FranklinCovey Sending A Trademark C&D Over '7 Habits' Appears To Violate A Few Of The '7 Habits'

from the seven-habits-of-highly-effective-legal-fluffery dept

jonakajon alerts us to the news that the folks over at FranklinCovey, publishers of the ridiculously popular “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” written by Stephen Covey, have sent a cease and desist letter to the folks behind the online webcomic Schlock Mercenary, because the comic has — for years, apparently — had a running parody called “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates.” The guy behind the comic is now going back and retroactively rewriting his comic-world history, and pretending that the parody book is now “The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.” Of course, you would think that Schlock Mercenary would have a strong parody defense, but it’s a pain to fight off big corporate lawyers.

That said, if you look at the actual Seven Habits, it looks like this action by FranklinCovey violates a few of them along the way (suggesting, perhaps that FranklinCovey isn’t as “effective” as it would like you to believe). For example, habit four is “think win-win.” That’s sort of the opposite of sending a C&D. A win-win would have been to contact the comic author and talk to him and figure out an effective solution that worked for both parties, that didn’t involve legal threats and the risk of having to pay lots of money for creating a simple parody. Habit five is to “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” And yet, FranklinCovey’s lawyers did not appear to do this at all. They did not realize this is a webcomic, and not competitive. There is simply no likelihood of confusion here at all. None. And then there’s the whole parody thing. Perhaps it’s time to cross those habits off the list?

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Companies: franklincovey

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Comments on “FranklinCovey Sending A Trademark C&D Over '7 Habits' Appears To Violate A Few Of The '7 Habits'”

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34 Comments
Rachel @ Last Res0rt (user link) says:

He seems to be taking it in stride, though.

From the creator’s blog:

In truth, I’m grateful for the excuse to dive into the archives and change this stuff. The original joke was kind of lazy, and didn’t lend itself well (read: “legally”) to merchandising. My edits are done now, and any leftover septangles in nun-hats are the result of a cached image somewhere.

Yes, FC is being a dick, but it sounds like they opened up another merchandising avenue for him — which is ultimately worth a lot more to him than defending his “lazy joke” might be. Not a defense for their behavior, but worth a thought.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

He seems to be taking it in stride, though.

Yeah, I posted in the comments on Blogunder Schlock to say that I actually liked the new name (The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries) better than the old one. Plenty of fun snark over in the blog comments about the fact it took FC more than eight and a half years to notice ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve actually been a Schlock fan for ages (I have copies of all the books published so far, including the nice slip case for the first five) and have submitted it several times to TD as a great example of someone doing an extraordinary job of connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy.

Not an electronic Rodent says:

Ms. S again?

I wonder how effective being seen as bullying, uptight and slow-to-catch-on sue-merchants will prove to be as a marketing tactic for FC?

I hadn’t heard of either before, now I’ve heard of a comic I might read and will probably associate with the original name because of how I came to it, a publishing company that I will probably associate with stupidity and pettyness and a book that I’ll probably continue to avoid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is it just me or did TechDirt just become hostile towards NoScript users (or perhaps, just people that disable JavaScript)?

I can’t seem to us the “reply to this” function properly and can’t switch between Threaded view and Flattened view. It didn’t bother me much that I couldn’t use the Funny/Insightful buttons, but this one is really annoying.

Disabling NoScript fixes this, obviously, but I am NOT going to disable NoScript. Fix please? I promise I’ll be good ๐Ÿ˜‰

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

He seems to be taking it in stride, though.

I read OotS as well (and have a couple of the books), although updates are rather sporadic these days due to GitP’s ongoing health problems.

One of my favourites is actually Irregular Webcomic, and that’s an example of a pure hobbyist web comic where the guy doing it isn’t even *trying* to monetise it, but is up to 2922 strips (8 years) without missing a single day.

XKCD has certainly been mentioned a few times around here as an example of a web comic creator that has successfully monetised free content, but it would definitely be interesting to see more an that front. That’s one of the reasons I keep submitting Schlock as a possible case study – I’d really like to see the results of Mike interviewing Howard Tayler.

Anonymous Coward says:

For accuracy,

1. There is nothing in the linked article talking about whether or not there were any prior communications between the two parties. The article here assumes there were not, but there is no support for the assumption.

2. Likelihood of confusion is not relevant to a claim of trademark dilution, though without the letter in hand there is no way of knowing if this was one of the bases for the claim stated in the letter.

In sum, some important data is missing at this point in time.

Eugene (profile) says:

No! That’s my second favorite webcomic, next to Sluggy Freelance!

Though ironically, this means they ARE following the in-universe version of their book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates”. Like number 13: “Do unto others.” or number 16: “Don’t be afraid to be the first to resort to violence”

And probably the most apt, number 21: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Take his fish away and tell him he’s lucky just to be alive, and he’ll figure out how to catch another one for you to take tomorrow.”

El Santo (user link) says:

Oh, man...

Does that mean Scott Adams is gonna have to change the title of his Dilbert books, too? (Maybe he already has. I seem to call a “Seven Habits of Highly Defective People,” but all I could find was “Seven Years of Highly Defective People.”)

http://www.amazon.com/Dilbert-Seven-Highly-Defective-People/dp/0836236688/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296075355&sr=8-1

El Santo (user link) says:

Oh, man...

Does that mean Scott Adams is gonna have to change the title of his Dilbert books, too? (Maybe he already has. I seem to call a “Seven Habits of Highly Defective People,” but all I could find was “Seven Years of Highly Defective People.”)

http://www.amazon.com/Dilbert-Seven-Highly-Defective-People/dp/0836236688/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296075355&sr=8-1

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