Permaculture Institute outlines case for trademarking

Pacific Edge Permaculture + Media pacedge at
Sun Sep 9 21:15:22 EDT 2001

Thanks, Toby, for your email. I found your idea of placing the contested
terms in the public domain a good one.

Did you intent me to place yourr email on the PIL wwebsite in the forum

...Russ Grayson

> From: Toby Hemenway <hemenway at>
> Reply-To: "permaculture" <permaculture at>
> Date: Sun, 09 Sep 2001 10:47:54 -0700
> To: "permaculture" <permaculture at>
> Subject: Re: Permaculture Institute outlines case for trademarking
> Thanks, Russ, for pointing us to the trademark information at the PIL
> website. I can sympathize a little with the Mollison's case for
> trademarking, as there may be a possibility of someone "stealing" the word
> permaculture, and obviously we'd all like to prevent that (although it's
> filtered back to me that the Mollisons feel that it's people like Scott
> Pittman and myself who want to "steal" the word, which is ludicrous).
> But there's a better solution than trademarking. The main argument for
> trademarking is that "permaculture" and related phrases were once assumed to
> be protected from use by non-certificate holders, but since this turned out
> to be untrue, we need to have other forms of protection. Yet I don't think
> there have been abuses significant enough to warrant the trademark move. The
> current use of the the words and phrases doesn't seem irresponsible. To me,
> the cure--control of the term by a tiny group (actually by the Mollisons,
> regardless of the presence of the Institute board)--is far worse than the
> disease. 
> So here's an alternative, though it may be too late for this. My
> understanding is that inventors of devices and processes can have their
> works placed in the public domain if they choose. I suggest that this be
> done for the words permaculture, PDC, and permaculture design. The
> possibility for unauthorized use then will be no worse than it is now, plus
> no one will be able to "steal" the words by trademarking, and the acrimony
> of this debate will evaporate. Bill would still hold the copyright for his
> books and other works, while his ideas, his synthesis of others' ideas, and
> the enhancements made by others could proliferate without restriction. This
> solution--one that preserves the well-functioning, self-policing
> organization that we have now--would be far more in keeping with the ethics
> of permaculture than ownership of the term by what amounts to two people.
> I find the Institute's arguments that they are "protecting" the terms for
> graduates to be disingenuous at best, and simply untrue at worst. Witness
> the egg logo. It is now trademarked, and it is not being "protected" for
> anyone: it it simply the exclusive property of Bill. I don't deny that Bill
> has the right to withdraw it from from widespread use, but that was a
> self-destructive move that deprived the world-wide permaculture movement of
> a useful tool. The logo is a universally recognized symbol, used extremely
> effectively by many teachers and designers to promote permaculture until it
> was trademarked. Now it is simply unavailable, except for use by the
> (nonexistent) Permaculture Academy.
> There is good evidence that the trademarking of "permaculture design course"
> will result in similar unnecessary and damaging restrictions. During my
> copyright difficulties, the Mollisons acknowledged that I am a PDC graduate,
> yet they attempted to prevent me from writing about permaculture's core
> concepts, and refused to grant me permission to do so when I asked (even
> though I was not legally bound to do so). This says to me that they are not
> "protecting" the terms for the use of graduates; they are restricting their
> use to those whom they personally find acceptable. The fact that some
> extremely effective, well-established teachers have been refused
> authorization to teach by the Mollisons confirms this.
> I have the utmost respect for Bill's tremendous contribution to humanity,
> and it causes me a lot of pain to be forced into this stance. But my own
> experience, and what I hear from many others, tells me that the effort to
> trademark terms and register teachers is not being done out of high motives.
> While I respect the right of authors to control their works, any attempt to
> control or "own" the ideas in those works is odious to me. I still oppose
> the trademarking efforts, and will not support teacher registration until
> the group making those selections is made more representative, free from
> personal interest, and less biased.
> Toby 
> _____________________________________________
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