Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What's in a name? A rose by any other


Trademarks are essential tools in the Intellectual Property world.

A trademark or trade mark, identified by the symbols ™ and ®, or mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization or other legal entity to identify that the products and/or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source of origin, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities. A trademark is a type of intellectual property, and typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements. Wikipedia

I have been following with interest the challenge by cobbler Jimmy Choo to shut down the New Zealand online gift retailer Kookychoo.com. It is hard to see how any reasonable person would make an meaningful connection between the two brands (though calling Kookychoo a brand is probably something of a stretch, it is a trading name - according to the New Zealand Herald the gift site had been receiving 30 visitors per day before the publicity about the case increased numbers a hundred-fold. Though I am no high heel wearer, I recognise the Jimmy Choo show brand. Yessss, I have seen the odd episode of Sex and the City...hey, it was a pop culture marker. But I can't see any plausible association between Choo Shoes and the mini site that has them teetering on the brink of apoplexy. In fact the connection I make is more likely to be with the Beatles song The Walrus (which is analysed in painful acid leaden detail here).

Lawyers have rushed to the aid of the little Kiwi battler, eager, I'm sure to enjoy the halo effect of the publicity for their firms - offering their services pro-bono. Given the cost of engaging lawyers of any kind, Looie James, the owner of Kookychoo seems to have stumble on a double windfall. Though now that I have pointed out the posible infringement of the Beatles' work, maybe the Apple Corps will be on the blower. Nor would it seem unreasonable for that other fashion brand Kookaï to seek satisfaction.

If you visit the troublemaking site you will undoubtedly be struck , as indeed I was, by the question - 'huh?', followed by: "What restricted substances have you been taking?". There is no similarity. One sells play teepees and teddy bears the other sells Choos.

Which raises an issue about the legitimacy of the Jimmy Choo brand itself.

The word Choo sounds an awful lot like…:Shoe.

Shoe is common parlance and, therefore, not protectable. Every shoe brand in the world could take issue with the English brand. Perhaps they should?

And while we are navigating the lunacy of frivolous, vexacious, litigious stupidity in the name of obsessive, compulsive greed you might like to hear about what the sparks that fly when Flynt stikes Flynt:

Larry Flynt is taking his nephews to court to stop them slapping the Flynt name on what he considers to be low-quality porn, reports the Los Angeles Times. The porn mogul accuses his kin of tarnishing his famous name with "inferior products" and "knock-off goods," while his nephews insist they have a right to use their own name. Experts say the lawsuit raises tricky questions concerning an individual's right to use their name for business purposes and trademark protection begins. The nephews—who worked for Flynt for over a decade before he fired them for being unproductive—say their uncle just has "inferiority issues" and promise that their films will surpass anything Hustler's ever done.Via Newser

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