Today I had an email from a stranger, they said "You are considering this tradition [of intellectual property rights] to be meaningless and worthless." He questioned the purpose of the sourpeas.org site. Of course I had to respond to this anonymous emailer. Here's what I wrote...
I definitely believe organizations have the right to defend their trademark. I'm quoted in the Miami Herald saying so.
I'm a professional graphic designer and illustrator, with 20 years experience. I make my living based on my own copyrights. In fact I had registered my copyright for my version of Sweet Pea. I'm a member of the Graphic Artists Guild which is a advocate of artist's rights and copyrights.
I never had heard of Sweet Pea Ltd. although I was aware many companies were using "Sweet Pea" as a graphic on clothing. I assumed it was a term of endearment in the public domain. When you compare the defendants alleged infringing marks they in no way resemble their logo, but this is about the words "Sweet Pea". Although I don't have time to respond fully to you about the specific merits, all the IP attorneys we spoke to agreed with our position. It would have been for the courts to decide. Unfortunately we don't have the resources to take it to that level.
What this was about is litigation extortion. No cease and desists were sent to the defendants, we were just faced with a 2 inch thick stack of papers claiming trademark counterfeiting among other things. The suit is for 16 million dollars. When my friend/attorney called the plaintiff's attorney (Barthet) and offered to abide by an injunction Barthet said sure, plus $5000. To me that's not a reasonable way to go about protecting your trademark. It's about intimidation and extortion.
I believe if a company has a trademark they should start with the basics, like using a TM along with that trademark, and sending a cease and desist if they feel a infringement is occurring. http://www.gosweetpea.com
I believe in IP rights and the value of IP to business but I do feel the trademarking of common words may be getting out of hand, and is beginning to limit free speech and even business speech. The term for this is trademark abuse. There's a very interesting article about this issue at marketingmag.ca
Today the long awaited Seattle Times article came out, this may be the article my anonymous emailer had read. It left out the "extortion" angle of the story, and focused on how the sourpeas organized, so the reader really doesn't get the whole picture. Unfortunately in the photo I look like a scary chick, what can I say?
Boy this thing is exhausting, I'm looking forward to a day when I don't have to think about it and can just do my work. I'm very happy and relieved a reasonable settlement is in the works.