8/26/2010

One reason I blog

One reason I blog is to reduce the burden of repeating myself.  It's like my own personal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).  These days when I'm asked, "Why is your cell phone always turned off?", I can answer with a URL.  Read this, and you'll know.

8/25/2010

Permission marketing trademark evaporation

I see this morning that Facebook.com is suing Teachbook.com for trademark infringement. I understand how and why the Facebook lawyers justify protecting the name by this means, even if I consider it to be a gross misuse of trademarks law as it ought to be. But I happen to think the whole idea of 'intellectual property' leans toward the oxymoronic.

The best laugh I've ever enjoyed from a good trademark joke, and those are very rare, was yesterday evening when I researched the trademark registration on the phrase "Permission Marketing." Seth Godin invented that phrase at least thirteen years ago, and he literally wrote the book on it. It was a 1999 book titled Permission Marketing.

At Infoworld's July, 1997 Spotlight conference, where "Silicon-Valley-Meets-Hollywood," Seth Goden spoke and is quoted in the Aug. 4 1997 issue of InfoWorld, p. 103, as saying in interactive internet markets customers, "will give you 'permission' to market to them."

Godin's company Yoyodyne Entertainment, Inc. filed an application for a Federal trademark registration for "Permission Marketing" on September 3, 1998. Yahoo! announced its acquisition of Yoyodyne on Oct. 12, 1998, at the same time Godin's book Permission Marketing went to press for release the following May. Yahoo! received technical ownership of the Federal Trademark Registration on "Permission Marketing" with its purchase of Yoyodyne, but Godin retained a license to use it. He had a nearly published book with that name on the cover coming out soon.

But, partly due to the fact of the books great success, if you ask anyone that is familiar with the idea of permission marketing, "Who do you associate with the phrase 'Permission Marketing'," nine out of ten will answer, "Seth Godin." Under those facts, it is nearly impossible for Yahoo! to retain even technical ownership of the trademark. I suppose it would be called trademark dilution, but that idea doesn't quite fit.

On April 4, 2008 Yahoo!'s trademark claim to 'Permission Marketing" died. It was cancelled. I have seen nothing to suggest there was any litigation or dispute of the matter, so I conclude its cause of death was the sober realization at Yahoo! that there are some things you just can't buy. I laughed.

8/24/2010

My view of copyright

The Article I of the United States Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

photo of jennifer aniston
Copyright was intended to provide just compensation to authors and their families by giving temporary Federal protection to the exclusive use of their writings. Things get a little screwy when giant international corporations get involved in protecting and extending their intellectual property assets.  Things get a little screwy and nasty when a cartoon mouse is worth more than Jennifer Aniston, for example.

The first Mickey Mouse cartoon to be released by Walt Disney was a silent short titled Plane Crazy in 1928. When the mere passage of time looked to be a threat to Disney Corporation's exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse, and the Federal copyright protection that gave the cartoon character asset value might expire, Congress was prevailed upon to extend the length of copyright protection.

It was called the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act.

I didn't believe it the first time I heard the name. I thought it was a joke. Then there was the fact Walt Disney, the originator of the mouse character, had died in 1966 and he wasn't looking to the Federal government for protection anymore.

The German economic historian Eckhard Höffner has argued that weak copyright laws in Germany during the 19th century helped them outpace the British Empire in economic development by facilitating the cheap and easy spread of technical and educational materials.
"With stronger copyright guarantees guarding their backs, London publishers profited from the release of limited edition books. But the nation as a whole suffered." - Wired
Although the digital age has been troublesome for traditional media and publishing companies, see Seth Godin's Moving On, it may be good for the rest of us, and help us improve our constitutional balance.