Using Trademark To 'Privatize The English Language'
from the did-you-(R)-that? dept
Jeanne sent in news of yet another overly aggressive trademark claim, this time on a blogger who just so happened to use the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway” in a blog post. Apparently, that’s also the title of some book that neither I nor the blogger in question has ever heard of — but the author’s lawyers insisted that since the title is trademarked, the blogger needed to add the (R) symbol after his quote, and include a message claiming “This is the registered trademark of Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. and is used with her permission.” The blogger, Leo Babauta, has decided not to give in, pointing out how ridiculous it is to “privatize the English language” this way:
I find it unbelievable that a common phrase (that was used way before it was the title of any book) can be trademarked. We’re not talking about the names of products… we’re talking about the English language. You know, the words many of us use for such things as … talking, and writing, and general communication? Perhaps I’m a little behind the times, but is it really possible to claim whole chunks of the language, and force people to get permission to use the language, just in everyday speech?
Well, that’s for the lawyers to figure out, but trademark law is only supposed to apply to use in commerce, and it seems like a stretch to claim the blog post is use in commerce (though, since the blog has ads, the lawyers might disagree). However, the fact that the use of the phrase seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the book again raises questions about how this could possibly be considered confusing or dilutive of the mark. Either way, Barbauta makes a point we’ve been trying to make here for a long, long time:
As an aside, I think the idea of jealously protecting copyright and trademarks, in this digital age, is outdated and ignorant. You want your ideas to spread, and you should encourage people to spread your ideas, not put up all kinds of boundaries and restrictions and obstacles to that being done. This blog, for example, is Uncopyrighted, and will always be free, because I want people to spread my posts and ideas. I think it’s actually good for me as a writer, and it’s (not insignificantly) better for the writing community in general if we can share each others’ work freely. I’m hoping that with posts like this, and the good work of thousands of other like-minded people, the old mindset of fencing off ideas and language will slowly change.