about betta strain names
a complete info page on why top breeders elect to name their strains, why they have ownership over them and why it is unethical to use them for your own use.
What's in a strain name? There are many misconceptions and confusions about the concept of strain names amongst betta hobbyist out there. This section aims to explain things as clearly as possible, and show why it is vital that all breeders and betta hobbyists abide by a Code of Ethics. If we do not respect each other, and each other's hard work, our hobby is bound to become so corrupt that it will collapse.
Once upon a time, there were not very many bettas out there nor betta breeders for that matter. Bettas were called bettas and described according to the few colors available at the time (red, blue, green, cambodian). As the hobby blossomed and many people tackled many spawns, new colors, finnage, and betta "looks" were created. As breeders started selling their stock on the internet to cover for fish food and other expenses, a few top breeders decided to name their strains for the sake of simplicity and identification. For example, Bonnie McKinley (who was IBC Grand Champion) named her marbled strain "Warpaints". If you purchased a "Warpaint" you purchased a 'marbled betta as conceptualized and bred by Bonnie'. If you bought a similarly colored bettas from say, Joe Shmoe, it would not be a "Warpaint". It might have looked like one, but still was not one. Why? Because Warpaints were only Warpaints because they were bred by Bonnie. In short, a strain name is a "seal of authenticity" from a specific breeder, an I.D tag if you will.
Why name a strain? When a known breeder has many strains going and sells them, it becomes cumbersome to sell each lot by describing the color (which can take some webpage space and is time consuming to type). For example, the APACHE strain is nothing more than a red cambodian piebald butterfly geno marble strain. Granted, getting all these genes in the perfect balance in one fish is not easy, but if you want to describe what they technically really are, that is what you would type: "red cambodian piebald butterfly geno marble". As you can see the single word "APACHE" is shorter, faster & much more convenient. In short, APACHE means this: 'A fish with deep red cambodian piebald butterfly marble geno genes bred by Faith'. The look of these fish is my vision, my pending work, years of breeding and searching for the perfect balance, as I see it in my head. It is the result of my taste and the seek for seeing my vision materialize in a betta. The name is their ID tag. (Ever tried to lasso a betta and brand it? Kinda hard, huh? So we give them a strain name instead).
Who owns a strain name? Strain names belong to the person who first used them as soon as they become published. They are published as soon as they are fixed to a media and have public access. A website is such a media. So if you breed green bettas with white fins and call them "Sugar & Mint" and publish their photos and the name on your website (and no one else already has a betta strain with that name), then you have intellectual property over that strain name as associated to your bettas. ( Now there might be a brand of iced tea out there also called "Sugar & Mint" but because your products are of different nature and do not compete, it is acceptable for them to use the same name for iced tea, and for you to use it for your bettas.) So a "Sugar & Mint" betta could only be a betta from that green/white line as bred by YOU (and no one else). It is your product seal in other words, your own "brand". You own that strain name, your name is linked to that strain name, and they cannot be disassociated from one another.
Say I also created a line of green bettas with white fins. These would not be "Sugar & Mint". Why? Because you did not breed them, I did. I could call my bettas "Green/White bicolors" which is the technical description, or I could be creative and give them another "fictitious" name, such as "Winter Green". If people see a "Winter Green" lot on an auction website they will know that these are green/white bicolors as bred by Faith. If they see a "Sugar & Mint" lot, they will know these are green/white bicolors as bred by YOU. But if one wants to look at their real description, we will see they are identical "Green and White bicolors". Hence the name identifies them and links them to the breeder.
To name or not to name? If you are not a well known breeder, it is plain silly to attach pompous names to your bettas. Especially if your lines offer nothing new. No one cares about flashy strain names if they do not know YOU or if the strains do not look ORIGINAL. There must be no less than 50 strains of halfmoon solid blue fish out there. The best way to sell them is to call them "Blue Halfmoon". Just sell your bettas by describing their color. That's what I did for several years when I first started. As I refined my strains and became known world wide, I named all of my strains for identification and authenticity purpose. So only name a strain if you are either well known OR have created a new betta variation OR both.
Who should use the strain names? Ethical breeders respect each other's creations/brands and "name tags" and do not use other breeders strain name for the purpose of describing their own fish or selling similarly colored stock. A strain name becomes intellectual property of the person who has become associated with it (see above). I would never sell "Warpaints" on my website, unless I got the fish from Bonnie herself and she officially gave me permission to use her strain name to sell her bettas. If a breeder does not give you express permission to use his/her strain names then you should never use them under any circumstances.
Some people involved in betta trade out there are trying to talk the public into believing that it is OK to use other breeders brand/strain names. But a strain name means NOTHING if the fish are not born and raised by the specific breeder associated with the strain name. Because that is what a strain name is: A seal or a "brand" if you will, that identifies the breeder of a betta. Name tags for strains are to be used by the breeder who tagged the strain and them only. Anything else is plain not ethical. And also very much illegal. According to top Los Angeles copyright attorney A. Kornarens, using a strain name that you do not own is a very good way to get sued for all you have. A. Kornarens very prominent clients include the Jimmy Hendrix Estate and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. He has won multi million lawsuits against large record companies as well as large corporations and has extensive knowledge of intellectual property.
Is it necessary to trademark your
strain names? It is not
necessary for you to trademark your betta strain names. Why? Because
you do own them as soon as they are published and associated to your
name. As I said above, a website is the perfect media with public
access to assert such intellectual property. You will own your
strain name, providing that NO ONE ELSE has already used that name
for their betta strain. So better do some homework first. If you
feel the name is not currently used or associated with any breeder,
then you can use it. However it will only become your property if
you publish it to a media with public access. So calling your bettas
"Morning Breeze" at home does not give you ownership of
the name and if I were to post a new page to my catalog with a new
strain of mine and call them "Morning Breeze" then you
would be out of luck because I would own the name, not you. Why?
Because you cannot prove that you used it if it is not fixed to a
media and available to the public.
Common problem #1. The most common problem is people who buy fish from a known breeder and then spawn them, cross them etc.. and still try to sell the offsprings using the original breeder's strain name. The integrity of a strain and the vision of a breeder can only be sustained by the breeder who started the strain and named it. Only the original breeder can dictate what he/she wants their bettas to look like. Say I decided that apaches should now all be crowntails and bred them to become that way. I would have modified the original look of my fish because my own vision has changed. I own my vision, I own my line and own the name associated with that vision and myself. So I have every right to change its looks if I so desire and still call it Apache. Of course the buyers would be notified by seeing new photos, reading the new specs, etc... Now let's say Louise Doe buys some apaches from me and proceeds to cross them to God knows what and gets red veiltails with blue in their bodies. This has nothing to do with my vision or me, it is her own vision, the result of her (ever not so good) work. Then she turns around and auctions them as apaches, on the pretext that at some point the line came from me. As you see, these fish are 1)- not consistent with the APACHE vision the creator of the line has 2)- not bred by the breeder which name can never be disassociated from the strain name. As you see this does not work for many reasons. Louise should simply sell her bettas as "Red veiltails with blue" or she could call them "Ugly Ducklings" ;). Needless to say Louise would love to be able to sell these Ugly Ducklings fast by calling them Apaches cause she knows that everyone knows the Apache original breeder and everyone loves Apaches and would buy them from her and pay good $ for them on simple name recognition. In short, she would love to scam the buyer and make some dough in the process. Meanwhile photos of horrible looking fish that have nothing to do with my line and vision get plastered on auction sites with a tag like "Apaches from Faith". >8. That is my first reason for placing a restriction on using my strain names. Read a few testimonies here.
Common problem #2. What if Jennie buys a pair of Apaches from me and then decides to sell them. Technically they are still Apaches since they were raised by me and bred by me. But how is one to know for sure? Will a Betta Police or Quality Control Squad double check the accuracy of her claim? Who can tell for sure if the person did buy them from me, or not? Maybe she bought them from someone who claimed they bought them from me (and lied) (by the way this scenario DID happen MANY time). As fish get passed from person to person it becomes impossible to know if they originated from my fishroom or not. Or maybe she did buy some fish from me at some point in the past (over 5000 people have over the years) but now is selling stock born in her fishroom and passing them for bettas raised by me. Or maybe these have nothing to do with my bettas but she is still passing them as mine. How could you tell? How could I tell? No one knows where bettas REALLY come from but the seller and not all sellers are trustworthy. People have been getting scammed repeatedly in that manner over the last 3 years and sent me poignant emails to complain about their mishap, asking me to do something about it. So I did. That is my second reason for placing a restriction on using my strain names.
Common problem #3. As I became even more popular by owning the largest betta site worldwide and appearing on international TV on the Animal Planet network, more people sought my bettas and lines. And I had to watch out for another problem yet: Betta scalping. If you do not know what that is, here it is: Say I have 4 pairs of Holy Grails on my site and that is all I have for a while (most of you know that I do not breed in mass quantities). Mr. Chuck Weasel buys all four pairs from me. What I do not know is that he does not intend to use them for his own enjoyment. Instead, he plans to make some quick money by simply turning around and auctioning them off somewhere on the internet. He knows the market is hot for them and that he can sell them fast for a lot more than he paid for them (since they are the only lots out there) and make a quick profit that way. The buyer has no choice. He advertises them as Holy Grails and sells them for twice what he paid. The end customer got SCAMMED because he/she could have initially bought them at 1/2 the price on this site, but couldn't because they no longer were available since Mr. Weasel snatched them first. This over inflates market prices and is just plain unethical. Same with concert ticket scalpers. The concerts become sold out because these parasites bought a bunch of tickets for the sole purpose of making quick profits by preying on the band's fans :((((((. Many people out there have tried to prey on fans of my bettas (if I may say) and many cases of frauds have been reported to me over the last 3 years alone. I had to put a stop to the abuses and remove all temptation and all possibility of scam schemes, and PROTECT you guys, the real hobbyists who pay bettas with hard earned money. So that is my third reason for placing a restriction on using my strain names.
Who can use my strain names? There is a very visible LARGE warning sign posted on the stock page that states: "WARNING! ALL STRAIN NAMES AS LISTED ON THIS WEBSITE ARE PROPERTY OF BETTATALK. The use of my strain names or of my name for the purpose of selling, advertising, or commercial exploitation is strictly prohibited." By posting this it becomes clear that no permission is granted to anyone period. This way it eradicates all scam schemes and purges the hobby from the A. Holes of this world. You the buyer can rest assured that you are buying the real thing when you buy it on my website. And if you ever see a lot anywhere else listed with one of my strain names, you know for SURE that it is a scam. So don't touch it with a 10 foot pole. All my customers are informed upon filling their order form about the restriction placed on the use of my strain name, or my own name, in conjunction with their betta sales. They do have to agree to this before they can submit their order, so they do know better but to use my strain name to auction a betta. Hence if you do see my strain name out there, it is more likely that it does not come from a customer of mine and that it is in deed a SCAM.
The proper way for you to sell bettas. Not using a breeder's name / strain name should never impair your betta sales. Bettas should sell on their own merits. I sold many bettas for several years before I started naming my strains and becoming known. I never once used another breeder's brand name to try to sell my fish and I always sold all of my fish :). When you sell your betta, you can describe its color and finnage, give the technical description of your fish and age. Some people like to put photos (I find that photos can be very deceiving so beware!). If your fish is nice and carries good genes it will sell, period.
Well, I hope this clarifies things immensely for all of you. I know all this can be confusing. I trust that after reading this you understand how it works and why being ethical and honorable is the only way to go if we want to preserve our betta hobby and the integrity of each breeder's vision and breeding goals, including your own.