Aaron Keller, Managing Principal, Capsule

Unfortunately, the phrase “frat boy” or “fraternity” has been dealt another cultural blow by some less-than-impressive gents launching a ‘Fratagonia’ line of clothing. My hope is they are freshmen and just haven’t taken a semester of business law yet. But, likely there are other senior “should know better” individuals involved. Guys, if you’re reading this, here’s where you went wrong and why you’ll be paying a hefty price.

fratagoniaWe have intellectual property for a good reason. It goes back to the 1800s in England and France. That’s right around the time your favorite show, “Downton Abby” is set. Okay, that’s a lot of history and case law to get to today and your episode of brilliance. So, we can assume your ancestors made some good decisions setting up boundaries in this area of intangible property. But just in case, let’s talk it through.

You trust the food you put in your body, right? That blue and white can of beer. Those triangular chips with all the flavoring dust on it that gets your fingers all messy. You trust that when you tear into a bag you won’t die, or worse yet, eat something healthy but not the brand you picked. Right? Trust is an important part of any relationship; just ask your last girlfriend, she’ll tell you about trust and your misunderstanding of the word. It is a central thread holding our society together. If we don’t trust the brands in our lives, the government, our educational institutions, our friends, what would we have? Anarchy. Yeah, not fun.

Part of that trust is putting boundaries around what is “fair use” and “parody” in the area of brands. If you start selling clothing with “Fratagonia” or “Patagucci” on it, you’ll be treading on someone else’s intangible property. And, by doing that, you break down the trust between Patagonia and their customers by causing confusion between your “brilliant” move and the long history of Patagonia building a trusted brand. All of this you’re likely already aware of, because your mom and dad had to pony up for a lawyer to defend you in the pending suit. I’m sure they’re wondering where the tuition dollars went. Oh well, you’re here now, you’ll have to stand up and take it like men (or frat boys, which is certainly a lot less than real men).

Where to go from here? I have a suggestion. As we know, this kind of “entrepreneurship” is way too common on college campuses. Someone gets an idea, asks the local designer friend to bastardize a logo and put it on a few articles of clothing (because the frat boys can’t even do that much). And, then off to a party, skiing in the Alps, or whatever obnoxious over-spent vacation with the new wearables. One hungover idiot says, hey, we could sell this stuff. Another one says, yeah, we could get other people to sell it for us on other campuses. And, the damage is done each time you sell another pathetic article of clothing. So, here’s the suggestion.

photoshopPoster boys for intellectual property fraud. And, if you don’t want this as your sentence, we’ll steal your image (personal intellectual property) and Photoshop your face on the image. By the way, this one is Zach Galifianakis, who wouldn’t steal from another comedian because he has the guts to do original work, like this image. You, on the other hand will become the poster boys for intellectual property theft. We will place posters all over college campuses throughout the country, and your parents will have to foot the bill for the printing (say goodbye to the college tuition they saved for you).

But, know this, you’ll be famous. You’ll be the rock stars of Intellectual Property events for at least the next decade. They’ll talk about you in hallowed halls like they speak of the guy named Mike Rowe who started a software company. Look it up, someday you’ll enjoy the irony. Oh yeah, Irony is an expression of someone’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, it is typically humorous.

I look forward to seeing you on posters soon. And, if you need a design firm to make you look spectacular, gentlemen, we are the firm for you.