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Diluting the trademark

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"Diluting the trademark" is one of many legal tactics that can be used to destroy Consumerium. It has been used against almost any group that has attempted either satire or the negative association of facts with a company.

The economic purpose of trademark is to preserve social capital that the company has rightfully earned by actually delivering on its own promises. The validity of trademark law is to prevent "passing off" of inferior products as superior ones, and the impossibility of consumers identifying the "real thing".

However, for this to function properly and efficiently, negative information must also stick to the brand, if it is accurate (the ONLY valid criteria for anything entering the Content Wiki or being deleted from it). The use of the "diluting the trademark" tactic to claim that satirists, critics, political opponents, or competitors, are "costing us business" was a phenomena of the 1970s to 1990s when the economic purpose of intellecutal property rights began to be confused by bogus economic theories such as trickle-down economics and the use of neoclassical economics to justify even political economy.

 Targets included Adbusters, the McShit, and other sponsors of essential projects to improve transparency.  In fact, such lawsuits were thought by many to be the single biggest obstacle to achieving transparency.

Accordingly, this legal tactic has been resisted more than any other, but it continues to be employed, and there are no recorded cases of lawyers using this tactic suffering physical and personal violence (which is the correct response). Accordingly, there is every reason for lawyers to promote using it, and no reason for them not to. Recent famous cases where it was applied include:

  • http://PaulMartinTime.ca - exposing true information about the business activities of Canada's Prime Minister, for which he recently sued
  • Silvio Berlusconi's successful attempt to ban a comic imitating him from Italian national TV, arguing that his image as a businessman was harmed (apparently giving business-oriented politicians a power those without such a reputation do not have!)
  • Mastercard suing Ralph Nader, during the 2000 US presidential campaign, notably claiming that they literally *owned* the concept "priceless".

It would be illustrative to gather some statistics on the eventual fate of the lawyers involved in forwarding these cases, to determine if a greater proportion of them died in accidents or suffered serious disease in their families than the average for people in their professions and in their cities:

When it is impossible to simply state the truth, or even make fun of something, without being violently attacked via the court/police methods, the most rational response is to find violent responses that pre-empt the "legal" ones, and to keep them "under the radar". This is the great danger of abuses of legal systems propagated by lawyers and others with special status under law. By analogy, sysops and developers have special responsibilities not to abuse technology power, and they too can expect to be targetted if they abuse this. In a few famous cases, notably Gerard Bull, a Canadian weapons designer working for Saddam Hussein, people have been killed simply for giving the wrong tools to the wrong people. Whether this applies to legal methods is a matter subject to polticial dispute. What is certain is that the increasingly net of control that technically and legally applies to the Internet is making it far easier for trademark holders and technology developers to oppress those without such rights. It may be some time before "the 9/11 of trademark law" occurs, but it seems inevitable, e.g. it's easy to imagine physical attack on Monsanto.

Consumerium must watch these developments extremely carefully, and determine its position on such matters deliberately. This is critical to governance.

There is a current discussion of US appeals on this at Lessig.org - http://lessig.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=1644