“Bach” and “Bach Flower Remedies” are public, generic terms

On May 22, 1998, The High Court of England, made the following ruling in response to a suit brought by Healing Herbs, Ltd., against Bach Flower Remedies, Ltd, a subsidiary of the A. Nelson Company:

1. Both the ‘Bach Flower Remedies’ trade marks should be removed from the register;

2. Both the ‘BACH’ registered trade marks should be removed from the register;

3. Both the ‘BACH’ trade marks in the signature form can remain on the register, but only provided the respondent is prepared to agree to a disclaimer in relation to the word ‘Bach’ itself;

4. Both the roundel device trade marks may remain on the register, provided the respondent agrees to the disclaimers extending to the word ‘Bach’ as well as to the words ‘Flower Remedies’.


The case involved an extensive historical review of the development of the Bach Flower Remedies. In his concluding comments, Mr. Justice Neuberger wrote for the High Court of England:

“I accept the submission of Mr. Hobbs, on behalf of the applicant, that the attitude of the individuals running the Bach Centre over the past fifteen years or so represents a pretty radical departure from the philosophy of Dr. Bach and, indeed, the philosophy embraced by his immediate successors, Nora Weeks and Victor Bullen. It seems to me that their attitude was to make the Remedies available as widely as possible. While I do not think that they would have been attracted to the idea of people “cashing in” on the Remedies, in the sense of making large profits out of manufacturing and selling them, they were certainly not concerned with ensuring that the Bach Centre was seen as the main, let alone the exclusive, source of either the manufacture or the sale of the Remedies, or that it should try and prevent other organisations from using the name “Bach”.”

The 119-page court ruling was the result of an eight-day trial, after a legal suit initiated by Julian Barnard of Healing Herbs, Ltd. Barnard explained, “We did not go into this with any intent to damage the business of the Nelsons Group. We simply wanted to be able to provide those interested in buying and using the Flower Remedies with a choice, and the freedom to describe them as what they are.”

The suit was brought by Healing Herbs after a number of educational institutions in England and around the world were threatened with law suits for offering classes on the “Bach Flower Remedies” without permission of the Bach Centre. Legal threats were also made directly to the Healing Herbs company.

The High Court agreed with the contention that “‘Bach Flower Remedies’ is a generic term, meaning ‘flower remedies prepared in accordance with the teachings of Dr Bach’ and… [since they] can be prepared by anybody; they cannot, in principle, constitute a badge of origin, that is, an expression indicating a particular source of the remedies.”

The Nelson Company appealed the ruling. On October 21, 1999, the three Justices of the Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Judicature upheld the original ruling.

This ruling was then appealed to the British House of Lords, the highest court of appeal in the UK and the European Court of Justice. Both appeals were rejected as of July 4, 2000.

In a press release, Julian Barnard commented,
“It is clear now that at last anyone can produce the remedies, write, teach and work with them, as Dr. Bach desired. It’s the end of a marathon David-and-Goliath battle and we hope that everyone will now be free from the constant bully-boy threats of litigation.”


 


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