“We cannot allow our brand to be abused”

Originally posted on November 13, 2008.

What “brand” is that?

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brand. The greed of the King “branders” was one of the earliest, and is still one of the most popular, posts on LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®, and it’s rearing its really unbecoming head once again in light of “the sudden wave of T-shirts, posters and other merchandise depicting the civil rights leader alongside Barack Obama”:

Isaac Newton Farris Jr., King’s nephew and head of the nonprofit King Center in Atlanta, said the estate is entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees — maybe even millions.

“Some of this is probably putting food on people’s plates. We’re not trying to stop anybody from legitimately supporting themselves,” he said, “but we cannot allow our brand to be abused.”

Their BRAND?  Wow — in 40 years from “I have a dream” to “”We cannot allow our brand to be abused.”

As the legend on the image at right says, “that change is gonna come.”  Bills, checks and credit cards gonna come, too.

Is that really the Promised Land?

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Author:Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

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5 Responses to ““We cannot allow our brand to be abused””

  1. James H
    November 14, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    Thus does tinge things with greed, doesn’t it? I could understand going after specific things that are legitimately King’s intellectual property or the property of the King Center, but this is a bit much.

    Speaking of which, doesn’t this effort to “protect the brand” actually HURT the King brand?

  2. James H
    November 14, 2008 at 1:40 pm #

    Sorry to double-comment, but another thought occurred to me. I could certainly see the King family going after people who abused King’s legacy or image in some way. Say, for example, if a politician who favored policies opposite to King’s attempted to create campaign merchandising featuring their images together. But going after historical researchers and documentary makers damages the King legacy far more than it helps.

  3. Bob
    November 14, 2008 at 8:11 pm #

    I have a brand…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “We cannot allow our brand to be abused” - November 14, 2008

    [...] The “brand” in question is that of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Likelihood of Confusion, Nov. 13). [...]

  2. Martin Luther King, Jr. has a dream … and a brand | IP Prospective - January 19, 2009

    [...] We are in the midst of two extremely important days for Americans, one of which is annual, and the other is one of the most important days ever. In light of today’s holiday in celebration of Dr. King’s life and accomplishments, which led the way for the next President of the U.S. to be inaugurated tomorrow, I’d like to discuss a subject that has somewhat marred Dr. King’s legacy . . . his brand. There has been some conversation in the world of trademarks regarding the Martin Luther King, Jr. brand and the strict protectionist enforcement policies exercised by the King Estate. The King Estate has fought numerous trademark battles with t-shirt makers, poster makers, and other memorabilia makers, most of which have shed Dr. King in a favorable light. The fact that a lot of this material is probably protected by free speech and the First Amendment has not stopped the King Estate from enjoining a lot, if not all, of this activity. A recent wave of “cease and desist” letters have been sent by the Estate in a reaction to propaganda and new products which pit Dr. King and Barack Obama in the same picture. A good piece regarding these ironic actions was posted a few months ago at Likelihood of Confusion. [...]

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