My Life. My Card. My Intellectual Property Battle.

from the the-world-we-live-in dept

Barely a day goes by when we don’t hear of yet another story about some sort of intellectual property claim being asserted where it doesn’t belong. It’s a function of a current culture where people are being incorrectly taught that every idea, every concept, every word and every sound should be protected and “owned” despite the fact that these things, by their very nature, are infinite and can be freely shared at no cost to anyone. The latest such case involves a guy who apparently pitched the slogan “My Card. My Life” to American Express a while back. Soon afterwards, entirely independently, AmEx’s own ad agency pitched the same slogan, which is now being used. After discovering that the other guy was trying to trademark (we assume, even though the article claims “patent”) the phrase, AmEx sued to get a declaratory judgment that its use of the phrase did not infringe. Thankfully, a judge has agreed that no infringement occurred. Yet, in this age, where we’re being incorrectly bombarded with the message that ideas can be owned and protected, it’s no surprise that American Express would worry about such a thing.

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Companies: american express

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Comments on “My Life. My Card. My Intellectual Property Battle.”

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Trevlac says:

It can be an independent idea. I mean think about this, the think tanks that come up with marketing ideas are not the same execs that hear about them from individuals. Also think that with a hired staff of dozens or hundreds (depending on AmEx’s devotion to ad campaigns) working around the clock and excersizing creative juices, someone was bound to come up with that slogan. I_would_have thought of it within the first day of my working for AmEx.

It’s also not surprising they used it. A while back slogans weren’t supposed to be that simplistic, now all of them are. So re-pitch the same idea independently at a different time and it might be used.

DrFruit says:

I suppose the people who believe the agency came up with that slogan independently, also believe GWBush came up with the plan to save our planet by reducing our dependency on foreign oil independently.

About this being something they were bound to come up with, that is what people say about any good idea… in hindsight.

My guess is, they heard his pitch, thought “Why didn’t we think of that, no way we are going to pay a lot of money for it” and decided to have their regular agency ‘pitch’ the slogan at a standard fee. Hard to prove though.

Willton says:

The ignorance of trademark laws is palpable here

One thing you folks need to understand: anything can be trademarked, as long as it is actually used in connection with goods or services. It does not matter if they mark is a mere 4 words, such as “Have It Your Way” or “My Life. My Card.”; such a formulation of words is a valid trademark.

The problem that tripped up this guy, however, is that he has never used the mark in connection with any goods or services. One cannot own a trademark unless one uses said trademark.

Bob says:

You have to wonder

If the ad agency really came up with it independently, why did they not like it the first time they heard it?

There is presentation and there is Presentation.

If the pitch was really just the 4 four words then Amex is on shaky ground here. If they didn’t like it when he presented it, I think it is their responsibility to disclose why they liked it the second time they heard it.

Shun says:

Hard to prove

The problem here is that it is impossible to prove, after the fact, that person A came up with phrase C, independently of person B. If Mr. Ad Slogan Idea Man were a super-genius, he would use this episode to figure out a better way of protecting his “intellectual property”. I would suggest, minimally, using a notebook. Maybe he can put all of his ideas on powerpoint slides, then print them out when he pitches them.

Too bad, you got burned on this one. Serves you right for trusting the Big Company. This is American Express, a credit card company. Like the Fake Bill Gates said on The Simpsons episode. “I didn’t get to be the world’s richest man by buying people out.” Me, I’d have had a fool-proof solution to these kinds of shenanigans.

Have “My Life, My Card” printed on your business card. In fact, you can make it “My Life, My Card, My Trademark” just to drive the point home. Naturally, he can’t use that exact phrase, but anyone presented with that card would have remembered it.

I’m skeptical of the ability of committees’ abilities to come up with something so simple. Then again, I’m skeptical of committee abilities generally. I would expect the following from American Express corporate: “The Card that Lets You Do Anything, Anytime, Anywhere.” Just rolls off the tongue, eh? Design-by-committee tends to produce abominations like Windows Vista.

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