Saturday, January 26, 2019

Washington Post tries to take down parody site for trademark infringement

The Washington Post tried to make a trademark claim against “Democracy Awakes” for this spoof of the paper “Unpresidented” with an Orson Welles-like story that Trump had resigned (fake). 
Electronic Frontier Foundation took the Post to task, with this story by Kit Walsh, here. 

Trademark law protects consumers from being misinformed about the identity of the company or entity it is buying a product or service from.  Non-profits (like Blue Cross plans) can have trademarks. But political parodies cannot.  Although I can imagine arguments regarding possibly misleading potential voters.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"Collusion" as a domain name for a political journalism site causes a cease-and-desist from a fashion brand which fears the connection to "Trump" drives consumers away

Daniel Nazer at EFF has an important story of a really abusive trademark claim.

A site had been established with the domain name “” which maps to this url regarding possible evidence of Donald Trump’s purported collusion with Russia, before and after the 2016 election.

Yet the domain owner got a red-lettered cease-and-desist letter from a British clothing company Asos, which apparently uses the word in one of its fashion products.

US trademark law usually does not allow the reservation of common words in a way to keep unrelated businesses from using the word in a completely related business or political or artistic cause.

But it’s interesting that the stormy relationship between trademark law and domains evolved so haphazardly in the late 1990s (as with the “Epix” case).

I looked at the Asos fashion site. So many of the male models were heavily tattooed.  I don’t know what to make of that.   I can remember when Blogtyrant was promoting the idea of fashion blogs in particular.
It sounds plausible that one reason for the dispute in this case is that Asos fears that drawing attention to a current US political crisis will discourage sales to consumers psychologically.  Using "collusion" as a fashion product brand name may have turned out to be unfortunate. 
But there is also a business and site called ASUS, with a “u”, which is also a computer manufacturer from Taiwan.  I have an ASYS laptop.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Personal branding online -- yes, the Patreon Purge is a bad sign

I wanted to make a note here about personal branding, as 2019 starts.

We’re used to the idea of informal personal branding in the workplace and the world of resumes, and Linked-In profiles.

Online, many “pundits” – whether through books, blogs, video podcasts, or some combination thereof (even their own daily “newspapers”) guard their brand – the ideas that their names stand for – jealousy.  The goes hand in hand with how trademark law works, at least for any one who sells items or ad space or even has patrons so he/she can make a living.

And, as other blogs here have covered recently, a number of “conservative” pundits have had platforms taken down.  Sometimes this may seem to be justified by incendiary or hateful conduct, but in some other cases it seems to have more to do with who they are associated with.  It is far too easy for the far Left to smear anyone as “alt-right” or “white supremacist” with practically no factual basis in what a party has actually written.  And payment processors, in particular, seem to be intimidated by these activist tactics.

One way to test a public pundit’s “brand” is to challenge him with requests or demands to demonstrate public support for some other charity or party with real needs.  That is, make the pundit admit he or she can become needy because of the dangerous world, too.  But this sort of compelled speech can undermine the speaker’s message and even defeat the point of remaining online.  Yet, given recent political climate since Charlottesville, continuing to speak out while refusing to support others in need publicly could be viewed indirectly as hate speech, or at least gratuitous speech adding to risk.
Many of my domains are up for renewal this year, and I could face challenges or questions in this area.  I could also face questions as to whether I am sufficiently “commercial” and can get serious about really selling things (books), as with the “”, which has been stable for years (since 1999).  Times are changing rapidly, and systemic inequality is behind the changes.