Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Speech Impediment: I hadn't seen any coverage of this until today, but apparently Congress is in the process of making changes to the Trademark Dilution Revision Act, a piece of legislation designed to help companies protect their trademarks. And a coalition of consumer groups, artists, and librarians is concerned that the proposed changes--already approved by the House--go too far.

According to the groups, if this law had been in place "when Don McLean sang about driving his Chevy to the levee and finding the levee dry, the songwriter could have been sued for trademark dilution under the current language of the bill. Or when Walter Mondale criticized Gary Hart during the 1984 primaries by using Wendy’s slogan, 'Where’s the beef,' the remarks could be considered a trademark violation under the bill as passed by the House."

Think that's unlikely? Consider this: "Don Stewart, an Alabama graphic artist, has been drawing 'visual puns' for many years, including this picture of a VW Beetle composed entirely of insects. This particular image was created in 1992, so Don was surprised to hear quite recently from Volkswagen's lawyers. They demanded that he stop circulating the image in any way, shape, or form, and suggested that he tear the images out of the coffee table book he sells and send those images to Volkswagen."

Companies are absurdly sensitive about controlling their brands. The law as written looks likely to give rise to more frivolous lawsuits than asbestos, Vioxx and McDonald's coffee combined.

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