Copyright, trademarks, and other types of intellectual property are incredibly important issues in the internet age, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from who The Guardian picked to write about the topic.
Businesses may succeed or fail on their IP licensing deals, copyright may be a contentious component of the TPP, and Cox may be about to lose millions based on a questionable interpretation of the DMCA Safe Harbor exception, but The Guardian cares so little about these issues that they have assigned a literature professor to write about them.
No, seriously, on Saturday The Guardian published an article by John Sutherland which not only confused trademarks with copyright but also demonstrated a complete ignorance of trademarks in general.
For starters, either the writer or his editor thought that “The dark art of copyright: trademark battles from Specsavers to Facebook ” was a good title for this piece.
Yeah, they’re not the same, and anyone who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be reporting on the topic for The Guardian.
The piece goes on to make laughable claims like:
The government-run intellectual property offices in the US and UK are, on the whole, level-headed in their rulings.
As anyone who has followed the Washington Redskins trademark drama or follows US patent laws can tell you, that just isn’t true. The US Patent and Trademark office is capricious and arbitrary in awarding trademarks, and oftentimes ridiculously accepting of patents on basic concepts.
The Guardian also got their facts wrong on the cost of filing a trademark:
A small punt can, if the TM gods smile on you, bring unimaginably huge rewards. The cost for a trademark, here and in the US, is around £200. The forms are very simple and (unless you’re Sarah Palin, ) easy to fill in.
From what I have found in my ventures into the world of startups, it helps to have an attorney who specializes in trademarks. Their expert advice can prevent many a headache.
Basic research would have turned up that detail, but The Guardian could not be bothered. They also could not be bothered to fact check their history of trademark trolling:
Rather more methodical is the self-described “intellectual property entrepreneur” Leo Stoller. Stoller was foresightful enough to trademark, in the early years of the 21st century, the word “stealth”. Internet search engines mean he can now locate any recent use of “his” word. He may well be looking at this article now (I think we’re safe, under the “fair use” rule, but I’m not sure). Every year Stoller fires off a barrage of fierce letters from his web company Rentamark.com, demanding payment for the use of “his” word. Some recipients pay up – sometimes thousands of dollars. Stoller also went to law against the aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman for cheekily using “his” word for their B2 “stealth” bomber. Stoller, who is clearly not lacking a sense of humour, has also, the New York Times reports, trademarked the word “chutzpah”.
A few minutes of Googling will tell you that Stoller was a trademark troll who lost control of that trademark almost a decade ago. It was a bogus trademark (obviously) and after Stoller was challenged on it in a lawsuit he filed for bankruptcy and the trademarks were invalidated.
To make matters worse, if The Guardian wanted to comment on trademark trolling they could have mentioned the Conan Doyle estate and its trolling on Sherlock Holmes, or the ongoing brouhaha over Buck Rogers.
Or the Olympics.
Or Monster Cable.
It’s not like this information was hard to find; all it took was a few minutes of Googling. But The Guardian cares so little that they won’t even put in that much effort.
image by gaelx