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August 19, 2003

Trademark Amok

After the silliness of the Fox "Fair and Balanced" fight with Al Franken, you see an even more dangerous attack on free speech through a trademark lawsuit in the Verizon contract fight:

Verizon Wireless, the cellphone company, in which Verizon holds a majority stake, asserted in court papers filed late on Monday that union officials violated the company's trademark by using the "Can you hear me now?" phrase last week during a conference call with journalists.
Basically, corporate America is asserting the right not to be mocked for their b------- slogans. Let's be clear what parody and satire aimed at corporations is usually about -- it's the hijacking of the money spent by megacorporations to destroy the warm-and-fuzzy feelings the public may have. Which the corps hate, but it's one of the main weapons of those without those megabillions to have chanc e in public debate, much as many martial arts allow a smaller combatant to use the strength of an assailant against them.

Trademark law should have a simple rule-- if you aren't selling the same product and there is no consumer confusion, a lawsuit should be dismissed on its face. That's unfortunately not the legal situation now, but it should be.

Posted by Nathan at August 19, 2003 11:00 PM