I’ve come back from the INTA Meet the Bloggers meeting at the Hong Kong Yachting Club, which was kindly sponsored by Marks & Clark.
Marty Schwimmer (the Trademark Blog) spoke. He decided not to list the various IP blogs represented. Not least because we’d lose interest long before coming to the end of Professor Phillips’ blogging interests. Instead, he decided to request that we link to his blog and report on his campaign to have the Washington Redskins change their name. Marty is of the opinion that the term is demeaning to native American Indians and we should have a social conscience. Marty’s blog post is here. Jeremy’s preliminary rebuttal on the IPKAT is here.
I tried to speak to him afterwards. I pointed out that the State of Bavaria is interested in extending the copyright of Mein Kamf to keep Hitler’s magnum opus out of the public domain. Whilst not being a great fan of that work of literature for which Hitler was nominated for a Noble Prize in literature, I think that attempts to sensor it are futile, and if it is decided to do so, it should be done under race literature laws not by abusing copyright law. Marty Schwimmer’s response was that the Redskin issue wasn’t a legal issue, but an ethical one.
The Redskin issue has had its day in court. See Native Americans Activists Lose Annulment Procedure Against Redskins Trademark see also Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Chicago Redskins Complaint. See Quinn Emanuel, Leading US Litigation Firm Hosts Seminar in Tel Aviv, Offensive Trademarks and Statute Of Limitations and Supreme Court Asked to WeighRedskins Case. Frankly, I’ve given more than a little coverage to this issue on a blog that is primarily devoted to Israeli decisions, cases on Jewish themes, those involving Israeli companies and other things of interest to Israeli practitioners. I don’t know that the issue is really of interest to Native Americans. It is unlikely to be of interest to Israelis.
I don’t know anything about American football and little about native American sensitivities.
If Marty and I concur that the issue is not a legal one but a moral one, then maybe an IP blog is not the correct forum to discuss it? I first met Marty at a Meet the Bloggers two years ago in Washington, or maybe the year before in San Francisco. He noted my Kippa (skull cap, yarmulka, cuppel) and beard, and decided that I was a right-wing Israeli who was racist. He didn’t ask me my views but made his very clear. I’ve meanwhile, enjoyed excellent relationships with IP professionals in Jordan, Egypt, Gaza, West Bank, Qatar, UAE, Iran, Morocco and Iraq. we shake hands and promise to send each other IP work insh’Allah when the situation improves. One Saudi Arabian refused to shake my hands. One Israeli practitioner also made a point of ignoring me. So what?
I have a social conscience. I am a political activist. However, I have different politics than Marty and different social values. I am not sure that INTA is the place to discuss these views and am not sure that IP blogs should cover non-legal social issues beyond those affecting the profession. I have successfully influenced corrupt patent practitioner practices in Israel, undemocratic practices of the representative organization for patent attorneys in Israel, Kosher food and the lack of it at INTA and AIPPI, non-licensed practitioners and silly practices of the patent office that lead to files becoming abandoned by mistake. I critique decisions by IP examiners, commissioners and judges on this blog, and know for a fact that several of them follow the blog, so it is likely that the feedback has some effect. I also demonstrate and write letters on other issues of concern, but don’t publish on this blog as it is not the correct forum.
I make no secret about living in a West Bank settlement. This does not mean that I am comfortable about the current state of affairs re Arabs on West Bank. It doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize the rights of Arabs to live in their ancestral homeland. Only that I believe in my right to live in my ancestral homeland, where history, literature, all monotheistic religions and achaeology show that I have deep ties to the area. I am happy to host Marty (or other practitioners) for a Shabbat in Ofra, and to discuss the peace process and political situation at length. I suspect that his understanding is no deeper than mine is of the Crimean issue, Morocco, Kurdistan or Armenia, and probably less than my understanding of Northern Ireland or Scotland. Marty may be well meaning, but he is a bigot who does not bother to engage in calm discussion, certainly not with me.
I sat with a couple of Ukrainian patent attorneys and one from Nigeria today. The position of native Americans is perhaps better than that of Crimeans and Nigerian teenagers. An ex-Israel Prime Minister was sentenced to 6 years for corruption. My Arab colleagues report that the situation in Syria and Egypt has been better. Is the Redskin issue the most burning social concern?
I have a great deal of respect for attorneys who refuse clients on political principle. I am an Intellectual Prostitute, i.e. I am in the field to earn a living but I don’t take on all cases. I can and do work pro bono for what I consider to be worthwhile causes. I also give plenty of free consultancies to wannabee entrepreneurs and usually try to persuade them to think carefully before investing in pipe dreams.
I also remember the “Dykes on Bikes” fiasco where a well meaning male trademark practitioner tried to prevent a women’s motorcyling club from using a mark that he found offensive. That case was also thrown out. See Dykes on Bikes® – US Supreme Court Allows Trademark and “Dykes on Bikes” Trademark Upheld in US.
I think that Marty may simply make his blog less relevant by becoming less legal and more political. I assume that if enough fans stop buying Redskins merchantise. the club will change its name. Maybe I am less than sensitive to this issue. Maybe it is a non-issue. Maybe Marty is simply a well-meaning bleading-heart lefty. What is clear is that he doesn’t have time to discuss or debate. He knows it all.