By Vincent Teh
Christmas means different things to different people. To some, it’s a time of excess. A time to drink a year’s worth of alcohol in the span of a day, and to stuff oneself in one night with enough food to feed a small African nation for a decade. To some it’s a low budget remake of Iron Chef. The challenge is to cook a gargantuan fowl in time to feed the family without carbonizing the bird and in the process setting the house on fire, and subsequently, to come up with new and exciting ways of preparing the leftover fowl for the remainder of the week in various edible forms. To me, it’s the time to traipse around the house all day in my PJs, rewatch soppy Christmas themed movies like Bridget Jones’ Diary and Love Actually (which incidentally is the best movie ever made!) for the 1567th time, and engage my grey matter in writing random poems and stories like this…
Granny Mae of Wisconsin has always loved baking and making little sweets. Not too long ago, she decided to try her hands on chocolate making and found that she is pretty good at it. Soon people in the neighbourhood started making orders to buy Granny’s chocolates for Valentine’s Day, Easter and now for Christmas too. To Granny, Christmas is a time of giving and a time for chocolate confectioneries. Granny thought she would make the chocolates in the shapes of reindeers, teddy bears and Santa. She bought the moulds from a baking shop a couple of blocks away. Unknown to Granny the moulds are Chinese knockoffs of chocolates made by Swiss chocolatier, Lindt & Sprüngli AG. Even more unknown to Granny was that the design of the Chocolate Santa had been registered by Lindt as a Design Patent/Industrial Design (publication no. USD644410S). This means Granny had actually infringed upon the registered design of Lindt by producing and selling her Santa Chocolates. Granny had to stop selling the chocolates and destroy or hand over all her Santa shaped chocolates along with the moulds to Lindt or face a lawsuit and hefty damages.
This Christmas, Granny Mae isn’t the only one who has run afoul of the law. Uncle Bill was once a best-selling rock star. But years of substance abuse and nine failed marriages turned him into a washed-up has-been. To Bill, Christmas is a time for redemption. It was time he gave the limelight one last shot, to face the curtain with a bang and to give his fans something to remember him by. He decided to cover several popular carols in his iconic raucous and salacious style, changing some of the lyrics as he saw fit. Songs like “Carol of the B*lls”, “All I want for Christmas is my two French B*****s” and “Last Christmas I Gave You Herpes” are just a few examples of the extent of his depravity. His songs did not go unnoticed, and within a matter of days, Bill’s Christmas album had topped the Adult Top 40 Charts on Christmas Eve.
After that, things went downhill as fast as a certain non-specific American cyclist on steroids. A deluge of lawsuits followed the release of his album. Never one to do things the proper way, Uncle Bill had used the music and a big part of the lyrics of those songs without first obtaining license from the copyright owners. Uncle Bill was found to have infringed the copyrights of numerous singers, songwriters, and record houses. Further, because he had butchered the originally family friendly lyrics of the songs, he was found to have infringed on the moral rights of the authors of those lyrics because of his derogatory treatment of the works. He was required to pay a substantial amount of damages and compensations to the copyright owners of all the works he had used and mutilated. The lawsuits left Uncle Bill broke and his career was written off for good.
Mr Kim is an entrepreneurial owner of a chain of “AWESOME KIM” grocery shops. It was always Mr Kim’s American dream to one day own a retail empire so huge that it would dwarf Walmart’s. To Mr Kim, Christmas is the season to milk his customers for all they’re worth. He reckoned that if he replaced the trademark on all the products that were sold under his own brand, AWESOME KIM, with the words “Merry Christmas” he would be able to cash in on all that last minute shopping by cheap and lazy people (of which he believed there were many).
Mr Kim was oblivious to the fact that the words “Merry Christmas” are registered as a trademark by various companies on numerous things. Mr Kim had inadvertently been selling sparkling wines, cigarettes and skin products which infringed the trademarks (USPTO Reg. No. 4077131, Reg. No. 3254339 & Reg. No. 3561707) of various companies. Consequently, instead of Christmas cards, Mr Kim received several Letters of Demand from the companies that own the trademarks to stop selling the products and to either hand the products over or to destroy them. One company even went so far as to require Mr Kim to hand over the profit he had made from selling the products bearing the company’s trademark.
Well, by now I think you would have guessed that the stories above are fictional. However, although the characters were made up, the legal situations weren’t. Businesses should be wary of what they use because it is very possible that someone may already own the IP rights to it. So this Christmas, stay safe, make your IP attorney’s day by giving him a call to check out what you can or cannot use, and perhaps even wish him a Merry Christmas. And on that note:
Christmas is thus a season to be wary,
Many a thing are not free to copy.
So you better watch out, you better not try,
The lawsuits and compensation will suck you all dry.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own, and need not reflect the views of KASS nor of its clients.