Federal Government Strikes Down Organization’s Attempt to Trademark Naturopathic Physician Designations

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US Patent and Trade Office disallows Naturopathic Council’s claim to trademark certification mark for naturopathic doctors, physicians.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) (http://www.Naturopathic.org) today roundly applauded a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (PTO) that rejects the ability of a little known organization – the Naturopathic National Council, Inc (NNC) – to award the designation Doctor Of Naturopathy (N.D.™). The AANP strongly opposed NNC’s request.

Government Findings Against NNC Petition:

In ruling against the Naturopathic Council, the government wrote that “a title or degree is not a certification mark,” the basic claim of NNC’s petition. The PTO ruled that titles and degrees indicated qualifications or attainments of the person, and do not certify services performed by the person. The PTO also determined that, in the case of naturopathic physician designations, the mark is generic, and “the proposed mark is generic for the services the applicant certifies.”

The government concluded “The internet Google search evidence attached to the Office Action demonstrates that many colleges and universities offer a ‘Doctor of Naturopathy, ND’ degree program.” To support the point, the attorney in charge provided 25 pages demonstrating the term “Doctor of Naturopathy, ND” is a degree given out by colleges in the US and Canada.

Concerns Remain Over State Actions:

AANP Executive Director Karen Howard said her organization was pleased that the PTO had resolved the issue of federal trademark. Concerns remained, however, about the Naturopathic Council’s attempt to obtain trademark control for the profession under state law.

Howard pointed to documents that appear on the Naturopathic Council’s website, and were previously sent to state attorneys general and others. In them, NNC erroneously claimed:

  •      in a letter to the state of Maine that the state has “the authority to decide if a person can use a title or work in a given profession, only when they license the profession. The profession of traditional naturopathy that uses the title Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.) is not regulated by state licensure; therefore, [Maine] state law cannot prohibit traditional naturopaths from working in this field and using their title, if they do they are in violation of federal regulations.”
  •      that in South Carolina “The state; (sic) therefore, lacks jurisdiction over this discipline and any law, civil or criminal, that result in fines, arrest, conviction or imprisonment of traditional naturopaths is in violation of [the] licentiates’ right to freedom from involuntary servitude under the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a criminal offense is a violation of morality. In light of this, a profession can only be made a criminal or civil offense if it is in violation of morality.”
  •      before the Internal Revenue Service, that the NNC is an “organization approved by the Federal Government, under the authority of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, to license the Doctor of Naturopathy, N.D. ™ and exercise legitimate control over the field of traditional naturopathy.”

According to the AANP’s Howard, “Efforts such as these are extremely harmful to the naturopathic community’s ability to reach the public with information that they can use to determine if naturopathic care will benefit them. We invite the Naturopathic Council to join us in building visibility and awareness of the profession in the minds of the public.”

Media: Karen Howard AT karen.howard@naturopathic.org; Office: 202.237.8150

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) was founded in 1985 to provide alternative methods for healing human diseases and disorders than have been traditionally offered in the United States. Members of the AANP must have graduated from one of North America’s six accredited graduate schools of naturopathic medicine.

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