12.16.2011

Behind the Scenes: Protecting Trademarks or Building Relationships?


If you receive an e-mail from a legal department siting copyright or trademark infringement don't despair, be happy because that probably means your Web site made it to the top the Google search engine. You definitely got someones attention :)

So far this has happened twice to me in the last year. Both times it occurred because I'm completely clueless as to what is happening out there in mainstream culture and wasn't quite educated on all the technical details of trademark infringement. I no longer have a TV, haven't spent any real time reading the news in probably seven years, own very little in the way of technical gadgets, don't keep up with music and current trends, and pretty much don't buy into anything media related. The downside of this hermetic lifestyle is that when I am writing, and words are fitting together, and I feel like I'm being my own person, later I find out I just copied the creative soul down the street who thought the idea up ten years ago. Oops!

Is this ever present awareness of everyone else and what they're doing out on the Internet a problem? Is technology making it harder and harder to actually express yourself and feel comfortable with the results? It's not surprising that my idea was also the idea of probably hundreds of other people. We are all thinking, feeling, and experiencing very similar things, so of course we are going to write similar words, make similar art, and so on. In fact, a bunch of people coming up with the same idea without really knowing each other demonstrates the beauty and intricacy of our interconnectedness. It's not new. In the ancient world, people separated by large land masses and bodies of water were using similar motifs without ever having met or surfed the World Wide Web.

I think the saddest part that comes out of trademark infringement is that sometimes, but not always such as in the case of blatant copying of an image for intentional profit, these crossover relationships could be turned from potentially harmful into mutually beneficial. The agenda of a civil attorney is to profit from encouraging conflict between parties not discouraging or looking for new possibilities. So what if people didn't turn to lawyers and see conflict all the time in regards to trademark and copyright, and saw an opportunity for a new relationship? What would our world look like if we didn't believe that we actually owned things, words, and ideas and spent so much time and energy protecting them instead of sharing them in a new way through partnership for the same cause?

I think the Bible is one of the most fascinating examples of the benefit of no copyright. Through it's openness it has expanded to become one of the most read, shared, and copied pieces of writing. Nobody owns it and yet everybody feels they share in it. This idea is similar to bands like the Grateful Dead where bootleg recordings of their concerts were encouraged and served to create long-lasting relationships with their fans. Somehow these guys understood that what was of more value was the experience of being at a concert -- intangible feelings that can't be neatly branded, packaged, and sold as an object. This kind of belief system is operating from place of knowing that true wealth is not quantifiable but exists in our hearts and minds.

How much is the expansion of your business greatly decreased by protecting its borders? Could the company or person you engaged in conflict over copyright or trademark have been the key to that new audience that exploded your business? How could your business be this open and free? It's a question I ponder a lot because from early childhood I've been conditioned or chose to believe certain things were mine. But are they?

I don't see legal battles over copyright and trademark ending too soon, but I love mulling these visions over in my mind as a way to see what could be different in our world and in our relationships.

If you are in business and you are thinking about trademark or would like to learn more be sure to watch the videos put together by the US Patent and Trademark office on Youtube. They're incredibly helpful.

2 comments:

  1. I'm finding this "trademark infringement" and "copyright" infringement a bit frustrating. I haven't run into the problems you have. But, I have been working (through my day job) in a collaborative environment of advancing thought processes. I'm a little intimidated because there are some really advanced thoughts out there...but most of them are operating under a creative commons license. You can build on someones work as long as you credit the originator. I would love that if our art community would be willing to participate in the creative commons mentality. I've been finding ways to mix my day job and my hobby job... maybe I'll be able to share more along those line.. :-)

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Jenn! This is a really neat idea. I love concept of advancing creative thought collaboratively. You've peaked my interest and pointed me in a direction to learn more. "Creative Commons" that is awesome!!

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