Paint a Target on My Back

by Roger Pynn

I’m probably going to get a lot of hateful commentary on this post, despite the fact it has nothing to do with what will likely inspire anger from those who have long wanted the Washington NFL franchise to change its name.  I won’t discuss how I feel about that issue, but I will warn you that some of the discussion may offend some readers.

I find what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did yesterday to be a frightening signal from what appears to be an activist judicial body, the agency’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  I say that not because of the issue, but because of the precedent-setting nature of the case they agreed to hear and rule on.

And so, to all the overweight wine lovers out there who were born illegitimately, let me suggest that you consider class action before the same board, questioning why the agency has allowed Winebow Inc., a trademark for its FAT bastardTM wines.

Hopefully you get the point, but for more on this I offer here the results (about 6 million items) of a Google search for “offensive trademarks.”  This is a slippery slope that has implications far beyond the obvious issue driving this specific case.

Intellectual Property consultants KASS International offered an interesting view on this in a blog post that tells me this could be the next frontier for hungry law firms seeking new markets.  I’m one of those guys who is easily offended (despite my own proclivity for cursing) by people who wear T-shirts or sport bumper stickers that are clearly intended to shock.

Like many other debates in our society, I see those as first amendment arguments and I always come down on the side of protecting free speech and expression, and believe the real solution is better parenting.  The issue taken before the patent agency judicial body similarly seems to me a socio-economic one.

I don’t buy FAT bastardTM cabernet (I’m sure they miss my money because I buy a lot of wine), and I’ll bet the owners of that team in Washington would miss the money that would come from those who speak with their wallets when offended.

2 Responses to Paint a Target on My Back

  1. Cheryl Moore says:

    Wow….we have known each other for over 37 years and I doubt we have ever agreed more!

  2. Interesting points, Roger. A couple of thoughts.

    I grow weary anytime I hear a “slippery slope” argument. Paranoia-turned-fact? And what if I want the slope to be slippery because I agree with the precedent? Same with the “activist” descriptor for a decision you don’t agree with — one person’s moral leader is another’s judicial activist.

    Firs Amendment rights? Certainly. But that only provides the channel to speak into. It doesn’t protect you from any potential damage caused by your speech. Or ill-gotten gains and profits.

    I’m just surprised the team’s PR folks haven’t turned this into a positive story — re-branding and repaired goodwill. Win-win.

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