1 Poking fun at brands: the CEO Barbie

Here's a gem from The Onion: a satirical article entitled "CEO Barbie Criticized For Promoting Unrealistic Career Images". The article explains that toy maker Mattel is under fire from a group of activists who say their popular doll's latest incarnation, CEO Barbie (illustrated, right), encourages young girls to set impractical career goals.

"This doll furthers the myth that if a woman works hard and sticks to her guns, she can rise to the top", said Frederick Lang of the Changes Institute, a children's advocacy organization. "Our young girls need to learn to accept their career futures, not be set up with ridiculously unattainable images".

The IPKat says this piece again beautifully illustrates the status of the BARBIE brand as a cultural icon, which it is as much in the public's hands to make reference to as it is in its owner's hands to use as a trade mark for children's toys.

Food chain Barbie here. "Barbie Girl" lyrics here.

2 GPL licences and patent retaliation clauses

Technewsworld reports that, while version 3 of the GNU's GPL (General Public License) covering the Linux operating system is not scheduled to be released for public comments until early next year, there is already speculation that it might contain a patent retaliation clause which would prevent a licensee redistributing a product if it were accused of infringing free software patents. The GPL could also contain a clause that would penalise companies for using copy-restricting technologies.

According to James Gotto (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman), the GPL licence needs to resolve issues like patent retaliation. One of the big questions is whether a a patent holder can enforce his patent against others downstream that are using open-source licences:

"A cross-licence agreement between two companies won't give rights to a third party. The existing GPL licence says that if my company can't grant you the rights that I have under a patent, then my company can't use the open-source software. This needs to be cleared up".
The IPKat agrees that the time for clearing up any uncertainties, as well as problems involving issues of principle, is before software is put on to the market. He rather likes the way the open-source and proprietary software industries compete with each other and feels that there is a strongly justifiable argument in favour of them both. He is not averse to software developed on the open-source side being subject to private rights, but it's only sensible to mark out in advance exactly when, and under what circumstances, that should happen if confidence in the free availability of open source software is not to be damaged.

More on the Linux penguin here
Lyrics of GNU songs here and here; PG Wodehouse's Good Gnus here

3 Sporty

The IPKat occasionally browses through the pages of Sweet & Maxwell's International Sports Law Review in search of stray IP issues. He generally doesn't have much luck, since the main thrust of the publication lies in areas such as sports injuries, anti-doping, administration and regulation. However, every so often he finds something that makes him stop and think.

The stop-and-think thing that struck the Pensive Pussy in the current issue (August 2005) was an article by the journal's editor, Michael Beloff QC (Master of Trinity College Oxford, left) entitled "Is There a Lex Sportiva?". It asks whether Sports Law is a distinct discipline or merely a mosaic of rules transplanted from conventional legal categories. We all know the answer (it's a mosaic ...), but the case in favour of it being a distinct discipline is well presented.

Merpel adds, the way to make sports law sound more like a discipline in its own right is to define it as narrowly as possible in the first place. Exclusion of sports/commerce issues with an IP flavour such as sponsorship, Olympic ambush and branding is one step in that direction.
BARBIE, GNUS OF PENGUINS - AND A LITTLE SPORT BARBIE, GNUS OF PENGUINS  -  AND A LITTLE SPORT Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, September 08, 2005 Rating: 5


  1. My thanks to Prof. Dr. Joachim Bornkamm for putting me right: the Master of Trinity College Oxford is in fact its President. but his article was quite masterly ...

  2. Thanks for pointing out that the onion article was satire. Could have missed it otherwise ;)

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