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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


Trademark Insanity

Trademark suits can often be rather silly and highlight the high legal costs of maintaining sanity. This week-end's press gives us two nice examples.

PennLive.com reports that US "chocolate" maker Hershey is suing competitor Mars because the color scheme of its new Dove candy is too similar to the existing Reese candy. If you follow the link, you will notice that the two wrappers do not look alike at all. The point of contention is about the color choices: orange and various shades of brown. Mind you, this is about chocolate, which usually comes in various shades of brown...

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that a NY-based company has trademarked "Daytona Beach Bike Week", a popular event in Florida, and is now pursuing souvenir makers and sellers in Daytona Beach.

Trademark lawyers are out of their mind

We have seen, here or elsewhere, trademark suits that were silly, but this one takes the cake. Compare the two following logos:

Re/Max argues, according to this article that the rehava logo is too similar to its own. You may wonder how. Here is a quote from the Re/Max lawyer: First of all, both names start with "r" and have logos with accent lines near the letter "e". It goes beyond that. If you chop the top off of the 'h,' you (almost) have the 'm' in Re/Max. The next letter is an 'a,' and if you take the 'v' then you have half of an 'x'. I am not making this up... Nobody in their right mind would believe this, but apparently some lawyers believe they have a case. Or they found a small company to bully. In any case, it shows how trademark law is ill-conceived.

Abusive lawsuit using trademark law: you cannot hyperlink

Slate reports on a lawsuit that is an obvious harassment of a small company by a law firm using trademark as a pretext. In short, the suit argues, to take this post as an example, that I should not link to the Slate article like above but rather like this: Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2210636/pagenum/all/, where the full article can be read).

Yes, you read it right, the suit argues that hyperlinking the way everyone does infringes some trademark, as it supposedly confuses readers. In my case, you are supposed to be confused into thinking that Slate would be part of Against Monopoly. The judge, who may not have heard about the web, did not dismiss this suit, forcing the poor accused party to settle before legal cost would escalate.

Goofy trademarks

I just came across the site of a German patent attorney who seems to collect on his website non-traditional trademarks (archive). A gold mine if you are looking to roll your eyes for hours on end. There are, for example, 84 pages worth of trademarked colors. Other crazy trademarks: the scent of lemon or freshly cut grass; the motion of forming a T with your hands (time-out); moving your fingers to imitate the cutting motion of scissors; giving a child your hand. Oh, how much I have sinned without knowing it.

Unik insurance court decision

I may be wrong on this, but I believe you cannot insure yourself against acting illegally. In that light, I interpret the following court decision as determining that software piracy is legal.

UNIK Associates was in the business of reselling software to businesses. Symantec sued and won a case against UNIK, alleging that it pirated its software products. UNIK then sued its insurance company to make it pay the fine, and has just won. The court argues that the policy covered copyright and trademark infringements.

19-0

19-0. There, I said it. The NFL Patriots are apparently pursuing steps to trademark "19-0" and thus hinder any team that would actually have a perfect season from using its actual win-loss result.

The trademark application would not prevent newspapers from using 19-0 in their columns, as the application is visibly only for silly knick knacks with a 19-0 mark. But the principle is vexing, like trademarking three-peat.

Preventing Champagne from selling Champagne

Trademarking a name to prevent others from selling similar goods under a similar name makes only sense if indeed you were the first one to do so since the law was in place. In a fight that has now lasted a decade, the village of Champagne (Switzerland), which happens to be producing wine since at least the 17th century, has been told that it could not use its own name. That name is reserved for wine coming from the French region of Champagne.

Now, the French are big on "appellation d'origine contrôlée", that is, the origin of wines needs to be certified. Given the wide variety of wines, and the fact that some wine growing locations have a bigger reputation, one may want to pretend to be from a region. In your are not from the region, that is fraud that should be covered by usual commercial law (false advertising). Where it gets iffy is when the wine maker is located in the fringes of the region. Does he really belong? This is the core of the French regulation, trying to prevent the dilution of a name.

What the Champagne region (France) is enforcing is preventing the (non-sparkling) wine of Champagne (Switzerland) from diluting the reputation of the Champagne name. Demand for the sparkling Champagne is high, so this did not prevent the Champagne region from expanding its name definition, thus acting exactly against the principle of "appellation d'origine contrôlée" it says it is defending. Sad.

An interesting twist to this is that there is a bakery in the Swiss village selling sticks it calls "flûtes de Champagne", an obvious pun on the situation. They are wildly popular in Switzerland.

Illegal Art

I just ran across the website of an old exhibition (which is still ready for new exhibits) that stretches then limits of copyrights and trademarks. illegal-art.org may not necessarily be pleasing to the eye, but it is full of courageous, and even brazen attempts to use or abuse copyrighted and trademarked material, with plenty of lawyer stories. Enjoy the three eared Mickey Mouse, the Iowa prof who trademarked "Freedom of Expression" and sent a cease-and-desist letter to himself, and much more.

Trademark Pwnage

Trademork.com is an excellent source of silly trademarks, as shown by this recent example: A Finnish computer game company is applying for a trademark for the term "pwnage," a recently coined word signifying that someone has been had. The company cannot lay any claims that it created the word, and the word is now commonly used in the gaming and online communities.

I want to trademark "trademark"...


   

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