Yes and no are at opposite ends of the spectrum. North Pole, South Pole. Night and day. Win, loss. Black, white. Available, unavailable. Protectable, unprotectable. Infringing, non-infringing. They represent a binary proposition, like a traditional light switch with two settings: on and off.
My daughter loves the yes end of the spectrum; no, not so much; and maybe is tolerable, because it’s easy to get hopes up and accelerate to hearing yes. The problem is the large chasm between maybe and either end of the yes/no spectrum. Maybe can be uncertain and confusing.
Maybe spans a great distance between yes and no. Maybe can mean a slight possibility, or it can also mean a strong probability — creating a vast range of very different options that can be rather unhelpful to those who are paying for legal advice to make smart business decisions.
As we have written before, marketing types understandably love to hear yes too, when they seek legal advice about trademarks, and they are ever more prepared to probe, question, and challenge advice when they hear no, by way of example, remember the brandverbing trend?
Although we launched this blog seven years ago from the springboard of distancing ourselves from Dr. No and his Parade of Horribles, it is also worth noting, lawyers are frequently criticized for not giving a straight answer because, after all, it depends! Sounds like maybe, right?
For those of you who may not have been engaged here for our inaugural Dr. No blog post, might you remember J.D. Waffler: The Art of Taking a Position? If not, maybe you should check it out?
Over the weekend, we didn’t just have our seventh birthday, our friend Seth Godin artfully wrote again (like clockwork) about “Saying No,” and with the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, we were all reminded of the simplicity of her famous “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign.
So, I’m left wondering if the historically rigid trademark advice against verbing and other concepts sounded in no as a way of keeping the advice simple to avoid client confusion and potential adverse outcomes, no matter how remote? Perhaps a strong candidate for a maybe?
It seems to me the key to successful relationships with trademark types is being able to enjoy the benefit of their experience, clear communication, and trust, and knowing that getting to yes is often possible and worthwhile, but not always the easiest or most direct path from maybe.
And, just maybe, your favorite trademark type can help remove for you the confusing and uncertain nature of the it depends and the maybes of trademark life.