An open letter from SFSE to the crafting community, signed by their marketing manager, who is also the fellow in charge of their online forum.
The overall tone of the letter suggests settlement negotiations — if there are any ongoing — aren’t going so well. Or perhaps they are, and SFSE is a little rash.
The letter begins with a request to the reader to look at a PDF linked on SFSE’s website from an article dated 1999, and is advised that from that article it can be seen that SFSE “was the first to use Stitch & Bitch in commerce inclusive with a trademark”. If “inclusive with a trademark” is intended to mean “with a trademark symbol” (recall that the “TM” symbol may be used with unregistered marks), it’s not in that article. But that doesn’t mean that SFSE wasn’t using STITCH & BITCH CAFE as a trademark back then. We know, after all, that they claimed an earlier date of first use in their trademark application.
The letter then goes on to explain the position that SFSE found itself in — it has a trademark, it needs to defend it. While a neutral statement like that might encourage some bystanders to take a tolerant, if not sympathetic, view of SFSE’s predicament, the bulk of the letter will probably provide ample antidote.
For example, if a lawyer knew that his or her client was going to put out a public statement defending its position in a legal dispute, the lawyer would probably recommend that he or she be given a chance to review it. But you don’t need a lawyer to tell you that publicly referring to the adverse party in derogatory terms — say, for instance, referring to a Ms. Stoller as “Ms. Stole-it” — is usually Not Wise. You never know; publicly suggesting that someone is a thief might backfire in the form of a claim for defamation of character.
Similarly, making allegations that one’s adversary has a history of “coping [sic] and taking” other people’s work, if it can’t be backed up, could later prove problematic. And this letter does just that, citing Deb Stoller’s call for submissions for her crochet book Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Happy Hooker on Craftster. I can only surmise that the writer of this letter is a little unfamiliar with how many craft pattern books are compiled. As for the title, “The Happy Hooker”? Yes, it’s unoriginal, and it’s even a groaner. But it’s even older than the 1998 webpage cited in the letter. Like “stitch and bitch”.
And then a twist: “She calls herself a feminist, but seems to be willing to take what she wants from any woman who lets her get away with it.” That’s not really a basis for deciding this trademark issue, and it seems to be premised on a misunderstanding of the difference between being the editor of a book and being a designer contributing to the book, but it does call to mind a different issue about the business of arts and crafts that I started to write about last year: the issue of the value of the intangible property created by designers and authors. But I’ll resist the segue for now.
This “feminist” dig precedes a bit of a disconnect: “She borrowed our ideas and when we put a halt to it – she attacked our trademark.” I’m not clear how that follows; first, the book was published; then, third parties set up “stitch and bitch” groups of their own and made up t-shirts and SFSE invoked Yahoo’s and CafePress’s terms of service to shut down some of these activities. The letter seems to imply that it was this activity that triggered the cancellation proceedings. I thought it was the result of the stalemate in the prosecution of Stoller’s trademark applications.
It also appears that SFSE offered some dollar amount for… something. Whatever it was, the offer was turned down.
Thanks to the anonymous person from New York who alerted me to this addition to the SFSE website. By the way, it would be helpful in future if you could add these sorts of things to your site as normal HTML, rather than in Flash, because it makes it easier for people like me to copy and paste the content.