Friday, November 04, 2005

Crouching trademark, hidden lawyer.

This is so cool. Guess who said this: “Everyone just wants to make some profits from the name, totally regardless of [our] integral image…”. It’s from a news story about trademark infringement and brand appropriation.

Louis Vuitton? Burberry? Prada? Nope.

It’s the Shaolin Monks.

The 1,500 year-old Buddhist monastery where kung fu was born is mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. From video games to rap artists, popular culture has been helping itself to the Shaolin brand for awhile now and the monks are worried that it’s going to start messing with their image. So, they’ve set up a corporation to manage the brand and have an army of lawyers registering it in 100 countries around the world. Kind of like Mickey Mouse or the RCMP.

You know what? I actually think this is a healthy thing. Great brands are fun to have around because they have authentic cultural meaning. If petty thieves try to steal that meaning to make an easy buck, and then they find enough consumers unwilling or unable to tell the difference, that meaning gets devalued and then lost altogether. And then what? What if we burned through every authentic brand this way until there was none left? For one thing, we’d all be a lot less willing to pay premium prices when we buy things. Which would force marketers to find cheaper ways to make them. And we all know what happens then, right, Naomi?

Got your back, Shaolin guys. I’ll stand up for any brand that stands up for itself. And I have nothing but contempt for the consumers who patronize the frauds.

The Shaolin are not the only society that is protective of its brand, of course. For example, along with a more traditional copyright statement, this from the web site of the Oakland chapter, Hells Angels: “We will not tolerate someone attempting to intimidate and bully or profiteer by pretending to be us.”

And I heard they don’t even bother with lawyers.

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