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Posts published in “Day: June 26, 2010”

GI Joe and . . . freedom

Next time you hear the argument that trademark and related laws are there just simply so that people can fairly profit from the value they've built up . . . remember G.I. Joe's.

You remember the Oregon-based sporting good retailer that had a strong run in the Northwest for many years under its original ownership, then sold to a larger operation, only to see it wither and eventually die a couple of years ago. It saddened a lot of loyal customers around the region, too. (Yes, this oversimplifies a complex and twisting story, but in outline it's a reasonably valid chronology.)

A couple of months ago, a piece of encouraging news: A group of the original G.I. Joe's owners wanted to re-create the store, get at least one up and running again, maybe more. This would be, they said, the "G.I. Joe's Comeback."

It wasn't to be.

Turned out that the rights to a clutch of G.I. Joe's-related names, the ones the original G.I. Joe's owners wanted to use, had been sold to a Canadian company called UFA Holdings Inc. It runs a group of stores called Wholesale Sport, but doesn't seem to be actually using any of the G.I. Joe's names. Regardless, it quickly sued the original G.I. Joe's execs and demanded damages (even though no store has yet been opened) of $75,000, for trademark infringement.

That killed the revival. Tack up G.I. Joe's on the long list of businesses killed or damaged by the over-zealous use of our trademark laws . . .