Thursday, August 6, 2009

What's the buzz?: Bugged by purpose driven lawyers

A few years ago, I had this image posted at and people could purchase it on T-shirts, mugs, and such. Then the "purpose driven" lawyers came along and threatened CafePress with litigation and doom if they did not scrub the site of all such images. It seems the term "purpose driven" is a registered trademark.

Now, I'm all for protecting a trademark; I have a few and have taken steps to prevent others from using my TM'd names when they were being implemented as labels on competing products or services, or in similar venues (like the names of a newspaper, website, or blog).

If someone wants to lampoon me and in the process use one of my TM'd names, more power to them. I really can't and shouldn't try to shut them down, even if I'm bugged by what they're doing. After all, this is America and not Iran and we should know how to maintain a sense of humor and laugh at ourselves a little. (I have a feeling I may regret putting this idea out there.)

Frankly, I wasn't impressed with CafePress caving so easily. My image is satire/parody and is legal; even the Wittenburg Door took my side at the time. But, CafePress wouldn't listen, the "purpose driven" lawyers wouldn't reconsider, and the image was blocked. It was a sad day.

So, what do you think? Is the image truly a violation of trademark rights? Or is it fair use as satire/parody? I'm no lawyer so maybe I've got it wrong. Educate me if that's the case.

But, weigh in soon before those humorless lawyers come buzzing around again!


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