For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Catbert and Wally: an IP analysis

It's a long time since a Dilbert cartoon featured on this weblog -- a year ago, in fact ("Not enough to make a Kat laugh", here), when this member of the team needed some explanation regarding the humour of a triptych based on an intellectual property theme.  Well, the Kat has just encountered another IP-rich triptych.  This time he thinks he understands it.


Catbert (the evil director of human resources) starts off as the apparent villain of the piece. The key word here, missed by speed-readers and people whose eye is drawn to the final, punch-line box before they have finished digesting the contents of the preceding boxes, is "anonymous". How, but through the manifestation of evil, can Catbert have known that Wally was the author of the anonymous comments?

The second box reveals the subtlety of Wally, who as it appears is playing the system.  From his endorsement of the literary oeuvre of the Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski) he makes it plain to Catbert that he is familiar with, and approves of, the writings of the author of the "Unabomber Manifesto" (Industrial Society and its Future, here), a very different society from that in which Catbert wields his power.  Wally, knowing Catbert, must have calculated that the employee survey was not therefore anonymous.

The dénouement reveals both Catbert's concern that "we" (meaning "I") have a problem and that Wally, while endorsing the fact that a problem exists, winds Catbert up by nominating an intellectual property issue (which, within the context of the workplace is small, trivial and of no consequence) rather than admitting to the sort of problem which an employee with Unabomber tendencies might pose to an employer in general, and to human resources in particular.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the (approximate) film words of Ron Weasley, no-one could think all that stuff.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That rather supports the hypothesis that there is no joke so amusing that it can't be rendered unfunny by explanation....

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 12:06

... and there's no IP issue that's so unfunny that it can't be rendered humorous by explanation?

COO is watching you said...

The joke reminds me of the firm I work for. Uncanny.

Anonymous said...

You may also appreciate this Dilbert strip on employee ownership of IP: http://dilbert.com/fast/2009-01-23/

Chris H said...

Also regarding the supposed anonymity of the survey see:
http://dilbert.com/fast/2010-09-01/

Ron said...

Anyone who has worked for a large multinational [or the civil service] needs no explanation of Dilbert's humour, since they will probably have experienced similar situations for real.
After Weinstock retired and GEC became Marconi, I found myself figuratively transported to Dilbertland: mission statements, confidential surveys and all. Unlike Wally, my comment on a proposed reorganisation that "The lunatics really have taken over the asylum" produced no reaction! Patent & Copyright issues do usually appear in the strips several times every year.

Anonymous said...

"The Lunatics have taken over the asylum" - could this situation also result from a management buyout?

With regard to mission statements - take a look at the Dilbert "Mission Statement Generator", I'm sure it will look depressingly familiar.

As a reaction - you cannot beat the approach of Nanni Moretti. When confronted by these kinds of moronic platitudes, he would scream "Words are important" ("Le parole sono importanti!") and then physically assault the person responsible (have a look on youtube). A normal person would of course lose their job, but one can still dream...

Anonymous said...

THE PREVIOUS DAY'S STRIP REVEALED THAT "DEVIL BOSS" KNEW THE RESULTS OF THE ALLEGEDLY "ANONYMOUS" SURVEY. AS ALL KNOW WHO HAVE WORKED FOR A LARGE CORPORATION, DISHONESTY AND SPYING ARE COMMON MANAGERIAL TRICKS!!!

Ron said...

The "lunatics" comment was prompted by a reorganisation of the patent department that was proposed by a firm of highly expensive management consultants who had no idea of what we did or what IP was about -- "Explain the PCT to me: I've got 10 minutes free" and decentralizing all the professional staff to remote business sites where part-qualified TA's would have been unable to comply with the EQE training & supervision requirements, were examples of their rigorous approach. The plan was so obviously flawed to anyone who knew anything about IP that, when details were subsequently announced to us at a meeting, and we proceeded to immediately point out its manifest defects, the HR rep was convinced that details had been leaked to us beforehand [they hadn't].

IPBob said...

Unfortunately, I beleive this happens all too often:

http://dilbert.com/fast/2010-08-16/

and this:

http://dilbert.com/fast/2010-08-05/

Anonymous said...

Dilbert seems to be on a run of IP-related strips, see today's: http://dilbert.com/fast/2010-09-16/

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