MEMO TO SIMON COWELL: YOU MAY BE A BULLY ON TV BUT YOU DON'T SEEM TO BE A TRADEMARK BULLY
Call me an elitist. Call me an idiot. But I have never seen the AMERICAN IDOL television show. However I do have a pulse. So I am aware of Simon Cowell's well earned reputation as a mean spirited, cynical, bordering on cruel, talent judge. Sure sounds like the personality profile of a trademark bully.
Ah trademark bully. Now there's a term that any geek would love. And sure enough she does. My colleague Lara Peterson rides herd on the brandGEEK law blog. Lara is the head of a fancy schmancy committee devoted to understanding, examining, and defining the term trademark bully(ing). You can find the committee members here:http://brandgeek.net/2011/10/10/brand-bully-basement/.
What does any of this have to do with Simon Cowell? In the UK Mr. Cowell has been labelled a trademark bully. Unfairly IMHO. Here's the basic story: Mr. Simon's company owns or manages an all girl rock band. The company decided to name the band RYTHMIX. So they filed an application to claim the name. No problem right?
Big problem. Turns out a music based charity was already calling itself Rythmix. And these folks are not fools. After some (apparent) back and forth, Rythmix started a social media campaign against Mr. Cowell and his company. They were not shy about reminding him of how wonderful they were.
And it worked. Mr. Cowell's company announced their intention to withdraw their application. End of problem right?
Wrong. The folks at Rythmix have gone public again. They are complaining that Mr. Cowell's company did NOT abandon their trademark application. Not only that, they want Mr. Cowell to pay for their legal fees. In their view these fees will take hundreds of hours of music instruction away from children.
And Mr. Cowell's response? His lawyers did not withdraw their application because they wanted to transfer it to the good folks at Rythmix. NO THANKS say the folks at Rythmix. You want us to not say a peep if you transfer the trademark application to us.
And what does all this have to do with trademark bullying. Nothing. And that's my point. This is the sort of trademark dispute that has been going on since God was new. Ironically, the potential bully was the junior rights holder. And, after initial negotiations, when faced with a possible conflict, the junior rights holder left the playing field. Were there costs? Of course. Might Mr. Cowell pay the charity's legal fees as an act of generosity? Perhaps. But, based on the many news reports describing this incident, it seems that a a savvy non profit is slinging around the loaded term trademark bully to put pressure on larger commercial enterprise headed by a well known celebrity.
Perhaps our committee will need to wrestle with a new concept: reverse trademark bullying.