I was jealous of Pat Riley in 1989 when he coached the LA Lakers to a third NBA championship and used the word “threepeat” to describe it. Catchy and wacky. But not only did he use the word, he trademarked the word! Trademark a word!? He actually collected royalties from clothing manufacturers who used "threepeat" on T-shirts and hats.
About 20 years later, I came up with some words and phrases related to wellness and ran them by a patient who was a trademark lawyer. He offered to help me with the process and I can now say that I own three trademarked words or phrases, a threepeat of my own. (At quite a cost, I might add!)
1. Prevent Not Stent (TM)
This phrase came to me a few years ago and was the first I trademarked. It's a bit self-critical: I am an interventional cardiologist who places heart stents. As such, I am well aware of the miracle heart stents have been for many, as well as their overuse (as high as 80% according to some). Until preventive medicine is appreciated and reimbursed, procedures will trump plant-based diets.
2. Interpreventional (TM)
This one seemed too obvious to have never been used before, but a search indicated that my play with words was unique. I am an interventional cardiologist who teaches preventive approaches as the first line for most patients, so the combo was a natural. It's on my business card and doctor coat and should be the credo of all doctors trained to do procedures of any kind.
3. Healthspital (TM)
How can anyone disagree with the notion that hospitals should be a showplace for healthy living? A place where healthy food, movement, and stress management is built into the system for guests and workers? Would you tolerate your accountant counting on his fingers? My goal is that one day there is an American Healthspital(TM) Association of healthy places of healing.
Before I leave trademarks, how about some feedback on other words I use? Is it worth trademarking Inflammeation? Anti-Eggxidant? Veggan (egg eating vegans)? Vegasm? Kallejuah? Chewdiasm? Re-Ombursement?
I think I'll stop at three....
Shifting gears, some ideas for how we talk about our personal food choices.
Many years ago, I made a quiet decision to stop eating dairy, eggs, and all forms of meat and fish. Instead I eat mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. I was inspired by scientific research published by Dr. Dean Ornish and books by John Robbins.
Why the label vegan? Why didn't this lifestyle make me an Ornishite or Robbinish? Or simply, "a cardiologist who eats plant foods"?
It turns out that back in 1944, an Englishman named Donald Watson formed the first society dedicated to promoting a lifestyle free of all animal products. Starting with the word vegetarian, he took the first three letters and the last two letters to coin the word vegan. (Perhaps he should have trademarked it!) He formed the Vegan Society and stayed true to his passion until he died in 2005 at age 95.
Since then, many have struggled coming to terms with the word vegan.
- Can you be a vegan if you wear leather shoes but never eat animal products?
- Can you be Vegan Before Six (BV6) a la Mark Bittman and still be in the club?
- Are you vegan if 20 out of 21 meals a week are plants? (President Clinton took some heat recently in a remarkable pro-health interview in the AARP magazine when he mentioned that he had one serving of salmon a week—still my VOTUS).
Choosing to live an animal-free lifestyle is becoming much more mainstream as corporate chiefs, Hollywood stars, and musicians are speaking out about the benefits of this path. Yet it's not easy for everyone. Many people trying to improve their health often experience guilt and self-doubt when they're asked, “Are you vegan?” My patients often feel the need to apologize to me for the times they weren't 100% vegan.
So I wonder: are there other terms that are preferable? Some candidates include:
1. Any term with the word “plant”
Some ideas: Plant powered, plant strong, plant flexible, plant predominant flexitarian (TM) for example. (Yes my friend and nutrition guru Dr. Tom Rifai grabbed that last one.) These phrases emphasize the positive aspects of having a high Plant/animal ratio for health, the planet and animal kindness, without insisting on 100% compliance monitored by the NSA!
This is another of my terms (not yet trademarked, so run with it). This too emphasizes the fact that optimal health depends upon a diet with the majority of volume and calories coming from items growing on a plant, not produced in a plant. And since most people have never heard the term, if you use it you're sure to confuse and impress the questioner!
3. Any term that describes the outcome, rather than the process
I think we'd do well to emphasize the benefits of plant based diets by putting the health benefits right in our self-descriptors. I predict you'd get a lot of recognition and respect for explaining that you are following a heart attack proof diet, an anti-diabetic anti-cancer diet, a Blue Zones longevity diet, an erectile function diet, a cruelty-free ahimsa diet, a low-carbon footprint save the planet diet, and so forth. In my opinion, no one aspiring to follow a healthy eating plan should be made to feel bad for not conforming to a label.
For most of us, no matter how excited we are about vegan diets for health, animal rights and the planet, we had a journey to get here and others deserve time to travel the green-brick road at their own pace without guilt.
When asked if I am vegan, my usual answer is I am a human trying very hard to eat only plant based foods at home, around the country, and on trips overseas.
Not always easy, but easier than it was 20 years ago. If you hunt hard enough you'll always find some healthier plant selections. Sort of like a planter-gatherer diet. Perhaps, that's another one worth a trademark!
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