Tall orders

High-masted, altitudinous sailing vessel
"High-masted, altitudinous sailing vessel"

It’s always something, isn’t it.  Here’s the latest shipwreck-in-the-making — you can’t call tall ships tall ships any more, matey:

The age of wooden ships and iron men is long gone.  We appear to be square in the era of tall ships and stupid lawyers.  From the SeaCoastonline:

The American Sail Training Association sent a letter to the Piscataqua Maritime Commission on July 23 demanding the organization cease and desist from using references that infringe on ASTA’s federally registered trademarks. Those trademarks include “tall ships,” “tall ships are coming,” “tall ships 2000″ and “tall ships challenge.” For the past 25 years, the city has hosted a Tall Ships Festival without knowing it was violating ASTA’s trademarks. The term “tall ship” has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office since 1976.

Donald Coker, chairman of the PMC, said his organization has been a member of ASTA for several years, but now would be required to enter into a license agreement to continue to use the term “tall ship.” The cost of the license he said represents 15 to 20 percent of the entire budget, making it likely the 2010 event will have a different name.

‘Very large, tall-masted sailing ships’ to arrive in August

This is stupidity writ large.

Or tall.

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Ron Coleman

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8 thoughts on “Tall orders

  1. Pingback: Warren Jarog
  2. Recently my boss asked me to clear a list of potential marks.

    He got them back with each one annotated with “Can’t Use,” “Shouldn’t Use,” and “Okay to Use.”

    He asked, “What’s the difference between ‘Can’t Use,’ and ‘Shouldn’t Use?'”

    I replied, “‘Can’t Use’ means there’s a live registered mark for goods in our class. ‘Shouldn’t Use’ means there’s a live registered mark for goods in our class that the PTO probably issued as some kind of bizarre joke, which wouldn’t last two minutes in an actual court but would cause us all kinds of expensive headaches if we used it.”

    I think “Tall Ships” would get a “Shouldn’t Use.”

    Although if it’s that old (none of the “Shouldn’t Uses” were more than a few years old) the incontestability thing would probably require a “Can’t Use.”

    Argh indeed.

  3. Of course the term Tall Ship was never used to describe sailing ships before the American Sail Training Association made up the term.

    No wait; it was used before they were founded to describe sailing ships.

    “I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
    …”
    John Masefield – Sea Fever

  4. This might be a good blog if the articles began at thetop of the page and the font was big enough to read and dark enough to be distinguishable.

    But even if I did that, it only “might” be a good blog? Don’t love them odds. Doesn’t sound like it’s worth the trouble. Thanks, though, for your gracious suggestion! — RDC

  5. Oh how I hate these legal bullies! I spent over a year battling and defeating a lawsuit against me in federal court in Seattle. It was a copyright dispute and their case was so pitiful, at the first opportunity, the judge dismissed it “with prejudice.” But it took 11 months for that to happen.

    A literary estate did something similar when it tried to keep a Catholic group in Canada from using a short, 9-word phrase from one of the estate’s many books. Disgusted by that bit of bullying, although I’m not a Catholic, I inserted that same phrase where it was appropriate in a book I was about to publish and told them they could use it any time they wanted with my compliments.

    Some similar creativity at yanking on the beards of the greedy is appropriate here. Does a trademark trump copyright? I can’t see how it can. Here, it’d ban the publication of any book or poem containing the phase “tall ships.”
    I’d suggest those doing a tall ships event, having nothing to do with the ASTA, and in the literature quote either all of the poem “Sea Fever” or the first four lines, followed by the attribution: “John Masefiled, England’s Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.”

    At the bottom they should include a note that the event is not affiliated with nor does it want to be affiliated with any “tall ship” event sponsored by the ASTA. If their lawyers are cowards, they could leave off the quote but at least include the ‘we don’t want to have any connection to the ASTA’ quote.

    Those who’d like to complain to the ASTA can do so via the link below. Judging by their website, they must be earning far more from tall ships events than from teaching anyone sailing.

    http://www.sailtraining.org/index.php

    You might have better luck going to the webpage that lists their “Business Partner Members” and writing them.

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