My latest Guardian column is "Trademarks: the good, the bad and the ugly," and it looks at why trademark, at its best, does something vital -- but how trademark can be abused to steal common words from our language and turn them into a twisted kind of pseudo-property.
Trademark lawyers have convinced their clients that they must pay to send a threatening notice to everyone who uses a trademark without permission, even where there is no chance of confusion. They send letters by the lorryload to journalists, website operators, signmakers, schools, dictionary publishers – anyone who might use their marks in a way that weakens the association in the public mind. But weakening an association is not illegal, despite the expansion of doctrines such as "dilution" and "naked licensing."
When called out on policing our language, trademark holders and their lawyers usually shrug their shoulders and say, "Nothing to do with us.
The law requires us to threaten you, or we lose our association, and thus our mark." This is a very perverse way of understanding trademark.
The law is there to protect the public interest, and the public interest isn't undermined by the strength or weakness of an association with a specific word or mark with a specific company. The public interest extends to preventing fraud, and trademark uses the motivation of protecting profits to incentivise firms to uphold the public interest.
Trademarks: the good, the bad and the ugly
This is a pretty amazing vacancy: “You will lead Consumer Reports in our effort to realize a market where consumer safety is protected through strong encryption; consumers’ rights to test, repair, and modify their devices are supported by copyright, security, and consumer protection laws; and consumers are empowered to make informed choices about IoT products […]
Gus the hacker puppeteer writes, “Many of us hoped the Internet would disrupt the music industry along with all other media industries, giving more power — and more pay — to musicians and songwriters. And yet, somehow the amount musicians get paid each time their songs stream is a tiny fraction of a cent.”
The trademark was granted to discount eyewear company Specsavers, whose slogan is “should’ve gone to Specsavers.” If you object, you have until October 12 to file with the IPO.
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