Would A Moron In A Hurry Confuse Military Equipment With A Bamboo Fishing Rod?

from the skunk-works-me dept

The term a skunk works project has become a pretty generic description over the years for a somewhat autonomous project within an organization (often used in secret or to build a self-competitor). The term originated with Lockheed Martin, and while the name Skunkworks is a bite off of the popular Li'l Abner comic, Lockheed has become incredibly aggressive over the years trying to enforce its trademark -- almost certainly a losing battle. But, even so, the company seems to be going too far on some of its claims. George alerts us to the fact that Lockheed Martin sent a legal nastygram to the maker of some bamboo fishing rods that are sold on the guy's domain SkunkworksFlyRods.com.

In typical giant conglomerate fashion, the cease & desist doesn't spend much time on pleasantries and goes straight to the demands and threats. It claims that the use of "skunkworks" is clearly in "bad faith" and demands he not just cease & desist, but also hand over the domain name. While the article linked above notes, correctly, that LM needs to defend its trademark, that's only in cases where there's actually trademark infringement. You could make a pretty strong case, I imagine, that no one is going to confuse this fishing rod with a fighter plane.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:26am

    Um duh!

    What?!? Lockheed-Martin Skunkworks didn't desgin my incredibly magical bamboo fishing rod? I'm shocked, shocked I say!

    I thought the name was an indicator that my Skunk Works fishing rod is the same one they include in fighter planes survival kit!

    Aw, shucks!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:39am

    That stinks!

     

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  3.  
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    AdamBv1 (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:40am

    Jet Fisher.

    But I go fishing with my fighter jet all the time, how was I supposed to know this was some cheap ripoff (other than the multimillion price difference)?

     

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  4.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:40am

    Oh oh pick me, pick me .....

    "Would A Moron In A Hurry Confuse Military Equipment With A Bamboo Fishing Rod?"

    It depends on which section of the content industry they work in ... :)

     

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  5.  
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    Pixelation, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:45am

    Skunkworks? This one stinks. ;)

    Looks like we should vote with our wallets and not buy any more planes from Lockheed-Martin. Ha, that'll show 'em.

     

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  6.  
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    drkkgt (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:57am

    This is because of that super secret black project for a rocket assisted, nuclear powered, depleted uranium core fishing rod Lockheed Martin is making for those 4 star, security conscious, generals.

     

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  7.  
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    Malodorous Intent (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:02am

    That explains why I can't find my fishing rod -- its all that stealth technology.

     

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  8.  
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    David Hammond (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:06am

    I'm getting a little annoyed by the way these article headlines are worded. The issue of trademark -- at least as I see it -- isn't an issue of whether you would confuse two different products, it's whether you would confuse two different brands or manufacturers. I wouldn't confuse a bamboo fishing rod with military equipment, but I might assume the same company created both if they both have similar branding.

    I don't see much value in copyright or patent law (in fact, I believe they generally harm society and take away important liberties), but I do see value in trademark law. I consider trademark law a sort of anti-fraud mechanism which helps to ensure that customers know what they're buying. I feel that these headlines that mock trademark lawsuits too often miss the point of trademark law.

    Would a moron in a hurry confuse a hamburger with a pretzel? No, but if a pretzel shop opened up with the name "McDonald's Pretzels" with a yellow "m" logo that looks close enough to the famous one, the average person could make a reasonable assumption that the pretzel place is part of some division of the McDonald's fast food franchise. This *would* be confusing, and might affect people's purchasing decisions. Trademark law is there to help clarify the situation for the customers, making it clear that the two aren't related.

    I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that a manufacturer of military equipment might also manufacture fishing rods. In this particular case, skunkworksflyrods.com definitely doesn't look like something a wealthy weapons manufacturer would make, but this headline (and numerous other Techdirt headlines in the past) is asking the question in general. In general, yes, a moron in a hurry (or an average person) could reasonably confuse the brands of two very different products, if the branding is similar enough.

     

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  9.  
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    P3T3R5ON (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:07am

    Silly but legal

    From Wikipedia:
    The term "Skunk Works" is a registered trademark of Lockheed Martin; the company also holds several registrations of it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office

    Yes it's silly but if you enforce any copyright or trademark law you have to enforce them all.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:18am

    Re: Silly but legal

    But will the trademarks stand up to a real challenge? If the term came from somewhere else ('Lil Abner) and it was used by others before being trademarked should it stand? I think not.

     

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  11.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:20am

    Re:

    "The issue of trademark -- at least as I see it -- isn't an issue of whether you would confuse two different products, it's whether you would confuse two different brands or manufacturers."

    No, the original intent was to prevent confusion between products. This whole, "Well they might think this utterly distinct product was our creation" is a relatively new move, and I'm deeply disappointed in the courts for feeding it. Also, fuck you, lawyers, for doing that dick move.

    I don't buy gas at Crown thinking that they're somehow tied to the Crown Books I buy books at. Or the queen of England. Same dealio here.

     

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  12.  
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    perhaps i've been mislead, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:21am

    Re:

    My understanding for these situations is that your trademark only applies to products that concern the business you are in. As in, until lockheed martin starts to actually make fishing rods, there isn't a concern here.
    I remember several years ago when the "Fantasyland" amusement park in west edmonton mall (Alberta, Canada) was forced to change its name because of the "Fantasyland" section of Disneyland that existed. At the same time, the name of the hotel in west edmonton mall, "Fantasyland Hotel" was not required to change its name.

     

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  13.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:24am

    Re:

    Except for the fact that they don't. A tradmark applies to the industries the holder is engaged in not every possible type of industry. Further, as pointed out in the article the term was already in use and you cannot tradmark generic terms.

     

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  14.  
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    Citizen, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:39am

    From the LM-are-jerks Department

    Does this flyrod fly at mach 4? Does this flyrod come with a heads-up display? Does this flyrod come with twin jet engines?

    If anything, this flyrod should have been dipped in stealth coating, then it might not have showed up on Lockheed's radar ;-)

     

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  15.  
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    RD, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    Wow. They are being far too kind to you. Not only are you a moron, you are a wrong moron and an idiot besides. You might want to understand even the BASICS of trademark law before you spout off on a rant that makes you look foolish.

    "Would a moron in a hurry confuse a hamburger with a pretzel? No, but if a pretzel shop opened up with the name "McDonald's Pretzels" with a yellow "m" logo...." (remainder of incorrect, specious, inapplicable comparison deleted)

    You just compared two companies selling SIMILAR ITEMS (food) in a similar market. Sure, that would definitely be a problem and they would get sued. They are selling a food item, and McDonalds is known for selling food items. But, of course, you have missed the point entirely, AND applied the law where it isnt supposed to exist.

    Fishing Rods are NOT, I repeat, NOT the same product or market as a high-tech R&D shop making FIGHTER JETS. There is NO WAY to confuse these, and anyone (this would be you) that thinks that people will suddenly and without a MOMENTS THOUGHT (this is the "moron in a hurry" portion, also you) go "wow, Lockheed Martin is branching out into Fishing Rods!!" is not just the aforementioned moron, but a true idiot of the first order.

    Trademark DOES NOT COVER ALL INSTANCES AND ALL USES. Get this through your thick head (this applies to all of you). It ONLY and NARROWLY applies where there is likelihood of confusion of a SIMILAR product and/or in the SAME (or related) market. Also, "skunkworks" is a term that has been around for at least a century, so there is prior art anyway.

     

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  16.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 11:48am

    Re: Silly but legal

    "Yes it's silly but if you enforce any copyright or trademark law you have to enforce them all."

    Well, that's what the lawyers will tell you, but your one question should be: Are they competing with us?

    If the flyfishing rod guys aren't putting a damper on your aeronautics bizness, it's not an actual problem.

    Unless you're a lawyer trying to justify his existence on the staff.

     

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  17.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Jet Fisher.

    I go fishing with my fighter jet all the time

    Well, at least you aren't using a trot line.

     

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  18.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Silly but legal

    Yes it's silly but if you enforce any copyright or trademark law you have to enforce them all.


    First of all, that's not true at all for copyright. You can selectively enforce with no problem.

    With trademark it's a bit more complicated, as you do need to enforce, but *only if the mark is really infringing.* And that means competing in the areas where the mark is registered. That's the point of asking whether or not there would be any confusion -- to see if the mark is actually infringed.

    So, no, not necessarily "legal" as per your description. It might be... but there's a pretty strong case that it's not.

     

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  19.  
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    Jim C, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 12:17pm

    Black project

    The LM covert hunting and fishing program is a deep black project. Details are classified beyond your clearance. .

     

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  20.  
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    Bill, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 12:23pm

    RTFM Lockheed dosnt have the trademark...

    A quick search for Skunkworks (all one word) shows that no active trademark is on file. But Lockheed does have the following. And nice to know that they cant spell.

    Word Mark SKUNK WORKS
    Goods and Services IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: [ BLANK MAGNETIC DATA CARRIERS; COMPUTER DISKS, NAMELY, FLOPPY DISKS AND HARD DISKS; CALCULATORS; DATA PROCESSORS AND COMPUTERS; FIRE EXTINGUISHERS; ] COMPUTER HARDWARE PERIPHERALS, NAMELY, MOUSE PADS; DECORATIVE REFRIGERATOR MAGNETS; PRE-RECORDED VIDEO CASSETTES FEATURING MILITARY AVIATION HISTORY, MILITARY AND COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT, AND DEFENSE INDUSTRY RELATED CONTENT; [ AND SATELLITES; COMPUTER HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE FOR COMMERCIAL AND MILITARY USE IN THE FIELDS OF NAVIGATION, RECONNAISSANCE, WEAPON TARGETING AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS ]. FIRST USE: 19680300. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19680300
    Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
    Serial Number 75802755
    Filing Date September 17, 1999
    Current Filing Basis 1A
    Original Filing Basis 1B
    Published for Opposition December 26, 2000
    Registration Number 2621790
    Registration Date September 17, 2002
    Owner (REGISTRANT) Lockheed Martin Corporation CORPORATION MARYLAND 6801 Rockledge Drive Bethesda MARYLAND 20817
    Attorney of Record Lynne M.J. Boisineau
    Type of Mark TRADEMARK
    Register PRINCIPAL
    Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR).
    Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

     

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  21.  
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    Supersparky, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re:

    That's a poor argument on trademark.

    I'm sure if someone came out with "Mickey Mouse Tools", by your definition, they wouldn't be violating Disney's trademark on Mickey Mouse because tools aren't cartoons.

    Sorry pal, that's not how it works. It's the NAME you are protecting, not the products themselves. The NAME is a brand or tool by which your products are associated with, regardless of what they are.

    The trademark "Skunkworks" allows Lockheed to sell fishing poles under the name, if they so desire. They can sell toilet paper (now that would be funny!) under the name and still it's their trademark.

    The same for Disney, they can sell buttons, cartoons, hats, shirts, even cars if they want under the Mickey Mouse trademark because it's their trademark.

    Your assessment of trademark is completely wrong.

    Capitalizing on someone else's trademark is using their hard work and capital to establish a good brand name and using it for your unlicensed benefit. Sorry, Lockheed has a valid complaint here, even if it's just a flyrod.

     

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  22.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    Morons in a hurry

    Well, lawyers are for the most part definitely Morons in a Hurry... and this is what we get when we let Morons in a Hurry dictate corporate policy and common sense.

     

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  23.  
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    The baker, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 1:08pm

    I hope this publicity provides the impetus for the fly rod guys fix what could be a very cool site.

     

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  24.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 1:17pm

    Re: RTFM Lockheed dosnt have the trademark...

    I don't believe in click-rating posts, but that is hilarious. Two words / one word. Hmmmm... I have no idea how that will fly.

    Motion to apply the rod (sorry) and laugh plaintiff out of court.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 2:57pm

    Re:

    @David Hammond

    I think you just proved that a moron in a hurry can make stuff up out of the air to whine about titles to the articles.

     

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  26.  
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    anymouse (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 3:41pm

    Is it a fly rod, or an 'long range mid digit extension to facilitate occular obsfucation'?

    One sells for $45, but the other goes for a whopping $4500 in defense contracts, so obviously they have concerns about protecting their monopoly, er Trademark.



    'long range mid digit extension to facilitate ocular obfuscation' = a finger in the eye (extended by the bamboo rod of course)....

     

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  27.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sorry pal, that's not how it works. It's the NAME you are protecting, not the products themselves. The NAME is a brand or tool by which your products are associated with, regardless of what they are.

    The trademark "Skunkworks" allows Lockheed to sell fishing poles under the name, if they so desire. They can sell toilet paper (now that would be funny!) under the name and still it's their trademark.


    Um. That's not true. When you apply for a trademark, you have to show specifically what area of commerce you're using it for, and the mark only covers that area. It does not give you the right across all products.

    The same for Disney, they can sell buttons, cartoons, hats, shirts, even cars if they want under the Mickey Mouse trademark because it's their trademark.

    But they registered the market across all those uses -- and had examples of how they were using it in those areas.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jul 22nd, 2010 @ 5:14am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Your assessment of trademark is completely wrong."

    umm...I have to reply with:
    Your assessment of trademark is completely wrong.


    "The trademark "Skunkworks" allows Lockheed to sell fishing poles under the name, if they so desire."

    This is wrong. You have to register a trademark in the specific areas of commerce you intend to use it. If Disney did not register "Mickey Mouse" in the electronics industry, it would be ok to sell a "Mickey Mouse" mouse for a computer and they could not complain. Disney was diligent in registering their trademark everywhere. If LM did not register the trademark "Skunkworks" for use in the fishing equipment industry, they (by the way trademark law is supposed to work) are out of luck. That does not mean a judge will not make a bad ruling.

     

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  29.  
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    FarmerBob (profile), Jul 22nd, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    The name, "The Skunkworks", of the secretive warfare division at Lockheed has been in place since at least the 1950's. It was only and rightly reregistered when the two Martin-Marietta and Lockheed merged in March 1995. The term, once divulged, was always attributed to Lockheed's war machine. Any moron would know that reads or has any cognitive awareness of the world. Just as M$ and Apple are attributed to their perspective manufacturing concerns. They have their "marks" and sell whatever under them. Even Apple with music when they agreed not to with Apple Corp.

     

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  30.  
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    Dave, Jul 23rd, 2010 @ 12:45am

    Invisible rod

    Obviously a stealth fishing rod, so the fish can't see it.

     

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  31.  
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    Tom Anderson, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 9:35pm

    If LM doesn't bother to exert their trademark on Skunkworks, they could lose it.

    In 2011 they sued a Montana company called Underground Skunkworks LLC that sold guns. It has since changed its name to BlackOps Precision.
    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/technology/2011/05/lockheed_martin_sues_montana_f.h tml

    On the other hand, in 2008, The Australian company Skunkworks, dealing in flat screen mounting technology successfully fought trademark proceedings from LM.
    http://www.skunkworks.com.au/media_release_23.pdf

    Every company needs to try to protect its trademark interests, or they will become diluted. Skunkworks the fishing pole manufacturer may very well be able to keep their name, but they should trademark it!

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Tom Anderson, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 9:51pm

    Re:

    I get my information from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunkworks_project or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunk_Works, but it seems to be different from your viewpoint on this subject.

    "The designation "skunk works", or "skunkworks", is widely used in business, engineering, and technical fields to describe a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, tasked with working on advanced or secret projects."

    "The name [Skunk Works] stuck and came to be generalized to similar high-priority R&D units that have been created by various companies since."

    Given these quotes from Wikipedia, it does not seem clear at all that the original usage of Skunk Works that came from a Lil Abner comic strip and was later applied to a Lockheed Martin project in World War II should be solely owned by that company.

    The funniest trademark claim to Skunkworks seems to be from a UK company that sells cannabis seeds, where the term skunk applies to a variety of marijuana with a distinctive smell. They prevailed against Lockheed Martin.

    However, these losing trademark disputes are all in foreign countries. I'd imagine that Lockheed Martin has a lot of influence within the United States, so will successfully bully smaller businesses that do not compete with it.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    mary jane, Oct 29th, 2013 @ 8:40pm

    Would A Moron In A Hurry Confuse Military Equipment With A Bamboo Fishing Rod?

    Unfortunately drugs are part of our reality and even if they are not sold in local stores they exist all over. A survey made last year revealed that 52% people tried at least once to smoke weed and 25% continued to do it.

     

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


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