Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hot intellectual property!

LibraryThing has a small but dedicated cadre of author-picture adders. The most active, alibrarian, has uploaded more than 3,000 of them.* Today's subject, DromJohn, has entered fewer—183 at last count—but almost all of them required permission. That is, he wrote to the author, agent or publisher and got permission to post the images on LibraryThing. I am awed by this.

DromJohn wrote to the McIlhenny Company, the people who make Tabasco. They've also published a few books under their company name, so they have an author page. Wouldn't it be cool to have the Tabasco logo on that page? Here's their reply:

Please be advised that McIlhenny Company hereby grants you permission to use the forthcoming "Brand Products" logo on the LibraryThing author page … for six months from the date of this email.

Any changes in your intended use of our Intellectual Property must be submitted to us for prior approval.

We will follow up with you at the end of the six month period to see if the logo is still being used.

Further, we note that "Tobasco" is misspelled on the author page. Please make the necessary revisions to the pages in which it is misspelled. It should read "TABASCO(r)" with an "A" and it should be in all caps with a superscript registered symbol.

I will review the page in a few days to ensure the necessary revisions have been made.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you and have a great day.

Trademark and Licensing
McIlhenny Company
A couple of points:
  • The owner of one of their (not-so-popular) cookbooks is volunteering to promote them. This should be a call for celebration.
  • The "tobasco" spelling error came about because some loyal customer of theirs couldn't find the book they published in any source, but was so insistent on including it on their virtual shelf that they cataloged it by hand. These are problems you want!
  • Neither Amazon nor the Library of Congress nor any other source I can find put the registration marks in. Personally, I'm glad.
  • A close of view of the front cover of the Tabasco Cookbook shows no registration mark either. So, LibraryThing is supposed to add it when the company doesn't?
  • Good luck getting the Tabasco tag pages on and Flikr to use the ® symbol.
I'll bet you that, on today's web, half the time you fire off an asinine letter like this to someone with a blog you get a post like this, and another 10, 100 or 1,000 people out there who think you're clueless.

Of, I forgot: TABASCO®, the TABASCO® diamond logo, and the TABASCO® bottle design
are registered trademarks exclusively of McIlhenny Co., Avery Island, LA 70513.


Blogger rikker said...

Tim, on the same topic, I think you'll be interested in this post from Ken Jennings' blog.

It's not surprising that companies have these (unenforcable) stylized ways of writing their trademarks. What's more bizarre and interesting is that this fellow "Dave" doesn't sound like he's an employee of Lego, but not only does he apparently abide by Lego's guidelines, he also writes to authors about it! Maybe he gets high on his sense of accomplishment if the 2nd Edition reads "LEGO® brand bricks."

This reminds me of a quote I read in this excellent book about the controversy over Webster's Third New International Dictionary back in the 60s:

An American reads a dictionary to see how words should be pronounced. A Briton reads a dictionary to because he's curious if it gives his pronunciations.

I can't remember who said it (he was English, though), but the author of the above book referred to it as a comment on authoritarianism with respect to the language. That is, that dictionaries are perceived as "auctoritee" to quote Chaucer. Or the belief that there should be (or are) hard-and-fast rules about anything at all relating to language.

This corporate meddling as with the Tabasco trademark is also misguided prescriptivism. (Of course, it also ties in to the inexhaustible supply of insanity over intellectual property, led proudly by American corporate interests.)

The prescriptivist tradition is alive and well on both sides of the pond, but notice the use of the definite article: "THE dictionary," or the childhood taunt, "ain't ain't a word 'cause it ain't in the dictionary."

Interesting stuff to think about. Thanks for the blog post.

8/10/2007 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Drom John said...

I was semi-amazed. I have had several refusals, and a few negative reactions to messed up pages (the worst by an author who had co-authored several books and didn't like the titles not showing up on her page, oh, and not with the Ph.D after her name), but the officiousness and warning of their revisiting the page in 6 months warranted a forwarding to Tim.

I declined to upload the photo.

TABASCO® is now a new tag for me. It has the added value of reminding me of this incident.

And my comment to one other Thinger changed a title. Another is still not up to corporate standards.

OTOH, to keep me from sucking my thumb as a baby, my mother put TABASCO® on it. I kept sucking my thumb, and TABASCO® is still my favorite condiment.

8/10/2007 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's no such thing as bad publicity...

8/10/2007 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Lilithcat said...

the worst by an author who had co-authored several books and didn't like the titles not showing up on her page

Well, I have to admit, I don't blame her. One of the things that aggravates the heck out of me is having a co-authored book show up on only one of the author's pages. If I were an author, and my books were on the site but not listed on my Author Page, I'd be annoyed, too.

This has been at the top of my "I wish they would . . . " list for a very long time.

8/11/2007 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Zoe said...

I completely agree with lilithcat about the co-authors.

8/11/2007 10:59 PM  
Anonymous Noisy said...

Well, the response does sound a bit pompous, but not everyone is web-literate you know.

The big problem I have with this blog post is putting an email up on the blog for the world to see. Did you ask permission? If I sent an email to someone and it ended up being paraded around the internet, I certainly wouldn't trust that person very much. Have you thought what impact this may have on future people that are approached? OK, I'd imagine that 99% would laugh at the absurd response, but there may be 1% who see that LT decides to have a laugh at the expense of people who have different values.

8/12/2007 3:19 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I think Tim's within rights to share this message; he has omitted any personal identifiers, and he's raising important issues that are pretty new to our culture--the kinds of things that you couldn't really talk as well about without some kind of evidence.

8/13/2007 12:53 AM  
Blogger Lampbane said...

They really didn't put much thought into that response, did they? I understand that licensing has certain guidelines that must be maintained and so forth, but this isn't a licensed product, it's an INFORMATIONAL website.


Any way, LT calls for a slightly different response than you would give to say, people who want to make t-shirts.

8/14/2007 12:43 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Out of curiosity, I checked OCLC for [The TABASCO Cookbook] and found two editions, the original 1993 edition (125 years...) and a 2004 reprint. Neither capitalizes the entire word TABASCO and neither uses a trademark symbol.

Catalogers rarely use the cover for the title. Technically they have to use the title page of the book.

8/14/2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger zenohockey said...

What does that asterisk lead to?

8/14/2007 9:02 PM  
Blogger Lampbane said...

Query: does this mean we can't put up any picture now? Because honestly, there are lovely CC-licensed photos on Flickr we could use instead of a logo.

8/15/2007 11:15 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Oh, of the logo? Hmmm. I don't know. I think we should stay on the safe side since we actually got a letter. I'm not sure what the rules are about CC photos with non-CC trademarks—particularly when its the trademark (or the logo, which is almost the same thing) you want.

8/15/2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger Lampbane said...

I think it might depend on the "artistic" value of the photo. However, I would rather stay on the safe side here since I don't think they're going to like us very much after this.

8/15/2007 12:29 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Actually, you know, Trademark isn't like copyright. They don't have any copyright over some Flickr image of hot-sauce bottles. As long as we aren't using it is a misleading way (like selling a hot sauce) and so long as we include the line about the trademark being theirs, we're fine.

Do you want to find it? Be sure to incldue the trademark notice?


8/15/2007 12:35 PM  
Blogger Lampbane said...

I put up two photos I found on Flickr, with slightly different treatments of the trademark.

I'd really like to put up a picture of a bottle next to a quesadilla with some sauce spread on top; unfortunately I didn't find any in my fridge.

8/15/2007 2:59 PM  

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