The team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge, Stephen Jones, Mathilde Pavis, and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Hayleigh Bosher, Tian Lu and Cecilia Sbrolli.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Wal-mart not so smiley

Slightly embarrassingly, the IPKat can't remember which kind reader sent him this link to the story in Daily Report Online about Charles Smith, a 50-year-old computer store owner who has just won a two-year legal battle with Wal-Mart. Smith had been making and selling T-shirts, beer steins and other items bearing slogans such as “Wal-ocaust” and “Wal-Qaeda.” Wal-Mart failed to protect its WAL-MART trade mark, US District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. (Northern District of Georgia) taking a firm view on the issue -- dear to all Europeans -- of whether famous marks, on account of their huge reputations, need more or less protection than less well-known marks:

“The fact that the real Wal-Mart name and marks are strong and recognizable makes it unlikely that a parody—particularly one that calls to mind the genocide of millions of people, another that evokes the name of a notorious terrorist organization … will be confused with Wal-Mart's real products".
Batten also concluded that the yellow smiley face that adorns Wal-Mart signs is not entitled to common law trade mark protection, a decision that one of Smith's lawyers said could hurt Wal-Mart in an unrelated, pending trade mark action over the right to the sunny symbol of happiness. The judgment in Smith v Wal-Mart, No. 1:06-cv-526, is 87 pages long. The Daily Report Online describes it as meticulously crafted.

The IPKat notes that there are other issues at stake: freedom of communication, parody and trade mark disparagement and dilution issues spring to mind. This all goes to show that, the more powerful a trade mark is, and the more cogently it symbolises the business activities of its proprietor, the greater is its vulnerability as a hostage to fortune when others seek to turn its high profile back against its owner.

Walocaust here; Wal-Qaeda here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Link to judgment and related litigation documents:

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