One piece of evidence, two interpretations

Yes, it’s time for another post about everybody’s favourite two words sandwiching a conjunction.

It looks like SFSE has been busy appealing to public opinion. Their forum banner points out that the Stitch & Bitch Cafe has been online since 1998, with links to sample pages of their guestbook from those years.

If you click on the links, you’ll be taken to pages containing guestbook entries from the twilight of the guestbook cgi script, including such comments as (this is a selection of the first couple of mentions on a few pages; then I got tired of looking):

Yea, the Friday Night Stich and Bitch at SFSE was great. Fun to see everyone’s cool creations — and inspiring! I want to get on a “sewing tear” as Leigh put it… (1999)

I had a great time at the stich and bitch on Friday night. It was a lot of fun. What fabulous clothes everyone is sewing! Since you all were raving so much about Mood Fabrics, I decided to check it out on Saturday morning… (1999)

If your looking for sewing buddies why haven’t I seen you at our Stitch& Bitch nites. Thats when every one sews together and shares their tip, comments, and feelings. We all get a lot sewn too. We always post an announcement about this night. (2000)

As always Elyssa, great stitch and bitch night last Friday. I am really inspired by all of the creative women who hang out at SFSE. I can’t wait until the next one! (2000)

HI I am in search of a Stitch&Bitch group on the North East side of Detroit or at Wayne StateU, any suggestions? (2000)

(It doesn’t look like anyone answered the person who posed that question about a group in Detroit. And that first 2000 quotation above was posted by “Elissa”.)

In Deb Stoller’s cancellation proceeding against the CAFE trademark, she’s seeking to prove that “stitch and bitch” is a generic term to describe a gathering where one, uh… crafts and chats (“when every one sews together and shares their tip, comments, and feelings”?). So I’m sure that someone, on Deb’s behalf, is rooting through the Wayback Machine and the archive snapshots graciously restored by SFSE to see how much hay can be made of the use of “stitch and bitch” by SFSE customers, and by the company itself, and what witnesses are still around. One wonders whether all those customer e-mail addresses in those old guestbook entries are still valid, and how those people might feel if they’re bothered now, six years later (by implicated parties, by interested parties, by spammers).

But I’d be cautious about concluding that loose treatment of “stitch and bitch” on a guestbook is determinative of the phrase’s generic status, or that this would be a sufficient basis on its own to cancel the CAFE trademark. We’ll see what arguments are made. But if I were SFSE’s lawyer, I’d be wondering why they kept posting stuff on their website without running it by me first.

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10 Responses to One piece of evidence, two interpretations

  1. j. says:

    Because of an excess of spam, I’ve closed comments on this post. If you have a comment to leave please find another, more recent post in the stitch v bitch category and leave your comment there.

  2. Amie says:

    LissaKay – you have me cracking up. My vote is the paint chips.

    I’m wondering what would happen is people started contacting yarn shops, especially ones with older owners. I wonder if they could provide the ample justification for stitch n bitch being used in its true colloquial form.

  3. Beth says:

    I’m curious about what the chances are. Does anyone out there feel qualified to indicate whether SFSE has a chance? It seems so obvious to me that they don’t, but a lot of strange things happen in courts.

  4. Yvonne says:

    I recently organized all the stuff from the free to stitch, free to bitch forums on my web site. You can see the database of references here:

    Right now it contains 38 published mentions of “stitch and bitch” from books, magazines, newspapers, and usenet, from 1988-1997. Anyone who knows of more, please email me or post on the boycott forums and I’ll add it to the database.

  5. j. says:

    Susan, spare the effort – there’s already quite a head start in the forum on…

  6. Susan says:

    I just clicked on their button that says ‘recent changes to the stitch and bitch board’ and it actually says

    “No other usage of Stitch & Bitch ever occurred before the first Friday evening gatherings at Sew Fast Sew”

    Are they serious? How exactly do they know that in all of recorded history, no on EVER used that term? What about all those grandmothers who say otherwise?

    I think I’ll do some digging in the New York Times Historical database and other digital newspapers databases so I can see what incidences I can find without lifting anything other than my fingers. If I can find it used without getting out of my chair then I think they do have the brain worms….. No other usage ever occurred, my a$$.

  7. Kate says:

    “Are they brain-damaged from some sort of traumatic accident? Did they eat paint chips when they were babies? Did mom drop them on their heads one too many times? Or were they just born stupid?”

    my guess is that they have Brain Worms (TM).

  8. lisa says:

    As always, you manage to inform while being entertaining. This “war” has been raging on now for too long. I wish they’d just settle it, and let us come up with another term to refer to a “Stitch and Bitch,” so that we can find out that that one is taken, also.

    I’m so glad that we live in a country that will let the large company virtualy destroy any trust the consumer may have had in it, by allowing the company to go after the individual for doing something that isn’t harming the company at all.

    It reminds me of the Laker’s coach Phil Jackson. As I recall, he managed to trademark the word “three-pete” after the Bulls (which he was coaching at the time) won three championships in a row. Now, whenever the announcers say it on TV, he’s supposed to get a royalty.

    It that what SFSE is going for? Every time the common person utters “stitch and bitch” in that order, they should have $5 taken directly out of their savings account, you know, as a licensing fee for using the trademark.

    Can we use “knit and bitch”? Or did they trademark that too?

  9. LissaKay says:

    There are a lot of questions that come to mind about WTF SFSE is thinking when they do this stuff … I tried asking them, and all I got was banned from their forum. Perhaps I should not have called Elissa a liar in such direct terms … but if the shoe fits, ya know?

    Why didn’t they go after Debbie Stoller when her book was first published? Why haven’t they gone after her Stitch and Bitch forum? What about that other book, “Beyond Stitch and Bitch”?

    What threat do local knitting groups pose to SFSE by calling their Yahoo Groups “Stitch and Bitch”? These are not commercial enterprises. The use of Yahoo is for organization and communication between members of these local groups.

    Until just very recently, SFSE had no commercial usage connected with the “Stitch and Bitch” phrase, nor did they have any commercial dealings at all through their web sites. The cheapo tools with SnB imprinted and the selling of class videos are very recent additions.

    How can they continue to claim first usage of the SnB phrase when there is ample evidence to the contrary?

    Could they claim trademark infringement against a Yahoo Group if the stated purpose of the group was the discussion of Debbie’s book, and get-togethers to knit those patterns? What if the group claimed itself to be a media outlet for news items relating to SnBs and knitting in general?

    Are they brain-damaged from some sort of traumatic accident? Did they eat paint chips when they were babies? Did mom drop them on their heads one too many times? Or were they just born stupid?

  10. Chris says:

    Heh, I was wondering the same thing! Unless they’re trying to do their own lawyering?!