarking the term organic, since more than The Demeter
Association is involved.
There are two biodynamic certification agencies in the US, Demeter
and Agri-Synthesis. When Greg Willis of Agri-Synthesis became a biodynamic
consultant to the wine industry in California he found himself in
competition with others favored by the Demeter Association. Moreover he
joined biodynamics with the work of Burbank and Carver, taking an
innovative approach to biodynamics that Demeter rejected. Demeter would not
and seemingly could not certify Greg's Growers, so Greg had to create his
own certification program.
When Demeter's mark on the term BIODYNAMIC was registered Greg saw
this as a threat to his use of the term AGRI-SYNTHESIS CERTIFIED
BIODYNAMIC. Almost no one else agreed, heaping coals on Greg's head as
extreme and alarmist and "Surely you don't think Demeter would ever try to
keep you from using the term biodynamic?" Almost everyone agreed, myself
included, that it would be absurd for Demeter to use their registration of
the mark, BIODYNAMIC, against Greg. But Greg was not so sure.
By applying for registration of the mark BD PREPS along with his
registration of AGRI-SYNTHESIS CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC Greg alarmed Hugh
Courtney of the Josephine Porter Institute (JPI) which sells biodynamic
preparations to the public. Courtney uses the term BD preps in trade and
has, since founding JPI, as have nearly all of us in biodynamics before
that. Courtney felt Greg's trademark on BD PREPS was potentially damaging.
The BDA and Demeter joined JPI in asking for extension of time to oppose
the issuance of Greg's mark on BD PREPS and in their legal correspondence
Demeter noted they held registration of the mark BIODYNAMIC--as though to
say that at any time they might settle Greg's hash and he should back off.
Anne Mendenhall of Demeter tells me this was not really a threat.
Was it not?
Greg thought it was and so did I. My naive assumption that Demeter
would never use their mark against anyone with so much background and
expertise in biodynamics was shattered. Since I too am a biodynamic
innovator joining biodynamics with the work of Heironymus, Abrams, Reich
and others, I would be excommunicated next after Greg and prohibited from
calling my work biodynamic.
I did my best to alert everyone to what was going on. The resulting
flap has been termed the "Biodynamic Trademark Wars."
The trademark discussions came to a rest with me writing an article
on field broadcasting for the BDA Journal and even contributing a piece on
microwave cooking for the Demeter Newsletter. Though some saw me as a
rabblerouser I tried to keep biodynamics intact despite its growing pains.
I tried to broker a deal with Hugh Courtney to join Greg in tradmarking the
term BD PREPS and assigning this to the public domain to protect it for the
forseeable future. Courtney had the advice that this was impossible and
could not be done, contrary to Greg's legal advice. No discussion there.???
Demeter was entreated to assign their mark on BIODYNAMIC to the
public domain, but there was no acknowledgement of this from Demeter and no
Did those reading the Biodynamic Trademark War think the matter was
resolved? With a document filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office
(see below) dated June 14, 2000 the BDA and Demeter launch opposition to
Greg's corporation's application for the registration of their mark
AGRI-SYNTHESIS CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC.
Does this vindicate Greg's fears that Demeter would at some point
use their mark on the term biodynamic against him? No one thought this
Notably JPI did not object to Greg's registration of the mark
AGRI-SYNTHESIS CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC. I haven't had the chance to talk with
Hugh Courtney on this yet, but I'll be sure to ask him once again to
explore joining Greg in registering the term BD PREPS for the public
domain. Greg's patent attorney says it CAN be done and he's tops in his
Greg informs me that litigation to void Demeter's trademark of
BIODYNAMIC could cost upwards of $25,000. It won't be cheap now that the
mark has been issued, nor will the expense Demeter incurs in defense. Has
their attorney maneuvered them into this defense posture to earn more in
fees? It is a little hard to understand why Demeter and the BDA have gone
after Greg's trademark so soon after the last dust up. Why was there no
discussion of settling this by assigning both BIODYNAMIC and BD PREPS to
the public domain? Very peculiar.
Since neither Demeter nor Agri-Synthesis are up to speed about
radionics and field broadcasting I will have to certify biodynamic farms
applying the BD Preps with these modalities. I'm in the position of
spending the next $700 I can set aside to apply for registration of UNION
AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC. For sure I don't want Demeter
opposing me. There is no way conceivable Demeter will certify those farms
I can't see where anyone in the BDA or Demeter would think either
Greg or I would bend over to such a power play. Before this gets into the
US Courts I want to settle it in the court of public opinion, don't I?
Won't it be cheaper and more effective?
The question is, can I use the term biodynamic? I have done almost
as much as anyone to popularize the term biodynamic. If I want to use this
term in a trademark, narrowly defined as UNION AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE
CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC will the BDA and Demeter object? What does it look
like? If I'm caught out on a limb will they try to saw it off?
Clearly the BDA and Demeter intend to object to Greg's registration
of AGRI-SYNTHESIS CERTIFIED BIODYNAMIC. I think the actual objection is not
filed yet, but the request for extension of time to oppose shows intent,
doesn't it? Aren't Greg's worst fears realized about Demeter possessing
such a trademark? Isn't this cause for alarm? What say all you who called
Greg crazy and asinine before? I remember a time when I was one of you.
Once I realized I didn't want Greg to have an exclusive mark on BD PREPS I
saw that DEMETER should never have obtained an exclusive mark on the term
Why has there been NO RESPONSE WHATSOEVER from Demeter on the issue
of placing their trademark of BIODYNAMIC in the public domain for the
benefit of all?
Further, I think it is time to ask about BDA funding of Demeter. As
I understand it, the BDA is a non-profit New York Corporation operating
from San Francisco California. Anne Mendenhall who leads Demeter is on the
BDA Board of Directors. Why is a non-profit corporation funding a
for-profit corporation? Is the chief officer of the beneficiary sitting on
the BDA board and voting to fund her own for-profit organization? Is it my
imagination that this seems incestuous and improper?
As a member of the BDA for nearly 25 years I personally object to
the use of my dues to block Agri-Synthesis from holding a trademark on
Agri-Synthesis Certified Biodynamic--especially as the BDA will also surely
object to my own registration of a trademark on Union Agricultural
Institute Certified Biodynamic. What a mess! I'm not ready to let them use
my dues against Greg, let alone against me. Enough is enough.
Someone suggested we should enjoin the BDA against use of our dues
in such a fashion, so don't drop out of the BDA even if you are disgusted.
It's better to stay aboard and see if maybe, for a change, membership can
influence policy. If you care, contact Greg and sign aboard on the
injunction. His lawyer will handle the action.
In the past I've been asked by several people why not let Demeter
have the term biodynamic. Create another term. Why should we fight about
I didn't ask Demeter for a fight, but they have it by restricting
the use of the term biodynamic. Biodynamic is as much my term as Demeter's.
It should be everybody's term. I've done a lot to popularize it, maybe even
as much as Demeter. I don't want to be excommunicated and I have to go
public with my resentment that Demeter seeks that power. Far from wishing
division, I want freedom within community.
The point is a lot of people have been busy lo these 75 years
defining, building rich meaning and popularizing the term biodynamic. If I
have to strike out working up a new term it will take, what? Another 75
years? I'm not ready to give up such a valuable term with all its rich
history and wide public acceptance, despite a few image problems in some
Pledges of money for legal assistance will be greatly appreciated
as it may take $25,000 or more to break Demeter's hold on this word. I
don't think the final outcome is in any doubt. I'm looking into second
mortgages on the farm here and whatever other creative options will be
needed to raise funds. This is too important. This is the future of
biodynamics, whether it will be open and grow or whether it will be closed
and stagnate. All else pales by comparison.
This is going directly to Demeter and the BDA for their immediate
response, along with going to the courtroom of public opinion. In the past
there has been no substantive response from Demeter, and without public
exposure I believe any protest would be ignored. I have no proof of this,
but I imagine it is so.
In fact, I'm puzzled it has come to this after the discussion only
seven months ago. Was I unclear that the term BIODYNAMIC had to be free for
all to use? Very puzzling. Don't you want to hear the responses of Demeter
and the BDA? Don't you want to e-mail your questions and comments to them
as well? The e-mail address to reach Demeter is: Demeter at baldcom.net. For
the BDA it is: biodynamic at aol.com.
The last time this surfaced I was criticized for not taking it
straight to Demeter and the BDA. This time I have their e-mail addresses
and am doing that. Clearly it is their baby and not JPI's. Whether the BDA
and Demeter will respond in this public forum remains to be seen. Maybe
they will and it will make a lot of sense. Or maybe they won't feel
comfortable about public scrutiny. Who knows? Isn't it time to find out?
It will be interesting to hear feedback on this from all sources,
both within biodynamics worldwide and from those outside looking in. We
might be looking at biodynamics breaking out of its cult closet and
becoming open for everyone, mightn't we?
As I recall from my studies of dynamics it takes a minimum of three
separate entities for any given thing to take off and really grow. It is
like Ford needs Chevy and Nissan at the bare minimum. Coke needs Pepsi and
RC. That's what's wrong with American politics. With only the democrats and
republicans it stagnates and more than half the people don't even go to the
polls, let alone have any hope of influencing anything. When you look at
people giving campaign contributions to both sides it's practically a one
party system anyway. With Demeter Certified Biodynamic, Agri-Synthesis
Certified Biodynamic and Union Agricultural Institute Certified Biodynamic
biodynamics might finally start to take off. Is there anyone out there
opposed to that?
What we'd say in Georgia is, "Y'all gonna sit back and take this
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