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Posts published in “Day: March 19, 2007”

The Latvian family values envoy, or not

When you get a few moments free and feel like reading something really weird, try this post from this Seattle Stranger's Slog.

It has to do with Ken Hutcherson, pastor at the Antioch Bible Church and active in the culture wars on the anti-gay side. He says that he holds the White House-provided title of Special Envoy for Adoptions, Family Values, Religious Freedom, and Medical Relief, and that he recently visited the nation of Latvia, where he bestowed his views on proper family values. The White House says it has given him no title and hasn't coordinated or talked with him about Latvia.

And then it gets a lot more complex.

Protecting and diminishing speech

This latest outrage should be, and may well be, struck down by a court. For now, it stands as the latest example of how far trademark and copyright issues are being pushed, and the risk to all our freedom that they entail.

Moonray logoMoonstruck logoConsider the two logos you see here - one for the Moonray Espresso shop in the small, and somewhat remote, town of Duvall, Washington; the other for Moonstruck Chocolates, a chocolate company based in Portland which has developed "chocolate cafes" there and in California and Illinois, none yet in Washington state. Its shops sell coffee, too, as a sideline.

That geographic distance and industry distinction hasn't stopped Moonstruck from taking legal action against Moonray, the allegation being an infringement on its trademark. Moonstruck is much the larger business, and Moonray's owners express concern they could be driven out of business by legal costs. It's not an idle concern.

The Seattle Times reports that "residents are circulating petitions, gathering donations and spreading the word through blogs. Bellevue alternative band AltSpeak performed at Moonray on Friday and will donate proceeds to the legal expenses. Guitarist and singer Iggy Faus said the band did it 'as a matter of principle' to support a small-business owner."

It's a matter of principle, all right. The small, remote coffee shop, which uses a name and logo only distantly remnant of the much bigger chocolate shop's, poses no realistic threat to the Portland business. The Duvall community, on the other hand, may soon see one of its key meeting places crushed out, likely because an attorney somewhere in a Portland high-rise thought a client needed to aggressively "protect its interests." It seems, from here, to be an over-aggressive protection.

Not many people think, yet, about trademark law reform. But as these cases proliferate, and they have, they should start thinking about it, else our ability to use half the words in the English language and half of our visual symbology is lost to legal clients who have the financial clout to seize the right to use it exclusively, and forever.