03.31Oh, is that ENGADGET Mobile? I thought it was T-Mobile
This story right here is what I like to call “blogging gold.” Only a week or so after I became aware that Deutsche Telekom had not only trademarked the color magenta, but was also actively bigfooting companies that had the temerity to put magenta in their logos, DT has gone after Engadget Mobile. (Thanks to all of you who sent this link to me.)
In a cease-and-desist letter that Engadget swears is not an April Fool’s joke, DT enumerates the myriad ways in which the use of magenta in Engadget Mobile’s Web pages could cause confusion with the use of magenta in the T-Mobile logo. Their rationale is that Engadget Mobile covers T-Mobile’s products and services, so a person could easily be confused by the color of the logo at the top of the page into thinking that Engadget Mobile is, in fact, the manufacturer of the Sidekick 2. Ok, on the one hand? Awesome. As a wise man once said, “they should sell tickets to that dance.” On the other hand, didn’t I tell you things were getting out of hand, here?
In today’s note, Engadget links to a previous post in which copyright attorney Nilay Patel attempted to defuse some fears about a company trademarking a piddly little thing like a color. Pooh-pooh, he said, or, more specifically:
“If T-Mobile is of the opinion that it’s done such a good job associating itself with magenta that any other use of magenta would confuse consumers, it can certainly try to sue its way to glory, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here — it’s just covering its ass, because that’s what gigantic companies do in small-print disclaimers.”
See, but that’s what the Culture of Ownership blog is here to point out. Somehow, we’ve gone way beyond the small-print disclaimers and all the way into the “sue your way to glory” days. (Get it? Glory days?) For one thing, even though Patel pointed out back in ’07 that trademarks are hard to get, the global economy is such that a company can file for a trademark in an intellectual-property haven like the Netherlands and launch cheap and easy lawsuits like so many Scuds. Many of the targets will collapse under the barrage (will Time Warner/AOL really muster the resources to fend off a giant like Deutsche Telekom, or is a sudden shift to a nice navy, perhaps a lovely scarlet, in Engadget Mobile’s future?), and as more and more of them fall, the end result is exactly the one that Patel so lustily dismissed as so much “over-excited” balderdash. T-Mobile will, for all intents and purposes, own magenta. And that’s just no damn good.
Just as an aside, if you’re the lawyer who has to write the phrase, “we have recently learned that your company is using the color magenta in the logo of the Engadget Mobile news blog,” do you ever start to wonder … what are you doing with your life? Or are you just swimming in magenta-colored bank notes and it no longer starts to matter?