Gene Weingarten Shows How To Respond To Bogus Trademark Threats: Stetson(R) Hats Suck

from the nicely-done,-sir dept

One of the lines in Techdirt's style guide (yes, we have a style guide, even if we're not always good at following it) is that we never, ever, post the little registered trademark sign: ® with a company or product name. If you follow business reporting, you will see that show up from time to time. Companies love to use that little symbol in press releases and such even though they don't need to. But, where it gets really silly and ridiculous is when they insist others must do so too. JJ sends an example of a company doing this to humor columnist Gene Weingarten, and his rather simple response. The company in question was Stetson, of the hats by that name, and Weingarten had made an offhand comment in a previous column about how readers who wanted to feel more American could "put on a Stetson." Stetson's COO then chose to demand that Weingarten post a correction and in the future use "Stetson®" when referring to the brand. Weingarten's reply was straightforward and simple:
The correction you are seeking, and which I now solemnly herewith deliver under the implied threat of a trademark-infringement lawsuit, is that "Stetson" is the name of your company and not a generic term for a hat. You further demand that all future references to "Stetson" contain a little R in a circle, like this: Stetson®. Okay. Done, and done.

Stetson® hats suck.
He then goes on to point out just how silly all of this is, before then clearing up any confusion:
I would like to clear up one misconception, though: I was not, as your letter suggests, using the word Stetson® as a synonym for "hat." I was using it as a synonym for "doofusy cowboy hat" of the sort that has made the Stetson® company famous, and that can in an instant, on any city street, transform any ordinary man into a pretentious, truly comical-looking weenis®. I made up that word just now, and therefore own it, and therefore am requiring an ® sign whenever it is used.
Now that's one way to respond to a bogus trademark claim.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    John Doe, May 17th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    That is funny stuff right there...

    I cannot believe the COO at Stetson has the time to send nastygrams to everyone who uses the word Stetson without the registered trademark symbol. They need to find that guy something to do.

    Oops, just realized I used the word Stetson twice, now three times, without the symbol. I sure hope I don't get a nasytgram.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:07pm

    Annual Board Meeting: Okay, Mr. Smith, it's time to elect a new COO. Tell us, what have you done for the company this past year? Raised profits? Increased productivity?
    Smith: Uh no...
    CEO: Excuse me? Then what the hell did you do you?
    Smith: Well...I saw some articles that mention the Stetson hat, and sent...drumroll please...thank you...a strongly worded demand they put the registered symbol next to the Stetson name!
    CEO *blinks, swears underneath his breath and signs a termination of contract*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:15pm

    Re:

    More likely:

    CEO: I don't understand what you just said, but you're obviously doing something. Have a bonus!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:18pm

    Texas

    When I saw Stetson Hats, I figured this had something to do with East Texas. Oh well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    Someone at Stetson Hats will respond to Weingarten's mockery with the "we have to protect our trademark" mantra starting in 3... 2... 1...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

    Sadly, as Mike would point out, Stetson could have used to opportunity to improve its brand repution. A simple "thank you for using our Stetson(r) brand of hats to represent Americana and its long history as a hat made in America(r), by American's(r), for Americans(r)!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    Stetson's are cool

    *Bang*
    Hello, sweety.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Donnicton, May 17th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

    Re:

    I find it incomprehensibly counterproductive when they do things like this. You would think that the company would be proud to have their name be a household colloquialism for a product, much like Band-Aids(r/tm/c), but instead they want to C&D people into their names not being household status.

    As long as our trademark is protected, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Nathan F (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Stetson's are cool

    Definitely better than bow ties..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re:

    I do believe that you are mistaking Stetson, with one of our great financial institutions. I think it would go something more like.

    CEO: Well golly gee, did you challenge him to a duel? That there city slicker don't know who hes messin with. You done shown him good with that there letter. Here, have a whiskey.

    For those I offended with this... I don't care.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Stetson's are cool

    But not as cool as a fez.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Grey Ferret, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: Stetson's are cool

    Stetson's® were cool, but it's too hard to pronounce the ®. That's not cool! I wear a Fez now! Fezzes are cool!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Nina Paley (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Stupid Hat®

    Forget Stenson® - all the cool weenis®s are wearing the Stupid Hat®.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:26pm

    Harvard Business School grad....

    who needs to relearn brand management in the digital age:

    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/holly-lim/0/3a9/230

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Rich, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re:

    The LAST thing any company wants is their band name to become a household colloquialism. That's brand delusion and it puts them at risk of losing their trademark. (not that I agree with their decision, because I don't!)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    PlagueSD, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:30pm

    Re: That is funny stuff right there...

    A quick google search turned up 3 results for Stetson.

    Stetson University
    Stetson Building Products Inc.
    Stetson Hats, Bags, Eyewear, shoes, and watches.


    SOMEONE is going to have a cow...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    sehlat (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 1:30pm

    There's Stetson(R) and Stetson(?)

    I decided I'd bring the COO's behavior to the attention of the company, since this is, IMO, a major Do Not Buy recommendation for the Stetson(R)(TM){can't be too careful} brand, and discovered that there are two such companies in association. There's the manufacturer in Texas, and the company in New York associated with them (marketer? brand name "guardian"?) and it's the New York office(Microsoft tm) from which this idiocy originated.

    The CEO there is:

    Pamela Fields
    263 West 38th Street
    10th Floor
    New York, NY 10018

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Pitabred (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "dilution" Brand delusion is what Stetson is currently experiencing

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Chris Novak, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Improper use of registered trademark ®

    In the last line, the use of the ® (registered trademark) symbol associated with a term just made up is improper. Instead, it should be weenis™. Registered Trademark means you have used the term for a period of time AND received application approval from the US Patent & Trademark Office that the term be registered to you.

    A registered trademark costs $ to register, but for any company doing business globally (or on the internet), it's about the only way to protect your brand rights internationally.

    I agree with the sentiments expressed about overuse of the symbol, BUT registered trademark holders have to "use it or lose it", lest their registered trademark become a common idiom -- like 'xerox' or 'kleenex'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Ellis Humphres, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    Weenis® made me...

    The word Weenis® made me Guffaw™.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Rich, May 17th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    D'oh. Yes, thank you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Tom The Toe, May 17th, 2011 @ 2:28pm

    weenis™

    Weenis was first used in the TV sitcom "Friends" by Chandler. It was a report generated by Chandlers manager. "I can't go now I have to look at the bosses Weenis."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    umccullough (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 2:28pm

    Weenis isn't registered..

    I checked, it isn't registered:

    http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=searchss&state=4006:enf8pr.1.1

    So at the most he can only request that it be written as weenis™

    I know...details.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Laughing out loud, May 17th, 2011 @ 2:43pm

    Re: Re:

    Clearly you don't know anything about trademarks if you 1) think brand owners should be pleased with genericide, 2) use R and TM as alternatives, and 3) put C after a brand name! Brilliant!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Improper use of registered trademark ®

    Yeah poor kleenex and xerox nobody uses them anymore.


    And that poor q-tip company, they never stood a chance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 2:53pm

    Re: There's Stetson(R) and Stetson(?)

    your office(microsoft tm) gave me a case of the lulz

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Bruce Ediger (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Article filled with (R) and (TM) and (C) characters

    When you see an article filled with (R) and (TM) and (C) characters (online or not) you can be sure that the article is content free. All those characters, every one in its proper place, means that some entity, probably a large corporation or foundation, had the money to let a lawyer pore over the text in question, and insist that little (R) and (C) and (TM) symbols appear by words that he or she has verified are trademarks or copyrighted or whatever.

    The corporation spent its money on a lawyer, rather than writing, proofreading or fact-checking. The article is probably on-brand, iconic and is guaranteed not to offend, and it meets Federal Requirements, does not violate the Law of the Sea, the Second Law of Thermodynamics and does not make Baby Jesus cry. But it's certain to suck.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Nina Paley (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    Brand Delusion(tm)

    Best. Typo. Ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Genericide? You should trademark that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 4:34pm

    Re: Article filled with (R) and (TM) and (C) characters

    Seriously, even one use of those symbols serve no useful purpose to anyone outside of an anal-retentive trademark lawyer and, as the examples above show painfully well, only clutter up text. The standard non-superscripted registered symbol, as employed in most fonts used on the Web, looks positively ugly and only gets worse with overuse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    dwgoldman (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Did you say "brand delusion?" You got THAT right, pardner.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    Nina Paley (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 5:58pm

    ®ecursion

    If you register the trademark on registered trademark, you get this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 17th, 2011 @ 6:28pm

    Re: ®ecursion

    How about doing a fractal version? That is, an ® sign made up of little ® signs, made up of even littler ® signs ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Planespotter (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 1:37am

    Re:

    Nope, some smartass comment did it for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    Planespotter (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 1:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Why?

    Google has taken over from the term "search the internet".
    Kleenex has replaced "tissue".
    Xerox had/has replaced "photocopy/photocopier".
    Tippex has replaced "white correction fluid"
    Post-It has replaced "little bits of paper with glue on one edge".

    Has that diluted their brands? I wouldn't think so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Planespotter (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 1:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    too late ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 2:18am

    Stetson hats suck?

    I think you're mistaken.
    Stetsons are cool, The Doctor wore one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 4:15am

    Re: ®ecursion

    Love it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2011 @ 5:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Stetson's are cool

    Well the Doctor knows best.

    Now I want to see the first all Fez western complete with Stetson Fez's.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2011 @ 7:42am

    Yeah you guys don't know how Registered Trademarks work

    If stetson becomes generalized than anyone can make a hat calling it a stetson.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    ric berlin, May 18th, 2011 @ 7:49am

    cowboy hats

    What kind of cowboy would wear a hat from New York City?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Jeff Rife, May 18th, 2011 @ 1:14pm

    Re: weenis™

    That would be "WENUS" in Friends, as it stands for "Weekly Estimated Net Usage of System".

    And, no, I did not have to look that up, and I'm somewhat upset by that realization.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymously Brave, May 18th, 2011 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Google has taken over from the term "search the internet".
    Has that diluted their brands? I wouldn't think so.



    Actually, Google did experience their own version of "Brand Delusion" at one time:

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/137641/google_outraged_at_its_name_being_used.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Laughing out loud, May 20th, 2011 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Why? It's a known trademark concept. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Rich, May 20th, 2011 @ 7:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    Vincent Clement (profile), May 21st, 2011 @ 7:10am

    So what?

    Losing trademark status is a red herring. Is anyone else other than Kimberly-Clark (or any licensee) using the term Kleenex?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Rich, May 21st, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Re: So what?

    Don't misunderstand me. I don't agree with them. I'm saying that their fear. Whether or not it's true is besides the point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2011 @ 8:16am

    What next? Whenever someone says "Stetson" they'll want to have him say "Stetson(R)"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Bender, May 22nd, 2011 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re:

    I find it incomprehensibly counterproductive when they do things like this. You would think that the company would be proud to have their name be a household colloquialism for a product, much like Band-Aids(r/tm/c), but instead they want to C&D people into their names not being household status.

    As long as our trademark is protected, right?

    Not as much as you would think. When you ask for a bandaid you are not asking for the bandaid brand bandaid, your asking for A bandaid, whatever brand. Therein lies the issue. Same with kleenex (facial tissue) or any other product such. The concept of keeping your brand name separate from the product keeps people saying "I need new facial tissue, I want Kleenex." versus "I need more kleenex, ah here is some cheap no-name stuff."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Bender, May 22nd, 2011 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Stetson's are cool

    I wear a Fez now! Fezzes are cool!

    Gotta love the reference to the Doctor. I bet the Doctor doesn't get his shirt in a knot over little r's in circles.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    Khory (profile), May 23rd, 2011 @ 4:29pm

    Weenis

    Lol,

    I just read this. My wife has used the word "weenis" for years. I should have had her copyright it:)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    canuk, Jun 1st, 2011 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re: Re:


    For those I offended with this... I don't care.


    Laughed for five minutes. Awesome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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