Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trademark Shmademark

It was brought to my attention yesterday that there are spinners/Etsy sellers out there that take issue with my use of the trademark symbol - (tm) or ™. In an effort to clarify my position, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you, dear readers, my (non-legal) take on this complex issue.

COLORBOMB Creations is my business name. I take great pride, as any artisan would, in my product and my reputation. I make every effort to provide quality handspun art yarn, spinning fibers, and fiber art offerings. Part of my business strategy has been to "brand" my yarn and fiber "lines", if you will. Because I originally conceptualized my products as one-of-a-kind, it never occurred to me to group them into categories of similar styles. But then I joined Ravelry and learned of their preference for entering yarns into their database in a make-model-color scheme (a la cars, eg. Chevy-Impala-white, like my old car, Betty), so I re-thought my idea about my products, and realized that my yarns can be categorized by spinning style.

I then set about dreaming up clever names (at least to me), for these yarn styles. I have always been very open about the fact that I am inspired in my spinning endeavors by the work of Lexi Boeger (Pluckyfluff); I have always credited her and her books, Pluckyfluff and Intertwined, as the jumping-off places for my yarns, and I couldn't have gotten where I am without her. She may not have invented all these techniques, but she gets credit for teaching me how to spin them. But my yarns are my interpretations of her techniques, and I certainly didn't want to use the same names Lexi uses to identify her yarn styles; they are hers. So, for example, when I mastered Lexi's 'mohairy' technique and started spinning a similar yarn, I decided to call my style 'Hirsute' (get it? hirsute = hairy). Any time anyone asks me how to make my 'Hirsute' yarn, I direct them to Lexi and her book, where I started.

I created names for all my yarn styles. If you are a regular reader of Velma's World, you'll know that LoopyDoopy, (S)craptastic, Bobblesque, and WoolyBear are some of my yarn lines. I decided that I wanted to protect my business interests by communicating that these names are proprietary to me and COLORBOMB Creations, so I researched how this is done in the U.S. Turns out this is via a trade mark.

I visited the United States Patent and Trademark Office and educated myself about how trade and service marks work. One of the things I learned is that it is not necessary to register a trademark to establish rights and alert others to a claim of ownership.

from the USP&TO, Basic Facts:
"What is a trademark or service mark? A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others."

"Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark."

"Is registration of my mark required? No. You can establish rights in a mark based on legitimate use of the mark."

"When can I use the trademark symbols TM, SM and ®? Any time you claim rights in a mark, you may use the "TM" (trademark) or "SM" (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO. However, you may use the federal registration symbol "®" only after the USPTO actually registers a mark, and not while an application is pending."
I don't claim ownership of the techniques I use to spin my yarns; most of them have been around for many years, and techniques can't be trademarked anyway. But I *do* claim ownership over the names that I've chosen to refer to my yarns. That is the purpose behind trademark in the U.S. All names, images, and text of COLORBOMB yarns and fibers are the sole property of COLORBOMB Creations.

I hope this clears up this issue, and I welcome any feedback readers have - feel free to email me directly or leave a comment here.

Stay tuned for a post coming soon that will recap all current COLORBOMB yarn styles...

13 comments:

  1. Bravo! Protect yourself, your yarn, your art, your name, and your livelihood. This is one of the reasons we live in the United States. I am with you! Creative people need to protect themselves from unscrupulous business people because we don't tend to think like they do. Who is questioning your use of the trademark anyway? That's the more annoying thing. What business is it of theirs what you do? Everyone needs to just stay in their own business and leave everyone else along.

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  2. I'm surprised people have a problem with you trademarking your names. So some people think that by doing this you're trying to assume credit for Lexi's techniques? That's ridiculous.

    Anyway, you go with your bad self. :)

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  3. i absolutely agree!! i can't believe this would be an issue for people. your yarn rocks, the names you have come up with for your yarn rock. i'm always excited to see what you come up with next.

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  4. Good for you! those people that take umbrage to it are probably the same people that get pissed off because i don't write patterns for my work.

    your yarns are wonderful, you work hard at them, they are yours... (tm) is a very good thing :)

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  5. Anonymous8:24 AM

    people can be such f r e a k s !

    keep on a keepin' on miss v


    *poodle here...can't remember my password, ever.

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  6. I think that is great idea. The only problem I could see would be having to explain to people all the time that you have trade marked the name rather then the tech. It might get annoying to have to always clarify that. Or the other thing would be if some one else had a similar name of yarn. But your names seem to be quite unique so that doesn't seem a problem. :)Out of interest are these customers or other spinners with the problem?

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  7. Tangerine Dreams9:45 AM

    What an intereting/educational post! I have to admit I was wondering if you had to pay some serious moola for each tm usage. When I was undergoing the selling of my soap company a few years ago (to different people who ended up buying it) the guy was freaking me out saying I could get into trouble for having a tm behind my company name on all my artwork without paying a cray fee. I think he was talking out of his ass though. You are so smart and informed, lady! Your creativity is precious and to be protected for sure! I'm all about the name (I was trying to protect Do Be Clean hemp soaps).

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  8. Thank you ALL for your support, it means more to me than you could know. I think that because it has touched such a nerve, I'll probably write a follow-up post later this week.

    And I think it's cool that this issue has brought some of my lurker-readers out of the woodwork. :) Go, lurkers!

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  9. I am still a little confused why people would take offense to this.
    On a similar note, did you register COLORBOMB?

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  10. Well, to be totally honest, I grimaced in annoyance at you having put a trademark up on there, I've used the word "colorbomb" or more recently "colourbomb" (since I fancy myself a dandy) in my personal journal, and then when I met you up over at flickr, I was like "OMG SHE GETS AN ELBOW TO THE TIT" cause I was like "where does she get off?", and feeling like if I ever published, I'd be fined for using a word you determined to be yours... it was kind of like the intense ire artists or those who just don't like big corps feel towards McDonalds, Coke and Pepsi for tm'ing Pepsi Blue, Coke Red and McDonald's Yellow. It's a flipping colour, for Pete's Sake! So what if Gaugin used Coke Red in one of his paintings, does The Coca-Cola Co. then go ahead and sue the estate of Gaugin to make sure that all postcards, repros and other reprints of said painting don't happen to include Coke Red?

    It can be a touchy subject, especially amongst the alternative crowd, to put a mark like that on a word, and certainly a colour, because of both the occurrences where people might have used or made up said word in their writing a while ago (like me) or where a larger group of people had heard of the corporations/companies TM'd colours, which is just ridiculous.

    But to be fair, I'd been inspired because of Viktor & Rolf's use of the word "Flowerbomb", which is their purfume, which inspired their, what, 2003 fashion line? Possibly earlier or later, but around that year. I loved it, and I absolutely ADORE V&K themselves, their clothing is really brilliant, and so I'd just started writing different words with "bomb" as their second half, and "colorbomb" was one of the ones I really loved.

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  11. HAHA that said though, dude, whatever. Whether we realize it or not, pretty much every artist out there subliminally slaps a TM after their special "terms". You just hunted out the ascii combo (or own a Mac) and slapped it on there. It at least makes the point that dozens of other artist or other folks out there make mentally make, and get pissed at if someone else uses the same term as they have for anything.

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  12. HAHA that said though, dude, whatever. Whether we realize it or not, pretty much every artist out there subliminally slaps a TM after their special "terms". You just hunted out the ascii combo (or own a Mac) and slapped it on there. It at least makes the point that dozens of other artist or other folks out there make mentally make, and get pissed at if someone else uses the same term as they have for anything.

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  13. apple, sounds like you are confused. the tm issue is around my yarn names, not my business name. i've never made any claims to have trademarked a color.

    colorbomb creations is my business name; maybe that is where your confusion comes from.

    great ideas often come to more than one person at a similar time. someone described one of my yarns as a 'bomb of color', and that's where the name originated.

    some people don't care for my protecting my creative property by making use of the trademark system, despite the fact that it is precisely what trademark is for. guess i've just got to accept the fact that it pisses some people off that i am exerting my right to lay claim to owning my names.

    i notice that no one has yet come forward to disagree with me without the veil of anonymity. that's too bad; i'm owning my position publicly, and wish that those with opposing viewpoints would do the same. i'd love to be able to follow up with you, but your profile is not publicly viewable, so i'll just leave our conversation here in the comments.

    thanks for visiting!

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