Monday, October 1, 2007

Greedy Folks Masquerading In Organic Cotton

Were it not for our own Bill Of Rights and the Constitution, this country would have dissolved into suspicion and chaos ages ago. However, there are those who find other ways to suppress free speech in more nefarious ways.

Been Here, Done That: The Prior Slap Down
How Jefferson Airplane Got Toasted By Berkeley Systems

We're going to take you way back, before MoveOn even started. We're doing this to show you that the organization is
very savvy in terms of knowing how to maneuver through things using lawyers and sheer intimidation.

Legal tussles, such as the one Carrie Olson presented to the shopkeepers of Cafe Press, are something she, Wade Boyd and Joan Blades have been through before. Prior to founding Move On, they were taken to court over a genuine trademark infringement themselves.
As much as you'd like to think that Berkleyites are organic crunchers who bake bread, these ones aren't.

They're millionaires, and they have their fingers in everything from Berkeley city council, the preservation committee, to starting a group for moms who think just like them. George
Soros aside, these folks have plenty of money of their own. They made it when they were still young and have very little in common with the rank and trade, bible-thumping Democrats a lot of us grew up with.

They made their fortune with a company called Berkeley Systems,, which among other things, developed a screen saver with "flying toasters." These were winged toasters flying through the air on your computer in the late 1980's and 90's made by Berkley Systems. Remember it? Unless you weren't born, or you were completely oblivious, there's no way you could not have seen this iconic image.

But let's go back a bit.
In 1973,
Jefferson Airplane released an album with... you guessed it, winged flying toasters. It's such a zany idea. Who would have thought of it? It's not hard to imagine the album was popular, along with the smell of Herbal essence and patchoulli in the grimy apartments around Berkeley. (You can read about AfterDark Software and BerkSys on Wikipedia).

Anyway, by 1994 Berkeley Systems was big business. Their flying toasters could be found everywhere. Jefferson Airplane sued them for copying their iconic image. Read about it here, in an article by Lance Rose in Wired. In court, Berkeley Systems claimed it had grown organically from the brain of one of their engineers named, Jack. Yeah, right, and pigs fly, too.

However, Jefferson Airplane LOST in court. The reason? Jefferson Airplane had failed to register their trademark in 1973. (Well, it was a rock band you know. Who thinks of trademarks when you've got groupies?). Berkeley systems got off scot-free. In fact, Wade Boyd claimed to never have seen a flying toaster before they released their product. Either he's discounted the entire idea of a subconscious which liberals thrive on, or this just made them the squarest nerds in Berkeley. What was Boyd listening to in the '70's? Montovani?

Still, one can't notice a glaring similarity between the two designs. To the average looker today, it's hard to believe it was coincidence, that they aren't overgrown toaster hijackers. Only they know the truth, but someone was angry enough to write about it on not one, but several wikipedia entries tied to their company. What can I say? Sometimes things are put there as a gift.

So they
learned a quick lesson. Slap this trademark shtick on a t-shirt and mug shopkeeper who doesn't have an intellectual rights attorney and you'll get your way.

So Olson got her way again. Cafe Press weighed the risk of taking on this overgrown adolescent toaster hijacker in court... even though they disagreed heartily with her.
But boy, was she wrong.

From Jon Healy of the Los Angeles Times weighed in on this maneuver to suppress free speech by MoveOn:

"Trademark law doesn't confer monopoly rights over all uses of a registered phrase or symbol, however, and it wasn't created simply to protect the trademark owner's interests. Instead, it's designed to protect consumers against being misled or confused about brands. The courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of parodies and critiques; that's why doesn't violate famousbrandname's trademark. And most, if not all, of the items targeted by MoveOn were clearly designed to razz it, not to trick buyers into thinking they were the group's products."

So in reality, these do-gooders are no different than any other rich business titans who are used to getting their own way. Even if it means quashing the First Amendment to anyone who disagrees with them.


Jason said...

I'll gladly put up your shirt - MoveOn doesn't scare me in the least.

If you'd like me to sell it here on CafePress, I'll do so and donate all of the proceeds to the same charity you do.

I can stand up to these idiots.

Poli Stew Cafe said...

Hi Jason,
Do you have a store on CafePress? Or perhaps you'd like to put a banner ad on your blog? You can even put photos of some of the goods on your blog, with a link to the store.

Let me know. I'm flexible either way. But I'd be delighted! I think this is called making something good out of something ridiculous.

Speedcat Hollydale said...

I am not a political blogger, nor a serious blogger for that matter. What I care to publish should be my own decision. When issues arise to squash free speech, I do stand up and take note.
Money, laywers, and idealists have no place in "bending" the constitutional rights of any American.


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