Thursday, 14 January 2010

Impersonation – Kokopelli’s name misappropriated

I’ve had an email from Kokopelli warning of misuse of its name on the Internet. The Association Kokopelli is an organisation pledged to maintaining plant diversity and organic standards in seed and plant production and distribution. It has been the target of law suits in France by commercial seed producers who do not want it to continue its work. Now it has been targeted again by the seed company Bamaux which has bought the rights to the name ‘kokopelli’ so that if you enter the word into the Google, Voila and Orange search engines the first item to appear is one of the Bamaux strains of tomato seeds. Websites and blogs which have Google advertisements will also find that Bamaux appears rather than the Association Kokopelli.

Kokopelli registered the name of the association when it was founded in the Ardèche in southern France in 1999, but, as the email says:

D’un point de vue éthique, nous avons refusé de déposer en avril 1999, en tant que marque commerciale, le nom Kokopelli qui est un symbole culturel millénaire chez les Amérindiens.

[From an ethical point of view, we refused to register as a trademark the name Kokopelli which is an age-old cultural symbol of the American Indians.]

Now it seems that Bamaux has registered the name as a trademark and its ‘tomate kokopelli’ has the registered trademark sign next to its name on the website. Big business and big money appear to have trampled over this small organisation. Association Kokopelli so far does not suggest how it can fight this e-threat. It simply wants to warn unsuspecting Internet users that others have hi-jacked its name, and I am passing this warning on. It’s difficult to see what can be done, as the Kokopelli e-mail concludes:

Il est donc clair que le "pacifisme" a des limites! De même pour la tolérance. Que peut faire un tolérant face à un intolérant? C'est l'éternelle question.

[It is therefore clear that ‘pacifism’ has limits! And so has tolerance. What can a tolerant person do against an intolerant one? This is the eternal question.

You can read more about this (in French) on the Association Kokopelli blog here.

8 comments:

Michelle said...

Wow! I am sick of patented seed and big companies walking all over everyone!

impoftheyard said...

I am ignorant of seed producers but the bully tactics of large companies sounds familiar. The last question is so pertinent.

Jeremy said...

I just tried putting kokopelli into Google and not one of the first 10 links had anything to do with Baumaux. Links 2 and 3 were to Association Kokopelli. Do you have a screenshot of when you tried it?

chaiselongue said...

Jeremy: I think you may be right about US Google, but Google France definitely puts Baumaux (a French company) first in the highlighted position at the top of the page. As it is a French company it is obviously the French market that Baumaux wants to dominate.

Jeremy said...

Ah, you're right. I just tried google.fr and the first link is indeed to Baumaux's Tomate Kokopelli. But while it seems like a dirty trick, it is in fact legit. That is not a Google link but a sponsored link. In other words, Baumaux pays Google to put that link in when people search for Kokopelli. And I think they pay again when people click on the link, even if they don't subsequently buy anything from Baumaux. which wouldn't make much of a dent in Baumaux's bottom line, I suspect, but might at least give them pause.

If you search for "tomate graines", you get a link to Baumaux again in that position, and one to Thompson & Morgan.

It is just advertising.

An alternative would be for Kokopelli (or anyone else) to bid more than Baumaux for that advertising slot, but of course that would cost money.

chaiselongue said...

Jeremy: yes, I know it's legal what Baumaux is doing, but it's not fair and is typical of what big business does to small ethical organisations. The big seed companies are determined to squash Kokopelli because of its principles and its determination to produce a diverse range of seeds rather than a smaller commercially lucrative one. This is part of that campaign. Whether you agree with it or not depends on whether or not you support ruthless capitalism.

Alison said...

There is a petition on the subject at www.cyberacteurs.org/actions/form.php?id=40.

Jon Storey said...

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, I have to say that Kokopelli were rather foolish to not register their name. But that said even Boots chemists cocked up there! I think their web address is www.wellbeing.com.....

A hard lesson but that is the world we live in......