Woman Trademarks Her Name, Says No One Can Use It Without Her Permission
from the copyright-protect! dept
It’s no secret that many people are quite confused about how patents, trademark and copyright law work at times. In fact, we’ve frequently pointed out that it’s rather unfair to lump trademarks in with copyright and patents, because trademarks are so different. Whereas copyright and patents are all about a right to exclude via a monopoly privilege, trademark is about consumer protection, and is under an entirely different part of the constitution. Unfortunately, those who favor the “intellectual property” terminology have lumped the three together, leading many people to falsely believe that trademarks are effectively similar to patents and copyright — especially with respect to the right to demand no one else can use a trademark in any way without permission. As folks like Leo Stoller have learned the hard way, that’s simply not true.
However, it doesn’t stop some of the more amusing claims from folks who do think that they have extreme control over a trademarked term. Reader darus67 points us to the the website of one Dr. Ann De Wees Allen, who makes it quite clear she has a trademark on her name, and anyone using it without permission will be in trouble:
Dr. Ann de Wees Allen’s name is a Federally Registered Trademark. It is illegal to use the name (Dr. Ann de Wees Allen) on any website or document without prior written permission.
She even goes so far as to post a list of websites “illegally” using her name, as well as a copy of the cease and desist letter (pdf) her lawyers will send you. Now, it may very well be that some of the sites in question are, in fact, violating her trademark (and at least one of the pages I’ve found does appear pretty questionable from a trademark standpoint) but the blanket claim that “it is illegal to use the name on any website without prior written permission” is simply false. That’s not how trademark law works. Dr Ann De Wees Allen does, in fact, have a trademark on her name, used in commerce related to dietary supplements, but just because you have a trademark, it does not mean you have complete control of the mark.
Patents, trademarks and copyright are all very interesting subjects at times, but it’s rare to find a case where someone potentially has confused how all three work.