Monday, September 12, 2005

Blogs versus Copyright

If this is Monday, then it must mean that there's a new blog meme out there. This one is that Lego Blocks is stupid for trying to protect its copyright, and get people to use the correct term for the company.

I am not sure why, though. The blogosphere seems to take offence at any company that wants to protect its copyrights, as seen by the FedEx meme - people, it's over and you can stop talking about it now - and now by this slightly astroturfed meme regarding Lego blocks.

Now, after reading the note on Legos.com, I had a theory why Lego had that message on that Website, before pointing to the official site: brand protection. In trademark law, if a term becomes common vernacular, the company holding the trademark loses the trademark. It's happened before, with Bayer and Aspirin. Aspirin used to be a trademark, but it became the generic term for that chemical chain pain killer. Currently, both Kleenex and Xerox are running into the same situation, and in the South, any soda is a "Coke" - which could lead to issues down the road. Even Apple has jumped into the fray, with rumors of cease-and-desist letters going out to Websites using the term iPod (notice the name change to iLounge?)

But, apparently corporations are not allowed to protect their trademarks because it's bad citizen marketing. Why? I'm not sure why protecting a trademark or products is bad citizen marketing, but by reading different blogs, I guess it is. FedEx bad. Lego Blocks bad. Apple - well, Apple good, but that's because it's the underdog attacking other underdogs. While the wording could have been a little less harsh, it's still a point that the company wants to get out there ... which is its right.

So, it's funny that at tonight's Pepcom Holiday Spectacular (PDF) I should run into the people from Lego Blocks. I got to speak to none other than Michael McNally, the Senior Brand Relations Manager for Lego (very cool business card). I asked him about the "issue" with Legos, and guess what? It's the reason I thought it was!! Lego Blocks is trying to protect its trademark, but that's verbotten in the new world of blogs.

Maybe it's time to feed the same medicine to bloggers. Let's see if they enjoy their brand - personal brands - being used in ways that they might not like. Maybe then they'll understand the corporate rationale for trying to protect a brand.


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