Trademark

Major corporations: they own everything, because they have the lawyers to enforce it!

T-Mobile thinks it owns this.

Just The Facts

  1. Trademark allows people and companies to copyright logos and images associated with their brand.
  2. Major corporations think this extends to things like common words and colors.
  3. Most of the time, it comes down to who has more lawyers, instead of sanity.

Cracked on Trademarks

Trademark and copyright allow us to preserve our intellectual property, creating a system wherein ideas are protected and can be relentlessly exploited for cash. You'd think that large multinational corporations, which own lawyers, are run by lawyers, and have buildings made entirely of lawyers, would have a basic grasp of copyright concepts. You would be sadly, sadly wrong. For example!

Monster Cable and Monster Energy Fight For the Title of Biggest Douchebag

The Companies: Monster Cable and Hansen Beverage, owner of Monster Energy

The Lawsuits:

Monster Cable is arguably more famous for suing everybody and anybody who so much as uses the letters M-O-N-S-T-E-R in that order as they are for putting out overpriced cables that perform almost as well as coathangers . And just when they knocked that off, Hansen Beverage picked up the flag.

Monster Cable is either ridiculously greedy or dead certain you're so stupid you'll think they're part of a car transmission shop, or a used clothing store, or a bunch of minigolf courses. They even sued Pixar over "Monsters, Inc." because the first thing you think of when you think of Pixar is home theater equipment. But Monster Cable learned their lesson when they made the mistake of trying another kind of lawsuit against Blue Jeans Cable for patent infringement, only to discover that the guy who runs the place is a former patent lawyer who kicked them in the nuts so hard they seem to have lost their erection for lawsuits, at least for a while.

But just when Monster Cable seemed to have figured it out, Hansen Beverage got some new lawyers and suddenly got all sue-happy. They first tried to force a Vermont brewer to stop using the crappy pun "Vermonster" because they were thinking of getting into the beer market, only to learn the hard way the Internet exists. Of course, that didn't stop them from telling a guy to take down a photo of him in monster makeup, holding a can of Monster Energy, from his own website. And while the man in question has many charms and an awesome mullet, it's unlikely we'll think of him as a cool, tasty beverage any time soon.

T-Mobile Claims to Own a Color

The Company: T-Mobile, provider of cell phones, data services, and sexy pictures of Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The Lawsuit:

T-Mobile has invested a lot in magenta as their color, although they've only think they own magenta when it comes to the telecommunications industry, so your printer is safe. Still, it was a little much when they sent gadget blog Engadget a cease-and-desist letter over their logo because it had a couple of magenta words in it, and T-Mobile was concerned that complete idiots would see magenta and, because of T-Mobile's brilliant marketing, mindlessly associate that blog with Engadget. Of course, the two logos ARE confusingly alike:

<photo of logos caption: OK, maybe not>

T-Mobile is so convinced that everybody thinks of them when they think of magenta instead of printers or just thinking of it as pink, that they actually went after my-favorite-book.com, a vanity printing press, because they had an ad in magenta. Although they could just have been concerned about their brand being associated with experimental master's thesis poetry, part of what destroyed the once-mighty General Motors.

KFC Sues Over "Family Feast"

The Company:

KFC, fine provider of artery clogging crap flavored with a mix of spices that's a big secret for no explicable reason.

The Lawsuit:

Somewhere in some shire or glen or whatever the hell they call them instead of counties like a normal country, some rural place in England, there is the Tan Hill Pub. It is, apparently, the highest pub in England, although sadly this doesn't mean it's a hash bar, just on what passes for a high place in England. They offer, on Christmas Day, something called the Family Feast.

Somehow, KFC got wind of this, and terrified that a couple of English hicks would tear their fast-food empire apart brick by brick, sued the hell out of the Tan Hill Pub because they, and only they, owned the words "Family Feast_

Fortunately, somebody in KFC sobered up just long enough to realize this made the fast food chain look A) like a bully and B) really fucking stupid, so they called off the lawsuit. And then invented both Kentucky Grilled Chicken and the Double Down in fairly quick succession. No word on whether the inventor of blackjack filed a lawsuit for their gratuitous use of his trademark.

Jones Day Sues Over Basic Link Formatting

The company:

Jones Day, some obscure law firm nobody cares about and you never would have heard of if they hadn't filed a lawsuit that was its own special, special brand of crazy.

The lawsuit:

Jones Day sued a website called BlockShopper.com for misrepresenting them. How, you ask? Did BlockShopper.com, a real estate website, imply wrongdoing? Did they make a bunch of lawyer jokes? Did they maliciously pretend by using standard linking format that lawyers for Jones Day were somehow working for BlockShopper.com, although you'd have to be so ignorant as to be incapable of using a computer to believe that?

We could explain, but it's better to explain with an example. Let's say we want to imply that Jones Day are a bunch of jerkasses. Jones Day sued over that last part. Not the "jerkasses", the fact that "jerkasses" was a link.

We know you don't believe us, but here's the article about Jones Day being a bunch of jerkasses (http://www.slate.com/id/2210636/pagenum/all/#p2) in their preferred format. Jones Day (http://www.lawyerssuck.com) said that because BlockShopper linked directly to the bios of a couple of their attorneys, instead of spelling out the web address, it was implying that there was a connection between Jones Day (http://www.jerkasses.com) and BlockShopper.com.

You know, because that reflects how everybody reads everything on the Internet.

Tim Langdell owns The Word "Edge", Dammit!

The Company:

Edge Games, or more specifically, owner Tim Langdell, as Edge hasn't put out a game in quite a while.

The Lawsuit:

Hey, major game developer! Nice game you have there. What's that, you want Edge in the title? For any reason? Oh, too bad! Tim Langdell copyrighted every conceiveable use of the word "edge" in video games!

This is the world Langdell lives in. If you use "Edge" in your title, whether it's "Edge of Twilight", anindie game, or major titles like "Soul Edge" and "Mirror's Edge".

Langdell has pissed off so many people that Electronic Arts, the people who bought the rights to the NFL in video games just to shut down one of their competitors, the people who thought of trying to make gamers pay to unlock content already on the disc, are suing to overturn Langdell's trademark because he's being a troll. That's like Satan calling you a dick.

Music Publishing Company Claims to Own Nothing. As in the Concept

The Company:

Peters Edition, a music publishing company which we're pretty sure is also a porn star name.

The Lawsuit:

Mike Batt was making a classical album, but he had a problem: one set of tracks was utterly different from the other set. So, he put in a track of silence called "One Minute Silence (After Cage)", and credited it to Batt/Cage.

If you're not a classical nerd, let us explain: Nicolas, er, John Cage released a classical piece in 1952 called "4' 33"". The instruments tune up, everything gets set, and then we're treated to four minutes and thirty three seconds of complete fucking silence. This is what passes for brilliance in modern classical.

So, essentially Batt was being all witty and clever as only obscure classical musicians can be. But Peters Edition sued the shit out of him and won a six figure sum proving they had the copyright to nothing. Boy, amazing the royalties they could collect if they just would pursue this. Awkward silences alone would make them billions!

Thief Sues Victim To Keep Stealing His Work

The Company:

FirePitArt, which sells "decorative fire bowls". Sadly, these are not chili containers.

The Lawsuit:

FirePitArt is founded on a brilliant, daring, principle: if an artist is successful, you can totally steal his shit and sell it without paying him for it. John T. Unger, the artist in question, was very unhappy about being stolen from and asked the owner, Rick Wittrig, to stop. Wittrig's perfectly reasonable and mature response was to sue Unger to overturn his copyrights.

Let's just repeat that. Wittrig is suing Unger, because he stole Unger's work, for the right to continue stealing Unger's work.

So far Unger has spent about $50,000 trying to dig himself out of this Kafkaesque lawsuit hole. Meanwhile, we're wondering how this lawsuit even got started. Was it somehow opposite day in the court?