I’d like to point everyone to another incident where a company has placed a bar on the use of a word when that word has been in common usage throughout the world for longer than man has been wearing sheepskin boots.
Have a look here
(especially this bit:
Deckers use the brand name UGG Australia, but the boots are manufactured in China. Under the Australian Consumer Law, it is unlawful to make misleading statements about a product, including misleading customers about the origin of the product. [this is because someone thinks consumers won’t think the product is a product of Australia if it has the name Australia on it – and we don’t, do we? I mean, I could say ‘American pie’ and it doesn’t mean it has anything to do with America, does it? Grrrr – I hate when companies deliberately treat their consumers as idiots!]),
and here (with this: “ugg” should never have been trademarked because it’s a common word in Australia. But Deckers claimed it made ugg a global brand. [never mind that hide boots, with the fur inside, have been around since way into the BC times – let’s not consider that common knowledge when discussing ownership of something ‘everyone knows the name of’])
A word in common usage? Yes, that’s what Ugg is. I might dispute that it’s only common in Australia, because the word has been applied to those ugly boots for much longer than Australia has been a country, probably longer than America has been a country.
But a company made the word unavailable for commercial use, even though it’s a word in common use in more places that a person could poke a stick at.
If it sounds a lot like the ‘cocky’ incident, you may be right.
The word ‘Ugg’ has been the tag of sheepskin boots for as long as winters have been too cold for leather sandals.
Really? I hear you ask.
Oooh, ooooh – I should trade-mark Sandal! Make it special characters, and then trademark it so no one can use the word ever again!
No, that would be silly, and everyone would know what lay behind that strategy, wouldn’t they?
But some company did that. They took a word, and claimed ownership in multiple countries because they trademarked a word in common language.
And now we can’t use it, no company who’s used the word can put it in their marketing ever again, and the only company who can use the name is the one who lies about where it came from, where they make it, and how they came to ‘own’ the word.
Maybe they think they created it? I don’t know, but it must have been a very long family tradition, older than the Roman legions, who referred to their ‘ugly hide boots’ when sacking cold regions. You know, the same ones that decided good-old ugly skin-coats were a good idea, even though ugly? [Hmmm, I’m even thinking it may go a long way further back, this idea of using animal hides to make protective clothing and footwear …]
‘Ugly’ – yes, that’s the word. Ugg-ly. And it was brought back to the fore of usage by Aussie and Kiwi wearers about 70 years ago (or was it in the 1920s? I’ve seen ads from that time for these boots). Common usage in the language, so common that no one even considered trying to fight for the sole use of a word that everyone understood was common and unassailable, available to all, and not a trademark (which would involve an image, wouldn’t it? And only the image, not the word, would be a trademark? And certainly not the word Australia, which has nothing to do with this company [and if they keep this up, never will again – can we make up a list of companies that steal stuff and ban them from selling on our shores?]).
The main issue is this: A word in common usage is not a trademark, and there is something dodgy going on, isn’t there?
Yes. Because the knowledge of the common use of the word around the world didn’t stop someone signing the paperwork to get this word trade-marked, and not just in America, but in multiple international legal regions.
A call to arms, perhaps?
Anyone doing business with this company (I won’t say their name, they’re persona non-grata in this part of the world) would do well to trademark every word they use on their products, because if they can do it with this, you can be sure they’ve got their eye on … yours.
Ban this company from using the name Australia in an image.
Ban this company from selling into Australia – and anywhere else they ‘own’ this word.
Ban this company and all it’s known employees from entering Australia (and any other country where they claim to ‘own’ this word) for any reason (in case they find something else to steal or claim).
If they have the money to keep pestering the only person willing to stand up to them, they have enough money to change their logo to suit their product, and to market said product into the countries without killing off any competition. [Did anyone mention it was an online sale, not an in-country sale? It was. And to an employee of said bully-company.]
Because this will not be the last time they do it, not now that they think they’ve won the war to own a word.
Have your say on
Want it again:
Twitter @legalvision_au – but do it fast, or we may no longer have the right to use a website to sell our products anywhere but our own country.
And in attempting to find a ‘free’ image to use for this post, guess what? Everyone’s pulled them down. Running scared. Does someone know something about this?
This post will self-destruct in 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …