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Loren Cordain and The Paleo Diet Trademark

Posted by | January 03, 2013 | Paleo | 49 Comments

Loren Cordain Paleo Diet Trademark

Did you know that Loren Cordain has trademarked the term “The Paleo Diet”?

When I first heard that, I thought it was a big deal.

It’s not.

To give some perspective, Dr. Cordain contacted me to to remove the words “Paleo Diet” from one of my Kindle books because he owns the trademark. I took it the wrong way, but here is what I now understand to be the facts.

Dr. Cordain wants to protect the Paleo community from people trying to make a quick buck off of the trend. When there’s a crowd, copycats and snake oil salesmen aren’t far behind.

Get this: some knuckleheads are selling Paleo cookbooks with recipes that ARE NOT Paleo. Others have flat-out PLAGIARIZED my buddy George’s recipes to sell as their own. We can’t have that. We don’t want them turning a thriving community and promising dietary paradigm into a cesspool of scammers.

What people really rally behind is what the word “Paleo” has come to stand for: a community of incredibly passionate individuals who want to save the world from the current obesity and health crisis and believe our best way forward is to look toward our ancestral roots.

When I originally read “The Paleo Diet,” I was dismayed by the reduction/elimination of saturated-fat, salt, caffeine, and alcohol.

But after I started my blog and found great folks like Mark Sisson, Jimmy Moore, and Robb Wolf, I realized that the meaning behind the word “Paleo” has become more nuanced, more progressive, and more inclusive. And, to set the record straight, Loren Cordain does not support the use of canola oil and has softened his stance on saturated fat since he wrote his original book, The Paleo Diet, a decade ago.

Here’s a bit more about one of the trademarks, in case you’re curious:

The Paleo Diet Trademark

To clear up the confusion, you can use “Paleo” without infringing on the trademark. Just keep the words “The Paleo Diet” out of your book titles. :)

I welcome your comments. What do you think about The Paleo Diet being trademarked? How can we make sure that the products that are sold as Paleo are worth its title?

 

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49 Comments

  • Brian says:

    A couple years ago Paleo meant a lot more. Now more people are pulling away from the word. Mark Sission has been selling supplements for years, Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser just launched their Paleologix, and Dave Asprey has his Bulletproof line of supplements. So you might want to launch your own Wild Line of product.

  • Don’t really know what to say, except that I never really liked the concept of Paleo anyway. I like thinking in terms of evolution, physiology, and how the industrialization of food has changed the game. If anything, I am in agreement with you, that you don’t need to go back 10,000 years to find out how to eat healthy. You need to look back only at the rise of food ‘experts’ and ‘scientific’ and ‘technological’ solutions to our ‘food problem’ I mean, I take and sell supplements too, but if you want to grow your business, sending nasty letters to guys who are successful and have a following like you, seems like a not good business thing to do…

  • Sara Grambusch says:

    If he did this in 2007 I wonder why he’s telling people now.

  • NM says:

    Brian: capitalism and the free market is about letting the best ideas win in the market. Getting the government to *exempt* your idea from competition is the *opposite* of the free market!

  • Karen P. says:

    I could be wrong about this…but my understanding of trademark is that no one can use “Paleo Diet” in reference to supplements, but can use it if it refers to other categories, such as software or such.
    Besides, he’s too late. He’d have a hard time going after everyone, including mainstream media, for using the term. It’s common vernacular, and it seems to me it could be argued in a court of law on that basis.
    Aside from all that, it’s a d*ck move and will not win him any friends in said “Paleo Diet” movement. You’re right, it’s a community of tightly-knit enthusiasts and they don’t appreciate maneuvers such as these. I get that a lot of folks are clamoring for the few dollars available in this niche, but it’s not helpful to step on toes while you do it.

  • Abel James says:

    I like the idea of a template, as well. After all, my approach isn’t really Paleo, but that’s where it starts.

  • Abel James says:

    Ha, Paleo Baby Jesus Robb Wolf!

  • leigh says:

    You’re a rockstar Abel! I wouldn’t have even known his name other then you referencing him in your book. It sucks but move on you’ve got great things happening.

  • Brian Carr says:

    So, does this mean the word “Paleo” cannot be used, too, or just the explicit use of the term Paleo Diet?

    • Abel James says:

      Paleo should be fine; his trademark seems to be “The Paleo Diet.”

      • JT says:

        Those darn initial caps? We can say we are following “a paleo diet” but not “the Paleo Diet”? Can’t for the life of me work out how anybody can trademark 2 words – though Ralph Lauren tried it with the word “Polo”.

  • Jeremy says:

    It’s an unfortunate tactic, but I’ll say this.

    He has almost zero hope of enforcing that trademark. Maybe if he had tried enforcing it back in 2002 before the diet got so popular, then he might have succeeded. (He actually holds 3 trademarks on the word – the others are for books and educational material).

    Paleo Diet has become far too common for him to enforce. People have very misguided conceptions of what it means just to trademark something. Just because a trademark gets approved doesn’t mean that it’s enforceable at all.

    This is the reason that Google is so worried about the term “Google” becoming so commonplace. The have a trademark, of course, but they’re terrified that it’s become so common that it might not hold up in court.

    • Abel James says:

      Very interesting, Jeremy. Thanks for the perspective!

    • Robb Wolf says:

      I agree. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. One must aggressively protect a trademark lest it becomes a naked or abandoned TM. that means constant vigilance, C&D letters and not a single exception to the rule, or when you take the “offender” to court you as the prosecution will loose.

      I’ve not talked to Loren in some time, this is pretty troubling. Sorry you have to deal with this Abel.

      • Abel James says:

        Hey Robb, thanks for stopping by.

        You, Mark Sisson, Jimmy, and many others in the Paleo community have absolutely been positive role models… welcoming, cool, and helpful to others who want to spread the word about ancestral health. That’s one of the reasons I push the Paleo message as much as I do – the people rock!

        Thanks again for all that you do, good sir.

  • Stella says:

    No biggie. I eat Paleo. I do not follow a Paleo diet.

  • Ro says:

    For what it’s worth I was introduced and initially convinced to research more about Paleo after finding your podcast Abel. As I look now I have purchased “The Paleo Diet Cookbook,” and, “The Paleo Diet for Athletes,” 2 books by Dr. Cordain. It’s unfortunate that his introduction had to be so abrasive. It’ll be interesting to hear if he goes after Robb Wolff, Mark Sisson, and the list of other respected people who use the expression regularly.

  • james says:

    Last time i checked you couldn’t patent and ideal or a belief…shows how far some will go to fill their pocket. Whether its paleo, healthy eating nutrition for life or its source it is an ideal.

    Paleo is often a poisoned chalice, referenced as a cult or ignoring evolution but in its essence it is purely nutrition in its natural form before commercial entities and governments started to play and tinker to push produce entitie and line pockets.

  • This is pretty whack news, I must say. Nothing wrong with company branding or selling [good] supplements but this comes AFTER an entire community has mushroomed around this topic.

    Plus, how is it even practically feasible to cut out all the millions of instances where “Paleo Diet” has been used all over the web, in eBooks, in book Books, etc…?

    I ran into the same issue when I was writing about the “Super Slow” exercise protocol in my eBook. Turns out it’s a Trademarked term, so I had to change it to “extra slow”. LOL.

    But in your case Abel, I feel it’s unjust because how can you trademark what has essentially become common parlance? Surely there’s some kind of ex post facto law against this kind of crap?

    • Abel James says:

      Victor, that’s one of the reasons I’ve used Paleo in so many instances. In my books, podcasts, videos, etc. – I assumed it was just a term that describes something.

      I can’t tell you how many readers and fans I’ve introduced to Loren’s work, especially the Paleo Diet for Athletes.

  • Meghann says:

    See now to my way of thinking you’re just missing a golden marketing opportunity. Step One: Apologize in a HUGE way, publicly, and change the words to meet legal code in all your books published henceforth. Due Diligence: Done. Then go trademark something else that fits your verbal tastes, and use that to make a huge & bigger splash about making it FREE for anybody to use so that nobody else gets caught in the same spider’s web. There is no such thing as bad publicity. There’s just bad ways to use it!!! Cheers! M

  • Robb Wolf says:

    Abel, what was the title of the book that this is directed to?

  • Nick Lo says:

    Robb has already mentioned that this kind of letter is likely largely obligatory for any kind of trademark holder and not necessarily something to get too troubled with. I’m not from the US nor a lawyer but I’ve had to negotiate with a cease and desist here in Australia when another company belatedly trademarked a variation of our business name.

    Their first letter also appeared quite cold and I was similarly annoyed by it, however after subsequent friendly emails a minor rewording kept both of us happy. As trademark holders they had to chase it up, so as long as they did that and we reacted in some way it all worked out. That and avoiding stepping on their toes with regards to the goods and services. Then I just waited for their product to disappear, which it did last year (and yes I admit to a bit of gloating about that).

    Abel you say:

    “I apologized for not knowing that the term “Paleo Diet” was trademarked. I’ve used the term “Paleo Diet” within titles, blog posts, on my show, and many other places thinking that it was a word, not a brand.”

    The trademark looks to be for “The Paleo Diet” rather than just “Paleo Diet” as further suggested by your other comment:

    “It’s my Intro to Paleo book on Kindle here, which originally contained the words “Introduction to the Paleo Diet.””

    In this case it doesn’t look like you’re even using “The Paleo Diet” for “Dietary and Nutritional Supplements” anyway so this trademark possibly isn’t even enforceable on that basis.

    I realise (and have experienced) how emotive an issue this is but in reality it’s more a pedantic and unfortunately obligatory process of negotiation. Definitely not something that you need to become an “adversary” over, nor even need to “apologize” about.

  • Amy says:

    Interesting. I read part of Cordain’s original book, but frankly it was some what dry. Good information and education, but with all the current blogs and information available, a little oudated, in my opinion. I understand the term, Paleo diet, but I wish people would move away from the “diet” word anyway. For too many people, they associate diet with an attempt to lose weight or a temporary way of eating. Paleo (or whatever form you follow), is so much more than a diet. It is not just a way of eating, but a way of living, thinking; a mindset and a lifestyle. I am no Paleo pro, I too eat raw dairy and other “non-paleo” things (organic white potatoes tonight). But I DO eat real, whole foods and healthy fats. To me it is a good “guide” to follow for proper eating. But it’s not a religion to follow or a diet. Stepping off my soapbox now. :)

  • Sigi says:

    Cordain also appears to have further registrations covering books, health education and consultation services (all in the field of health and nutrition, etc), as well as many and varied foodstuffs – including some described in the specification of goods as “processed”, not to mention “sports drinks”! LOL!

    As someone who works in the trade mark industry (though not in the US), I’m appalled that the USPTO allowed these marks to make it through the examination process. (Note that the registrations all disclaim any rights to the word “Diet” – Cordain only has rights to the word “Paleo”.)

  • Dear Abel and everyone else who has commented upon this blog,

    First off, this situation has gotten completely out of control even though I have not given my perspective and my side of the story, I would like to apologize to everyone, even to those of you who I have never met or corresponded with — even to those of you who have sent very hurtful and discouraging words about my research and lifetime devotion to the concept of Paleo, including Abel. Look no further than my website and the scientific papers I have written over nearly two decades promoting and defending a concept I believe in with my heart and soul. Also you may want to reread our rebuttal to US News and World Reports vehemently defending Paleo.

    I think it’s important to get the facts correct before everyone flies off the handle, including Abel. Quite a bit is lost in email, including demeanor and intent. Let me try to clear the air and let you know that I am not the bad guy which is seemingly being portrayed here by virtually everyone who has posted a comment. I ask any of you to email virtually anyone in the Paleo community who knows me (including Robb Wolf, Jimmy Moore and Mark Sisson) and has met me in person. Further, I would be willing to speak personally to anyone who would like to get to know me.

    I trade marked the term “The Paleo Diet” in 2007 for educational materials only. I tentatively applied for a trademark for supplements but that trademark expired a few years ago because I never produced any supplements. I suspect most of you have not read my most recent book, The Paleo Answer (2012), but I have devoted an entire chapter pointing out that many supplements, vitamins and minerals do more harm than good and most antioxidants vitamins and minerals actually increase morbidity (disease incidence) and mortality (overall death). The only two supplements I endorse are fish oil and vitamin D. Neither of which I offer for sale anywhere.

    I repeat, I currently own the trademark to the term, “The Paleo Diet” for educational materials only. Over the years many kindle books have appeared on Amazon which use my trademarked term. I have looked into a number of these, and from an academic and scientific perspective, the message most of them deliver is inaccurate and in some cases go so far as to plagiarize my copyrighted work. To me, these kinds of actions are unfair and unjust to the author who wrote the original materials. Hence, when books using the words “The Paleo Diet” appear on Amazon either as hard copy or otherwise, I ask the authors to either remove the book or change the title and to please give me a chance to read the book so I can determine whether or not I would endorse it. I don’t think it is fair to me, Robb, Mark, Jimmy or anyone else who is a well known figure in the Paleo world to endorse or support each and every book on Paleo that is published. Clearly quality matters.

    I agree with everyone that “Paleo” has become a worldwide movement/phenomenon that is not owned by anyone, nor should it ever be. I am truly gratified to see this incredible idea has become known to the world. I thank each and every one of you for your support.

    Now back to Abel. I apologize to you if you felt I was being cold — however as I mentioned earlier — much is lost in email including intent and demeanor. I wish you would have approached me earlier and given me a copy of your book to read — I still haven’t read it, but would like to and if it is accurate and well written I probably would endorse it. Abel, I would be happy to appear on your show, and do and interview and fully appreciate your support for making the Paleo concept known to a much wider audience.

    Finally, do me a favor and read my scientific papers or my recent book, The Paleo Answer — I no longer support canola oil — I was wrong — is that OK. Isnt that what good science is all about — to abandon former, erroneous ideas when new, more powerful data appears. I wrote a scientific paper on saturated fats in 2005 reversing my former position, but I am still being branded as supporting “canola oil and lean meats.” Facts change, data changes and people change. LIke the rest of you, I am human and fallible, but know one thing I am and always have been a powerful ally and supporter of the Paleo community.

    Thank you for hearing me out.

    Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
    Professor, Department of Health and Exercise Science
    Colorado State University,
    Fort Collins, CO 80528

    • Joy Beer says:

      Thank you for writing so thoughtfully, Dr. Cordain. I am happy to see you and Mr. James working it out! I appreciate your huge contribution to my own health and incredibly enhanced well-being. I hope that Abel will have you on his TERRIFIC podcast and that we all keep forwarding this basic idea together, as we all have many loved ones and fellow humans to reach and help feel much better!

  • Primalgirl says:

    I’ve known about this for about a year and have been struggling to refer to the Paleo “diet” in my new book as the Paleo lifestyle or protocol instead. Luckily for me, Dr. Cordain has been amazingly helpful, sharing information and studies with me for the book that I would otherwise wouldn’t have access to. He’s just the first person who had the idea to trademark the term and I’m glad it was him and not, say, Pfizer Pharmacutical or something. If I started calling myself the FatBurningMan, I’m sure you would take notice, right? He didn’t TM “Paleo,” just “The Paleo Diet.” He did write it first.

    • Abel James says:

      Hey, great to hear from you! After talking with Dr. Cordain, I’m not surprised that he was helpful. You’re not going to steal FatBurningMan from me, are you?

  • Hi,

    I completely agree with this basic idea: No person has a trademark on a life changing concept or even should have or even should try to. The concept of “Paleo” runs world wide and should and needs to be available to the world and all people for free — Which is exactly what I have done over the years by offering every single one of my scientific papers to you, Teresa Nowland, and every other person in the world for free. If you go to my website, you can see that my scientific papers have been preaching this message, long before you (Teresa Nowland) ever received your RD.

    If you build a car called and advertised as a “Chevroleti” then it should be bulit by Chevrolet and not by “Teresa Nowland Cars”. The rationale for this logic is simple: your car is not a Chevrolet, but rather a “Teresa Nowland” built car. Advertise it as a Teresa Nowland car, but dont advertise it as a Chevrolet. I have written 4 books that are copyrighted and are trademarked with the name “The Paleo Diet” — to mention nothing of the better part of my lifetime, researching and writing about this concept in the scientific literature:

    1. Cordain L. The Paleo Diet. John Wiley & Sons, NY, NY, 2002 (Revised 2010)
    2. Cordain L. & Friel J. The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Rodale Press, Emmaus PA, 2005 (Revised 2012)
    3. Cordain L, Stephenson N, Cordain L. The Paleo Diet Cookbook. John Wiley & Sons, NY, NY, 2010.
    4. Cordain L. The Paleo Answer. John Wiley & Sons, NY, NY 2012

    I ask the readers of this blog: Would it be fair to me to give Teresa Nowland or anyone else my life’s writings and works away with absolutely no recognition of my work/research and to then give away it all to her or anyone else?. Should my book, “The Paleo Diet” be given to Teresa Nowland and then marketed and authored by her. She or anyone else now becomes the beneficiary for work she did not do. Is this fair? Should your parents labors and work (no matter what they did in life either as artists, laborers, blue or white collar workers) be taken away from you, your siblings and your family without any compensation? You decide.

    I rarely become involved in these kinds of internet arguments, as I believe you (the people who admire “Paleo”) must work these issues out for yourselves as the Paleo concept grows, matures and becomes a new world concept.

    To your health, happiness and longevity

    Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
    Professor, Department of Exercise and Health Science
    Colorado State University,
    Fort Collins, CO 80528

  • Geoff P says:

    Loren – I speak for myself, but I believe most everyone in the Paleo community agrees, that we have you to thank for this movement. There are many on the Internet who are more outspoken on the topic, but without the science and the foundation that you created, none of these ideas would be so widespread. I have no issue with you copyrighting the ‘Paleo Diet’ term and asking others to cease and desist. It’s the natural progression of protecting a persons or company’s work. Thank you for responding to the blog post from Abel and giving us all some insight into the situation.

    Abel – Thanks for all you do for the Paleo lifestyle. I wish you continued success with your podcast. Happy New Year!

    I hope 2013 can be a great year for everyone in the Paleo community and that the message can be spread outside the fitness arena and gain more widespread media exposure. And, if anyone reading this is in the Baltimore area, I head up the local Paleo MeetUp group and would love to have you join our community.

  • Super cool of you to drop in and comment, Loren. I feel like a bit of a shower bag now for my comment! It’s like Sherlock Holmes famously said “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

    We’re all on the same team here as far as I’m concerned. It’s called humanity! And I see your point with respect to the intellectual property issue. I’ll be revising my eBook and rewording it accordingly.

  • Carl says:

    Dang, how did we ever survive the Paleolithic without lawyers anyway?

    Glad I’m staying clear of all this cortisol inducing legal environment by being a Ketone Burning Man following The Early Man Diet while applying The Primeval Blueprint to Livin’ el Loco Lowcarb through The Alchemy and Black Magic of Low Carbohydrate Performance and sipping on Torpedoproof Coffee. Gronk on!

  • Teresa says:

    Dear Dr. Cordain,

    I respect and understand your point. And yes you are right; I was born in 1962 so I had not obtained my RD yet when you wrote your material.
    I have no intent to write a book , or sell cars :) but still don’t like the idea of trade marking certain words when it comes to diets but that’s just my humble opinion and I haven’t done all the work you have.
    I do, however, write up educational material for people and label it , for example “High protein, High calorie diet ”. This has been an eye opening experience because it will make me rethink how I label diet material and maybe rightly so.
    I am sorry to say I have not read any of your books and inadvertently learned about the Paleo concept through other means. You are now at the top of my reading listing and I am looking forward to reading your work.
    I respect and am grateful for this community of people; it has changed complete how I feel about many aspects of nutrition. I too feel like a pioneer in some respects. I receive a lot of feed back regarding my support and promotion of the Paleo/Whole foods/Ancestral health life style from many of my fellow colleagues and most times it is less than favorable. I often seriously wonder if at some point my license won’t be in jeopardy of revocation but I believe very passionately in this concept so I have to follow my heart.
    I thank you and all the other members of this community that give open heartily for the pursuit of change and good health.

    Best regards,
    Teresa Nowlan, RD, CDN

  • Mike James says:

    I have done the Paleo Diet for a year now. I never knew the name was actually trademarked by one guy. A lot of these guys have great products that help people on Paleo. I have taken several suggested on this site. Robb Wolf’s info has been very helpful as well. Right now I am just on Athletic Greens (which is kick ass btw). But this site is an inspiration and ALWAYS makes me aware of info I didn’t know before; like this :)

  • Primalgirl says:

    Lol Abel, sorry it’s taken so long for me to comment back but I’ve been hard at work rebranding myself as the LipidCombustingDude. I can only hope no one minds the ‘similarity’ to your brand or figures out that I’m not really a dude. Now I’m off to shoot my topless profile pictures. Only question is: should I be holding a guitar or a whisk? Or both? ;)

  • Scrappy says:

    Unfortunately, someone *has* retained the intellectual property rights of the word “paleo.” How can this be?

    https://tsdrapi.uspto.gov/ts/cd/casedocs/bundle.pdf?sn=85697671&type=FTK&fromdate=2012-08-07&todate=2012-08-07

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