Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Want To Own "The"

Earlier this month a California court ruled in favor of Electronic Arts (EA), a popular video game company, in a case brought against them by Tim Langdell, founder of Edge Games. In his complaint, Langdell claimed that EA’s recent game release Mirror’s Edge, infringed upon his trademark of the word "edge".
This isn’t the first time Langdell has threatened lawsuits against companies for using the word "edge" in their game titles, and for the most part he has gotten his way. However, in the this recent cast the court disagreed, saying Langdell has done practically nothing in the way of producing anything under the Edge trademark, while EA has spent millions developing the Mirror’s Edge franchise. Furthermore, the court basically stripped Langdell of his trademark, ordering the United States Patent and Trademark Office to cancel all trademarks Langdell has on the word "edge".
This reminded me of a similar case here in Orlando back in the late 80’s. In 1988, Pizzaria Uno opened it’s first Orlando location. Soon afterwards, in some backwards attempt to warm itself to the local community (read that with sarcasm), Pizzaria Uno threatened legal action against a small Cuban restaurant. The reason for the action was that they claimed the Cuban restaurant, which had went by the name Numero Uno for nine years, was infringing upon their trademark of the word "Uno." Apparently, the Pizzaria Uno legal department had just graduated from pre-school and thought that customers would have a hard time distinguishing a small cuban restaurant from a national Chicago-style pizza restaurant chain. This case didn’t work out as well for the defendant as the EA case. The owner of Numero Uno agreed to change it’s name because he didn’t have the resources to wage a legal battle.
Now, it’s easy to point fingers at Tim Langdell and Pizzaria Uno and call them opportunist bullies, and rightfully so. But are they really the problem? Actually, I think the real problem lies elsewhere, namely the idiot at the United States Patent and Trademark Office who actually granted trademarks on the individual words "edge" and "uno". How dumb is that?
No one should have the right to corner the market on a single word. Tim Langdell’s company was called Edge Games not "Edge". The trademark should have been for "Edge Games". If so, there never would have been a case. Same with Pizzaria Uno. The name of the restaurant is not simply "Uno." And in the case of single word products, the trademark should be dependant on the type of product. Therefore, U2’s guitarist "Edge" couldn’t sue Gillette over their "Edge" shaving cream.
Now, if this practice of trademarking a single word continues, I want to make it clear here and now that I wish to trademark the word "the". One book published and I should be set for life. The rest of you can fight over "an," "and," "it," "as," and "of." But I’m calling dibs on "the".
I’m licking it right now.

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