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IP, Non-IP, Trademark

Bullying, Grown up (sort of) …

It’s been a month, so I can forgive everyone for forgetting already the name Tyler Clementi. …

Still thinking? Take your time, I”ll wait…

I mean, it’s not like the name’s connected to any kind of national scandal/outrage/outcry/story-of-the-century-of-the-week, so don’t feel bad.

Give up? OK.

Tyler Clementi was the Rutgers student whose apparently homosexual “encounter” was broadcast over the internet. That’s right, this guy. Ultimately, Mr. Clementi committed suicide, prompting lawmakers to do what they do best (or at least most often when responding to national headlines), suggest new laws to fix the “bullying” problem.

And no, this is not going to be a discussion of the pros and cons of any “Tyler’s laws” or reactionary lawmaking in general. (If you want that, check out Scott Greenfield’s post from last month.)

Of course, bullying starts very young. A friend of mine has a three-year old son who was recently subjected to bullying because my friend drives a “poopy car.”  But unlike the legislator’s, Mirriam’s reponse is different:

I don’t want bullying to be criminalized.  It is a sign of weakness as a society, as adults and parents that we would abdicate this responsibility of teaching our children right from wrong to the schools.

She reacts differently because she knows better:

Who will take care of my kids when they face meanness as adults? What school will step up to make it all better then?

Fellow CDL (and philosopher) Mark Bennett expands on this over at Defending People. In response to Mirriam’s rhetorical query about the authoritarian response turning kids into “giant weenies who won’t know how to stand up for themselves, or for others,” Mark explains:

That is not an unintended consequence of criminalizing bullying; that is the whole idea. Government is the ultimate alpha, and it wants everyone in the pack to be a beta (or lower). You think government wants people to stand up for themselves? You think government wants people to stand up for others? That’s exactly what government doesn’t want people to do, because if people are willing to stand up to bullies, they might realize that they can also stand up to government.

Of course, this bullying does not end on the playground, nor does it end in college. Lawyers dealt with it in law school, and those working in BigLaw no doubt deal with it daily.  In the IP world, bullies abound.

I eat at IHOP frequently (kids eat free on weekdays, and my oldest son could eat his weight in scrambled eggs). And I was a bit stunned when I heard that IHOP sued a christian organization for calling themselves International House of Prayer. After reading this, I was not at all phased to learn that Florida State University was beating their chest about suing Florida high schools for calling themselves Seminoles. The trademark bullies say they’re just protecting their brand. They also say they have no choice but to sue:

In other words, Florida State will have to sue Southeast High School to get them to become something other than Seminoles.

This is sort of the trademark bully’s way of saying “why are you hitting yourself?” Of course, the “brand” protection argument can sometimes feel a bit contrived as well, like Facebook trying to control use of the word “Face” and “Book”.

Sooooooo….. what is the government’s response? According to my friends at TacticalIP, the patent office (backed up enough as it is) is now apparently instructed to go out and “study and report” on the effects these trademark bullies are having on (who else?) small businesses.  My friend Mark engages in a brief (but understandable) rant:

So it turns out that a bunch of Congressman have received some complaints from their constituents that big bad businesses are bullying them into not using their trademarks, and now Congress wants to conduct a study of the effect of such tactics. Please join me in asking the following – are you kidding me???

After all, the owners of these small business can’t possibly be expected to figure out how to defend themselves …

and hits just keep on ….. well, you get the idea.



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