"I've seen defendants in criminal matters try to trademark their names..." December 4, 2006 1:52 PM   Subscribe

A while back, someone (i don't remember who) posted a response to a MeFi post (or an AskMeFi post?) that was treating the theme of Intellectual Property and trademarks. Can anyone help me find it?

The responder wrote something to the effect of: 'I'm a public defender, and I've seen defendants in criminal matters try to trademark their names, and then try to impose a fee on the court whenever the court calls the defendant to bar. Courts don't like this.'

I'd like to contact the responder for more details. I'm currently doing research into IP abuse (copyrighting material that is properly protected by trademark, trademarking non-trademarkable words & phrases, etc.), and this example sounded so unbelievable and so on point.

I must have searched the blue like 20 times for this post. I'm sure I've searched the green a similar amount. How can I find a response from a poster I don't recall, on a forum which escapes my memory? Help me Obi-Wan MetaTalk . . . You're my only hope!
posted by deejay jaydee to MetaFilter-Related at 1:52 PM (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

It was on trademarking or copyrighting your personal details to avoid identity theft. I'll try to search for it.
posted by voidcontext at 1:55 PM on December 4, 2006

Here it is:

Identity Theft
posted by voidcontext at 1:57 PM on December 4, 2006

Comment is here.
posted by Partial Law at 1:59 PM on December 4, 2006

while not what you're looking for (and i'm sure you've already studied this whole thing) i did hear a good story on npr's science friday on this subject. the podcast is here, and the part pertaining to IP laws is in the 2nd half of the 2nd hour of the show.
posted by localhuman at 2:10 PM on December 4, 2006

OMG tl;dr!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:35 PM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Not an answer exactly, but you might want to check with the court's Clerk's office ~ I'm not sure if they would give you something to which you could cite, but they can give you all kinds of examples. Crazier stuff than you can imagine. If you can get a sympathetic employee at a non-busy time, you might get some great stuff.

Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit would be best, I would think, but even your state court will have seen the kind of thing you're interested in.
posted by KAS at 2:57 PM on December 4, 2006

>I'm currently doing research into IP abuse

Did you note that Marcia Cross from "Desperate Housewives" threw naked pictures of herself in the trash, and when someone retrieved them, she claimed violation of her copyright?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:49 PM on December 4, 2006

Um, IAALGBNAL (grad but not a lawyer) & IIRC a trademark, by definition, is a design - ie not just a name, not just a name written down, but a name written down in a distinctive style. (or, a logo or device, like the Coke "dynamic ribbon").

The sound of someone's name being called out in court could surely not be a trademark, and in most cases could not be copyright either, as this requires some sort of uniqueness & creative novelty, like UbuRoivas (c), for example.

So, in summary, m'lud, John Doe in fancy script (& associated with a product for commercial purposes?) might be trademarkable, but the sound "John Doe" would not be, and nor would it be copyrightable.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:01 PM on December 4, 2006

disclaimer: the above is the opinion of the poster only, and not intended as legal advice. Any actions taken in reliance on the above comment are the sole responsibility of the actor. Opinion may not be valid in jurisdictions outside of New South Wales, and is quite likely to be lacking in truth or nuance there, as well.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:10 PM on December 4, 2006

Oh, one more thing - notice that the lawyer KRS wrote the purported trademarking and copyrighting of a name and SSN is used by prisoners resist court proceedings against them.

That purported would not be accidental. KRS is describing uneducated idiots being smartasses, I think, and to be honest, the whole thing has more than a tinge of urban mythology to me.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:19 PM on December 4, 2006

UbuRoivas: I believe you're mistaken. There have been thousands of domain name cases based solely on the name and name alone.
posted by null terminated at 9:19 PM on December 4, 2006

From uspto.gov: 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.
posted by null terminated at 9:21 PM on December 4, 2006

Of course you can trademark a name.

Whether you meet all the elements to make it an enforceable mark is a different story.
posted by dios at 8:51 AM on December 5, 2006

I can't find the article on the free interweb, but there was an article about prisoners attempting to trademark their names reported in the mainstream press a couple of years ago. Try looking for it on Lexis-Nexis. (I seem to recall it during summer or fall in one of the NYC tabloids-- either the Post, Daily News or Newsday. But the timing and/or source may be completely wrong.)

And a word mark may be trademarked without any particular design element.
posted by andrewraff at 9:30 AM on December 5, 2006

Aha! Found it. The article was titled "Inmate seeks to copyright name" and published in Newsday in March 2004. I blogged a link to it here. The article seems to no longer be on the web, but it should be easy to find on Lexis-Nexis.
posted by andrewraff at 9:34 AM on December 5, 2006

And because I haven't posted enough consecutively in this thread, here's another article: Emanuella Grinberg, Court TV: What's in a name? A fortune, some inmates say: "In a form of legally sanctioned harassment, inmates awaiting trial and already convicted are passing their time behind bars filing multimillion-dollar liens against figures involved in their cases for unauthorized use of their names in legal papers and transcripts."
posted by andrewraff at 9:38 AM on December 5, 2006

you ALL rawk. hell, ALL you all rawk. many many many thanks for the collective widsom, clevverness, and general all-around knowledge of the hive mind. simply brill.
posted by deejay jaydee at 11:34 AM on December 5, 2006

null terminated: oh, you must be talking about *American* law.

But yeh, that is probably more like it. It's been a while since i studied IP law. It could be that the logo design requirement comes into play if trying to trademark a common term...?

In any case, the fact that a trademark identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others suggests strongly that one must be in some kind of goods/services peddling business, and that the person who you claim is infringing your mark is purportedly using the goodwill associated with your mark to advance their own business. Typically, the remedy in these situations would be an injunction to desist from using the infringing mark, no? As opposed to damages, like the quoted "it will cost you $1K to say my name". Apart from that, it is up to the court to decide the appropriate remedy, not the plaintiff.

I think the point still applies that merely speaking a trademarked name is unlikely to be an infringement, unless you are somehow doing it in a way to flog your own goods or services.

And finally, if a defendant carried on like that, wouldn't the presiding judge just slap a contempt of court onto him, for being a dickhead?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2006

Ah yes, you got me. How's this?

Section 17 of the Trade Marks Act 1995:
A sign used, or intended to be used, to distinguish goods or services dealt with or provided in the course of trade by a person from goods or services so dealt with or provided by any other person

Where sign is defined as:
"sign" includes the following or any combination of the following, namely, any letter, word, name, signature, numeral, device, brand, heading, label, ticket, aspect of packaging, shape, colour, sound or scent.
posted by null terminated at 8:31 PM on December 5, 2006

Cadbury's claims to have trademarked the colour purple.

Am I the only one who reads the fine print on the chocolate wrappers?
posted by flabdablet at 4:58 AM on December 6, 2006

UbuRoivas wrote: And finally, if a defendant carried on like that, wouldn't the presiding judge just slap a contempt of court onto him, for being a dickhead?

Well, "being a dickhead" is not necessarily an element of contempt, at least not in the USA jurisdictions that I know, but you've got the essential outcome correct. That's why we're looking into this.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by deejay jaydee at 10:54 AM on December 6, 2006

Cadbury's claims to have trademarked the colour purple.

Well, trademarks are registered for particular classes of goods or services, such that, for example, Speedie Taxis, Speedie Drycleaners and Speedie Internet are not infringing each others' marks. Presumably, other chocolate manufacturers cannot use great swathes of (the same shade of) purple on their wrappers, which seems fair enough. However, the Cascade Ultra-C Tasmanian blackcurrant cordial bottle in front of me seems to be using the Cadbury purple on its label.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:45 PM on December 6, 2006

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