DuetsBlog Collaborations in Creativity & the Law

Is That a Brand or a Can on Your Belt?

Posted in Branding, Guest Bloggers, Trademarks

Aaron Keller, Principal at Capsule

It is known in a small circle that I began collecting belt buckles a few years back after visiting the Jack Daniels distillery and working with the Jack Daniels brand. So, when I travel, I try to pick up a buckle. When I find myself at flee markets or garage sales, I pick up a buckle. When I’m shopping for anything else where a buckle might be available, I pick one up. It’s my latest obsession and I’m aware of it.

Recently I’ve become fascinated with Etsy and buying up-cycled belt buckles like this Lego one. Went over like a a charm at a speech for the Cleveland Institute of Arts a couple months back. And, buckles made from old beer cans have also fascinated me. But, as a business owner and advisor who helps brands manage and build equity — here’s my question.

What’s the difference between my Guinness belt buckle (which I’m sure pays no royalties to Diageo) but yet charges a premium ($30) for a belt buckle. And my Coca-Cola belt buckle (most valuable brand in the world by some who measure it) which I obtained for a meager price ($15) on Amazon.

See the curiosity?

If I was the entrepreneurial type I might start recycling Coke cans and creating belt buckles and then sell them on Etsy for twice the price being charged by the Coca-Cola company on Amazon. Is this a scalable idea? Nothing on Etsy is overly scalable, kind of why it’s at the center of the craft movement. So, maybe it doesn’t need to be scalable. Margin is what we’re seeking when we build brand equity. But, what does this mean to Diageo? Shouldn’t they be getting a royalty? Or Coca-Cola, shouldn’t they be getting more for their buckle?

Which brings about the larger question, why is a Guinness can (up-cycled) belt buckle selling for twice the price of a Coca-Cola belt buckle?

Could someone from Diageo or Coca-Cola please call me and explain.

Yours truly,
Aaron Keller
Fanatical fan of both brands and wearer of belt buckles. 

  • Dear Aaron:
    What I wonder is how long could you sell Coca-Cola or Guinness buckles on Etsy (or elsewhere) before getting a C&D letter from the respective brand owner?
    I have seen such letters issued to upcyclers on several occasions, with only 1 of 2 results: (1) (most commonly) abandonment of the upcycling business model (at least for products of that brand) or (2) licensing of the upcycler from the original brand owner.
    Not that I think brand owners have the right to prevent up-cycling, but most upcyclers don’t have the resources to prove otherwise.
    Thoughts?
    Warmly,
    Lara Pearson
    BrandGeek.net

  • Now, here is an extension of that idea.
    Have you ever seen Andy Warhol’s definitive work with Campbell’s Soup cans?
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/562288842/
    Does the Andy Warhol foundation have to pay royalties?
    ajk

  • Dennis

    Campbell Soup and the Warhol foundation long ago entered into a cross-license agreement which provides for use of the respective IP for their mutual benefit. Win-win.

  • Dennis

    Campbell Soup and the Warhol foundation long ago entered into a cross-license agreement which provides for use of the respective IP for their mutual benefit. Win-win.