Hugo Boss And Art Teacher Reach 'Amicable Solution' Over 'Be Boss, Be Kind' Trademark Application

from the who's-the-boss? dept

Several weeks back, we discussed how Hugo Boss, German upscale clothier, had opposed the trademark application for an artist who has taken to teaching online art classes during the pandemic. At issue was John Charles' decision to apply for a trademark on the phrase he used to sign off at the end of these classes: "Be Boss, Be Kind." That he had begun selling shirts and hats with the slogan on it, alongside the trademark application, was enough to get Hugo Boss' lawyers working on opposing the application and sending a legal threat letter to Charles, despite the fact that any claims about potential customer confusion between the two entities is laughable at best.

As we noted at the time, while any legal letter such as this is at least mildly scary for someone like Charles, it should be stated that Hugo Boss wasn't overly threatening in the letter. Instead, the letter stated that the company would be opposing the trademark application, but was willing to drop the matter entirely if that application was withdrawn. In public comments, too, Hugo Boss made it clear that it was looking for an amicable resolution to the situation.

And that, almost certainly in large part to the swift public backlash that occurred, is precisely what happened.

Now, Hugo Boss and the popular artist have reached an 'amicable solution' - and John has said 'it was all worth it.'

John said: 'We've now reached an amicable solution and the key thing is that we're able to continue our free online art classes and release our merchandise to the public officially. I'd like to say a massive thank you to the public for all their support, it's been really overwhelming."

As usual, the exact details of this amicable solution aren't explained publicly, but it's worth noting that nowhere in any of the coverage currently is the acknowledgement that Charles has been allowed to proceed with his trademark application. And that, frankly, is the detail we should be focused on. Yes, it's good that Hugo Boss isn't threatening Charles with legal action. Yes, it's also good that he's being allowed to continue his art classes and even sell his merch with the slogan. That's somewhat more permissive than I expected out of Hugo Boss.

But there was never a valid trademark issue here in the first place and, while I don't really see why Charles needs this trademark for which he applied, he certainly should have gotten it. "Be Boss, Be Kind" is not going to confuse someone into thinking a t-shirt is a Hugo Boss t-shirt. The reach of Charles' audience isn't a threat to Hugo Boss, either. No part of this screamed for a resolution of anything at all, amicable or otherwise.

It's sort of an offshoot of how trademark bullying is effective. On the one hand, a large enough company can bully smaller entities into not using anything remotely like its registered trademark, validly or otherwise, just because of the costs associated with those threats. Or there are cases such as this, where the big company can bully the smaller entity until it gets news coverage talking about a supposedly amicable deal.

Both are pernicious, if not equally so.

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Filed Under: art teachers, be boss, be kind, boss, hats, john charles, shirts, trademark
Companies: hugo boss


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:37pm

    I beg to differ... vociferously!

    Hugo Boss sells clothing, right? This guy applies for a trademark with the word Boss and sells clothing with the word Boss.

    Clearly seems like some trespass on another company's trademark, if they happen to involve the same things being sold.

    First, they weren't shutting his online classes. And what kind of oxymoronic slogan is Be Boss, Be Kind? I can't remember a single boss I've ever had that's been kind.

    There's a Japanese electronics company called BOSS. Electronics <> clothing = no trademark confusion.

    T-shirts, hats with Boss on them, could be confusion ...

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      B. I. O'Hazard, 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:55pm

      Re: What the AC said. However, I can explain the phrase...

      It's better than using his own name: "Be Charles, Be Kind".

      Timmy, this is DULL. Is this crap (already OVER too) all that you're allowed? Or are you just so lacking in creativity that have to dig these up and then grind out a minimum number of words with puzzlement, pejoratives, and perniciosity?

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

      • icon
        AC Unknown (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 10:25pm

        Re: Re: What the AC said. However, I can explain the phrase...

        You know, if you don't like what's written on Techdirt, you can always go and start your own blog instead of complaining here constantly and belittling the authors.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 10:37pm

        Re: Re: What the AC said. However, I can explain the phrase...

        "Timmy, this is DULL"

        I can name someone duller.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 10:36pm

      Re:

      "And what kind of oxymoronic slogan is Be Boss, Be Kind?"

      Scouse. There's multiple definitions of the word "boss", and the guy who came up with the other slogan was thinking of the Liverpool definition, rather than "workplace manager" or "Nazi clothing designer".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2020 @ 10:59pm

      Re:

      Sorry, no, this isn't how trademark works. You don't get to lock up common words entirely. You know all those t-shirts that have been around for ages, with the arrow* pointing to one side or other with the phrase, "s/he's the boss"? Yeah, that. Never in any danger that someone thought Hugo Boss produced it. Patently ridiculous.

      *Also, not sued by makers of other shirts with arrows, like "I'm with stupid".

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:54pm

    But IP is our most valuable commodity.
    This art teacher didn't want to end up with some cgi character in a video game doing the 'Carlton' wearing a Be Boss, Be Kind shirt without him getting his cut.

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

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 4:00am

    And what kind of oxymoronic slogan is Be Boss, Be Kind?

    As opposed to say... Make America great again?

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 4:56am

      Re:

      MAGA isn't oxymoronic, it just raises the questions of when a person thinks America was last great, and why. The fact that the answer is usually related to a fantasy version of the 1950s where women and minorities were subjugated but taxes were low and there were no other problems is a different problem - left to the rare person who can answer the question and engage in honest debate after answering.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:19am

        Re: Re:

        I thought MAGA would be Party Like It's 1799.

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

      • icon
        Ben (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:29am

        Re: Re:

        It also raises the question of why the person thinks America isn't great already?

        I mean, as a dirty furriner, it ain't never been all that great for a variety of reasons around health & social care, treatment of minorities, a shaky democracy (even for such a young country), and so on. It's just pretty culturally dominant in the English-speaking world.

        But then again, there isn't a country in the world that I would describe as being 'great' except for in the geographic sense. (like Grand Cayman, or Great Britain, or Greater London)

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 8:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes, in some ways it was great for a few years immediately after WWII, and yet in other ways it remained horrible or got worse.
          I doubt that is the MAGA crowd interpretation.

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 19 Nov 2020 @ 2:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "...in some ways it was great for a few years immediately after WWII"

            Ah yes, those brief years right after the US had been dragged into WW2 by the japanese. Recalcitrant participant or not however, the US during and right after WW2 were a voice in the wilderness compared to any other existing standard.

            Of course, the Greatest Generation today would be the first ones the MAGA crowd would scold and disdain for being "bleeding-heart liberals".

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 19 Nov 2020 @ 5:05am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Ah yes, those brief years right after the US had been dragged into WW2 by the japanese."

              Yes, the years after the US put a stop to the war in the most horrific manner possible (while ushering in a few decades of the cold war), where they were on top because all their economic competition had literally been bombed into the ground, and they could ride on the benefits of the New Deal before Reaganism started to properly destroy the middle class's economic agency.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2020 @ 6:25am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Yup.

                In reference to the comment claiming some good things .... I was thinking of the small progress that helped the middle and lower classes such as increased education funding and limited attempts at social equality - some things w.ere sort of going in the right direction, certainly there was a lot of shit goin on.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 4:03am

    PSA: Bruce Springsteen is the Boss

    • that is all, we now return you to your regularly scheduled trolls.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 18 Nov 2020 @ 1:04pm

    So it's OK to trademark colloquialisms that have been around since the 1950s and before? ("That's boss, man!")

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


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