Well, here we are — a mere ten years ago today — when we dove head first, or at least, dipped our collective toes into the vast intellectual property blogging pond.

Intellectual PropertyIP — is italicized today, because there is currently a belief among some of those we respect, that trademarks aren’t intellectual property.

According to our friend Ron Coleman of the Likelihood of Confusion blog:

“[N]othing about trademarks is brain-born other than what we might fairly call the ministerial choice to associate a given trademark with a good or service. That process may involve, and often does, a lot of thinking, creativity and intellection. But none of that invests the trademark itself — which may, in fact, be completely lacking in creativity (“Best,” “Ford,” “American”) — with the quality of intellectual, mental, creative or original content such that it should be deemed ‘intellectual property.’”

There’s a lot to unpack there, but until then, just so you know, I’m firmly on the other side of the fence, viewing trademarks as being a recognized subset of the convenient category label commonly referred to as “intellectual property.”

Stay tuned on this topic, there is much more to say, much more than there is time left in this 10th birthday to do the topic justice, but for now, I’ll simply rest with a notable quote from branding icon, Walter Landor:

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”

While trademarks aren’t brands, not only can trademarks be bought, sold, licensed, and leveraged as property, trademarks protect brands, and they embody all the intangible goodwill of the portion of a business associated with a particular mark.

Dare I say there is nothing ministerial about the brain-born brilliance Landor brought to his craft as a designer, nor is there mere ministerial contribution to the brilliance and creativity that our many non-lawyer guest bloggers have brought to their work over the last decade. Aaron? James? Mark? Agree?

We’ve written a lot over the years about picking a side, the art of taking a position, not waffling; one of the things we love about Ron is he is unafraid to take a position, to plant his flag firmly in the ground — that’s what we’ve tried to do too, and what we intend to continue to do going forward.


 

Here’s a question, what purpose is served by excluding trademarks from the definition of what constitutes intellectual property? Here’s another, who gets to decide?

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.

Now that we’re out of diapers and through the terrible twos, we’ve reached another milestone: Duey is four years old today.

This birthday kind of snuck up on us, so no plans for drinks on us today, in fact we’re buried in snow, so the INTA Roundtable (on the topic of Trademark Enforcement) that we’re scheduled to host today has been rescheduled for Wednesday March 13th, we hope you can attend.

In the meantime, here is a small excerpt from our inaugural post entitled Dr. No and the Parade of Horribles:

Seth Godin artfully reminds us in his ‘Looking for yes’ blog post how important getting to ‘yes’ is, especially when ‘you’re out to provide a service, or organized to deliver a product . . .’ Unfortunately, too many lawyers think of themselves as ‘licensed professionals’ with a license to repeat ‘no’ and get in the way, forgetting they are selling a service, too. The world would be a better place if more lawyers adopted Mr. Godin’s sage advice.”

Please know that we continue to be inspired by our amazing guest bloggers, our loyal readers who alert us to topics of interest, the engaging commenters to our posts, and by all those who spread the word by generously sharing our insights and perspectives with others.

I guess we’ll really have to pull out all the stops for our next birthday, since it will be our Golden Birthday.