In an age when we're continuously told about the importance of intellectual property, it's amazing how few people understand the differences between the various types of intellectual property protection -- and how some use that ignorance to scare people into giving them all sorts of money. We recently noted that even politicians voting on the issue often don't know the difference between copyrights and patents, and how that could lead to more problems. However, it often seems like trademarks are the most misunderstood element of intellectual property protection -- leading to all sorts of wasted time and money in court. No wonder the lawyers love trademarks. The NY Times is running an article discussing how some guy claims to own the trademarks on a bunch of words, including "stealth," for "all goods and services." That's complete hogwash, of course. Like any other trademark, he only has the right to protect his brand against others using it in ways confusingly similar to ways that he is using it. Yet, he insists that no one else can use the word and sues any company that has a product with the word "stealth" in it -- including Northrup Grumman who tried to register a trademark on "the stealth bomber," an airplane they make. Can anyone seriously say that they would see a stealth bomber model set from Northrup Grumman and be confused that it was too similar to something made by this guy? The problem, though, is that even as he loses many of the cases that actually go to court, it's still too expensive (or too time consuming) for many of those he goes after to deal with. So they just pay him off -- and he continues to sue others. Basically, this guy has figured out ways to use the legal system to bully plenty of people and companies when he simply has no legal standing whatsoever. It's a pure misuse of intellectual property law to simply bully others to make money.
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