Irvin Robbins, the co-founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain, died yesterday. Here’s how much time has passed since just about the time your blogger was born, in ice cream marketing years:

When the Beatles were to arrive in the United States in 1964, a reporter called to ask whether Baskin-Robbins was going to commemorate the event with a new flavor.

Robbins didn’t have a flavor planned but quickly replied, “Uh, Beatle Nut, of course.”

The flavor was created, manufactured and delivered in just five days, according to the Web site.

Hah! Can you imagine? Without a sponsorship deal! “Diversion!” “Free riding!” “Initial interest confusion!”beatle_icecream “LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®!” And, of course, “Dilution!”

No…. none of those things. Just tribute. And, yes, a little profit too. The Beatles… probably didn’t miss it. They were a musical act, and song writers, interested in rhythm and blues, not sprinkles and scoops.

We’re not against intellectual property here. Not at all. But there was a time when you could have a little fun, even in business, doing something that sounds like “trading on” the name and fame of the phenomena of public life without having to fear cadres of IP lawyers demanding cessation and desistence, claiming confusion as to source-sponsorship-or-affiliation, and reserving all rights on fancy colored letterhead delivered simultaneously by certified mail / RRR and PDF via email.

As any Beatle Nut knows, today the Beatles-inspired theme of big-IP rent-maximizing business would be what Bungalow Bill‘s mom told the children when they asked those uncomfortable questions: “If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him!”

Sounds good to me! Preliminary injunction granted!

By Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

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