Many pagans think about running their own business. They often dream about providing products and services for their faith community. These products and services run from workshops and teaching to creating ritual tools and items for the religious practices. Many of them don’t ever believe that someone would want to cause them stress or ill will. When that trouble does come how does a small business protect themselves and manage to stay afloat?
I interviewed Lila Elwood one of the owners of Wild Witchery to find out more about her battle and how this has impacted them going further.
Loona Wynd: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your Business?
Lila Elwood: I have been a practicing Pagan for about 25 years now. On my mothers side of the family we are Iroquois and I was raised in native tradition. By the time I was 12 European Paganism/Witchcraft piqued my interest and I started down that path with no regrets.
I attended American University where I received my BA in Religious Studies-concentration on Ancient Mediterranean Religions with a minor in Ancient History of the same region. I am married and have 2 children and currently live in Yorktown VA- where our Business Wild Witchery is based out of.
We are primarily an e-commerce business specializing in creating Ritual Oil Perfumes, Candles, Bath & Body, Skincare, Hand Wrapped Amulets & Crystals. I have been making these items inside and out of Business for about 10 years now.
Loona Wynd: What inspired you to start Wild Witchery?
Lila Elwood: I had a business prior to this called Lady Leigh’s Apotheca, which was primarily an apothecary & didn’t focus too much on the metaphysical side, but offered similar items: bath and body, aromatherapy perfumes, plus teas and healing items. But I wanted to focus on the metaphysical. I wanted to offer really great products that were infused with Magick because i believe every aspect of your life has the ability to be infused with magick and sacredness- right down to the soap you use, lotion or perfume you apply or the jewelry you wear.
My friend now business partner and I had been talking about/dreaming about having a metaphysical shop together as our skills complimented each other, she focuses on crystals and jewelry and i on the herbal/bath body aspects. So this time last year we just went for it and started laying the foundations of what Wild Witchery now is.
Loona Wynd: You claim that you and your partner received a Cease and Desist letter. What was it for and about?
Lila Elwood:Yes, My business partner & I received a letter via email claiming copyright and trademark infringement on 2 of our products, Amatus & Yule Ritual Perfume Oils. The letter demanded that we stop selling these items, remove them from all social media & pay the complainant $5,000 + their legal fees potentially. The letter also claimed issues with “Trade Dress”
Loona Wynd: Can you explain what they meant by “Trade Dress”?
Lila Elwood: I wasn’t sure what this was either until talking with our lawyer, it is the look and feel of the product.
Loona Wynd: Did they give you a further explanation about what it could entail? Feel and look of a product could cover a lot of things.
Lila Elwood: The complainant feels that our products look the same as hers – we DID at one point, use the same cap style on our bottles as theirs, and we also tie ribbons around our bottles to fill in void space. However, the bottles and caps we buy are available through multiple suppliers that sell to the public, and there are MANY other business’ who also use this same bottle/cap style for their ritual oils and perfumes as well. in recent months however, the complainant has changed their cap style and discontinued use of the ribbon so really, there should be no conflict with this.
Loona Wynd: What actions have you taken to defend yourself and your craft? It seems something named after a holiday such as your Yule Perfume Oil couldn’t be trademarked as holidays are open to anyone who follows those traditions, and there are many religious traditions which celebrate Yule.
Lila Elwood: We did a lot of research as to what constitutes trademark/copyright infringement. While the complainant holds NO federally registered trademarks/copyrights, they are alleging these charges based on seniority. They came out with these products first – which the law allows – sort of.
Common Names do not count in the eyes of the law – and as we all know, Yule is a common word/name/a holiday in our spiritual tradition. Many Pagans also make use of other languages when naming their products, i have half a dozen products named in various languages, which is how Amatus, which means Beloved in Latin, was named. Yet, it is uncommon enough to be misconstrued as trademark infringement.
After consulting with our Lawyer we agreed it was probably best to discontinue the use of the name Amatus, so we have removed our Amatus line from our Website and Etsy.
Yet there is another well known business who is selling a ritual oil using the same latin name as one of the complainants products of the same nature! But we want to keep the peace.
However we will NOT be doing the same with Yule. Yule is a sabbat and it belongs to everyone. No one person can trademark our holidays and the products we create inspired by those holidays.
We gathered examples of other Yule Ritual Oils from other Pagan businesses as evidence that we, nor the complainant are the only ones marketing a Yule Oil Blend
Loona Wynd: Is the Amatus line going to be discontinued completely or are you thinking about renaming it?
Lila Elwood: We will simply rename it and re-release it.
Loona Wynd: What is the next step for you in this fight?
Lila Elwood: Our Lawyer will be offering the complainant a settlement we discontinue the use of Amatus. But that’s it. Examples of other Yule oil products will be included in defense of out product & other business’ right to create sabbat oil blend, and we will not be paying them any money. We just released our Ostara oil so we’re honestly waiting on the other shoe to drop to speak!
Hopefully, that is the end of it. We do not want a huge dispute. We’re a micro business, small fish in the pond compared to the complainant who compared to other business’ in our niche, is a large corporation.
Loona Wynd: Given the small size of your business it must have been a shock to receive the letter. What went through your minds?
Lila Elwood: I was SHOCKED. I panicked, they were demanding $5,000 from us, we’ve made just under that amount in sales- not being that familiar with the law, I thought this was a formal lawsuit. i was envisioning us having to close up shop, being bullied out of business by the larger corporation
My business partner was not as shocked as i was. In hindsight we should have seen this coming, we had noticed in recent weeks personal friends of the complainant liking some of our social media statues and asking to join our Facebook groups.
Loona Wynd: So they had spies? Friends checking you out and seeing what you were about? Are any of those people still in your groups etc?
Lila Elwood: It kind of seems that way to us. we never admitted these people to our groups and they have been blocked on social media
Loona Wynd: Are you taking any actions to protect yourself in the future?
Loona Wynd: What advise would you give other small businesses should they receive a Cease and Desist letter or any actions along those lines?
Lila Elwood: If you receive such a letter, research and consult with a lawyer, absolutely. Don’t Panic! It is not the end of your business, and don’t give in. Consulting with a Lawyer or having a lawyer draw up paperwork is not as expensive as you’d think. It cost us $250 to employ the help of a lawyer. But also, i do suggest researching the name you’re considering. We did not do that because we figured “we’re small & no threat to anyone” & also because we were naive thinking that no one would take issue with our business.how wrong we were! So research unique names, if a business is offering a similar product named the same thing, move on to the next name, no matter how perfect it was. And definitely look into getting state trademarks on the names of your products, if only for your protection.Loona Wynd: Is there anything else you would like to say about this situation or add?
Lila Elwood: It is my opinion that the complainant is trying to corner the market on the type of items that we offer and is trying to scare the small business’ who offer similar items out of business. We all have a right to be here, we all have a right to create magickal products and market them – which certainly includes sabbat products named after the sabbats. To think you are the only person who has rights to these names and holidays makes you arrogant. Live and let live.
It seems like no matter what we do in this world there is always someone who will try to rain on your parade. This author firmly believes that if you want to run a business you should try and go for it. Live for your dreams and follow your path. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Learn from articles like this and take their advice. There is room for us all as we all have something different to offer.
If you would like to support and see the products and services provided by Wild Witchery: Wild Witchery