Recently, the management of the popular Pagan blogging platform, Patheos Pagan, bowed to corporate pressure again.
… and in other non-news, Donald Trump is still President of the United States.
Patheos Pagan’s manager, Jason Mankey, was recently notified of a complaint by a cereal manufacturer about the name of one of the blogs on the Patheos Pagan channel, “Nature’s Path”. Nature’s Path is the official blog for the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS).
The cereal company, Nature’s Path Foods, owns the trademark for “Nature’s Path”. The company wanted Patheos Pagan and CUUPS to stop using the name for their blog.
Now, a little primer on trademark law: In the U.S., you can trademark just about anything, even a common word like “Apple” or “Windows”. But just because you own the trademark, doesn’t mean you have a monopoly on it’s use. For example, McDonald’s has trademarked the phrase “I’m loving it”, but only in connection with restaurant services. A company in another industry could use the same phrase without infringing on McDonald’s trademark.
So the fact that Nature’s Path Foods owns the trademark on the phrase “Nature’s Path” should have no bearing on whether a Pagan blog uses the name. (Nature’s Path Foods does have a blog, but of course, it’s about food, not about Pagan religion.) In spite of that, both the management of Patheos Pagan (i.e., Jason Mankey) and the management of the CUUPS blog (David Pollard) chose to bow to the mildest form of corporate pressure, a cease and desist letter.
I would have hoped Pagan and Unitarian leaders would have more backbone, but it’s really not surprising, considering that Mankey is now a willing slave to his new corporate masters at Beliefnet and Pollard is one of Mankey’s chief apologists. The Wild Hunt interviewed Mankey:
“They have been very polite,” said Mankey in an interview. He said that they received the letter asking them to change the blog’s name in January, and that the company gave them “a lot of time to make changes.”
As usual, Mankey seems more concerned about whether people are nice to him than whether other people get trampled by big corporations.
The weakness of Jason Mankey’s resolve has important consequences. What’s going to happen next time some unrelated company sends him a “polite” letter? For example, the name “Agora” has been trademarked 50 times by different companies, including a financial advisor, a company that makes sports equipment, and a pesticide company. Agora, which refers to the central public space in ancient Greek city-states, is also a name of another blog at Patheos. What will happen if Mankey gets a letter from a pesticide manufacturer politely asking him to change the name of the Agora blog? Undoubtedly, he will cave again.
Next thing you know, Patheos Pagan will stop using the name of the Greek goddess Nike for fear of offending the shoe company Nike.
The new name of the CUUPS blog is the cacophonic “Nature’s Sacred Path”.