… or maybe not.

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.

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29 Responses to … or maybe not.

  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:

    I just wanted to let you know that I did indeed send a letter to Verizon about SAID individual. As well, I’m going to check out the information that ERIKA has posted. It looks like two other people sent in abuse emails, because in my research I found two logged with dates from only two weeks ago, when all this was happening.

  3. Miriam says:

    You seem to have the most concise and neutral running commentary on the SnB drama. Thank you for that. I don’t know if it will help, but I was reading the “No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting” by Anne Macdonald (ISBN: 0345362535 for the 1990 reprint, but it was originally published in the early 80′s) and she uses the term “Stitch and Bitch” as a name in common usage for knitting groups. I’m not certain of the exact decade she was referring to, but if you’re interested I can pull out the book again and give you page numbers, context, etc… Not sure if that has any bearing on whether they can trademark it for use as knitting groups when it was already in common usage decades before, but there it is.

  4. Amie says:

    Hers was worse than mine for sure. I laughed at mine. My instant reaction was, “That’s pathetic. Is that the best they could do? I’m a Jersey girl. I’ve seen and heard much worse.”

  5. Erika says:

    For those who received threatening emails – spoofing the reply-to address (so that it appears to have come from a domain like wearewatchingyou.com when it in fact came from a Verizon account) is a violation of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/canspam.htm). You can submit complaints online at http://www.ftc.gov and forward unwanted commercial email to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.

    Also, the actual owners of the wearewatchingyou.com domain may be interested to know that someone is sending threatening emails which appear to have originated from their domain. The wearewatchingyou.com domain name is owned by:

    Technical Contact:
    Domain, Administrator operations@linkz.com
    30369 Seven Mile Beach
    Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands B.W.I.
    KY
    +1.345.946.6879

    The contact info for eyesonyou.com is:

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
    RareNames, WebReg
    4200 Wisconsin Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20016-2143
    US
    202-478-0990
    202-478-0990 [fax]
    brokerage@buydomains.com

    It is very illegal (although surprisingly easy) to send threats to someone while disguised as someone else. If I owned either of those domain names, I would be pretty annoyed if someone sent threats pretending to come from my domain. Perhaps annoyed enough to sic my lawyers on the actual sender – if only to cover my backside.

  6. Jenny says:

    “they are watching and know who you are and where you live. OH will not hide you….”

    Bex! That’s TERRIBLE! I know that has to be unnerving (even though it’s a hollow threat). I mean, it’s meant to inimidate you and implies (to me) a threat of violence, no? Auntie? What’s this mean legally “we know who you are and where you live”…how foolish and awful of them!

  7. Laura says:

    Thank you for continuing to chronicle this situation so well. I’m utterly amazed at the latest development in this ongoing saga. First, let me say that I completely sympathize with the affected SnB groups, and I don’t believe that SFSE really has a leg to stand on in regard to being the first to use the disputed phrase. However, up to this point, I was willing to cut SFSE a little slack. Regardless of who comes out on top in this tussle, SFSE is currently in possession of a registered trademark. While unfortunate and undoubtedly a bad business move on their part, I thought it was understandable that they were defending their trademark. After all, Debbie Stoller’s petition states that one of the reasons their trademark should be cancelled is due the fact that they hadn’t taken any action to protect it. Therefore, on their lawyers advice, they felt they were required to start doing so.

    This letter changes everything. I’m no longer willing to cut SFSE any slack whatsoever. And I do believe Garvin has completely annihilated any chance of SFSE being able to redeem itself in the eyes of the knitting community. His malicious and unfounded remarks about Debbie Stoller have certainly and irrevocably left the worst possible impression on me.

  8. j. says:

    It was comment #7 in the post “Shades of followup”. But it was phrased as a neutral message.

  9. Carol says:

    Scroll up in these comments to the link where a commenter saved it. There’s a link you can paste and then click on a saved image of the letter.

  10. Kristin says:

    I went to go look at the letter again, and they’ve taken it down already. The link still works, but comes up as a blank page.

  11. Amie says:

    I emailed Deb earlier on this morning with a link to the letter as well as mentioning the nastygram. (Funny, her email addy has stitchnbitch in it. LOL.) Anyway, J, maybe I missed it, but I followed that link and didn’t see the message you were referring to. (Very interested here).

  12. Carol says:

    Anyone who got one of those message should report it to their internet service provider and perhaps forward it on to Debbie Stoller, if you can dig up an email addy for her. I don’t know what authorities would be appropriate to alert (FCC? your local police?) but I’d want to take every possible step to get that investigated. That’s way out of line.

  13. j. says:

    The message I received had the same IP address as the one Amie received. It was posted here:

    http://www.girlfromauntie.com/journal/index.php/2005/shades-of-followup/

  14. Amie says:

    Jenny,

    Yes. Here you are:

    From: funny@wearewatchingyou.com
    Subject: NexStitch website comments
    Date: January 28, 2006 7:51:13 PM EST
    To: info@nexstitch.com

    Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted by
    (funny@wearewatchingyou.com) on Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 18:51:13
    —————————————————————————

    email: funny@wearewatchingyou.com

    subject: NexStitch website comments

    name: Common Trash

    comment: Since you are so worried about everything that we do, we thought we would give first glance at our statement on the stitch and bitch issue.
    http://www.sewfastseweasy.com/stitch_and_bitch/index.php

    kisses

    The IP address was logged in as;

    151.202.82.117

    Blacklist Status: Listed (details)
    Record Type: IP Address
    IP Location: United States – New York – New York – Verizon Internet Services
    Reverse IP: No websites hosted using this IP address
    Reverse DNS: pool-151-202-82-117.ny325.east.verizon.net

    Maybe he was emailing from home.

    Also, if you’re on Stumbleupon, you can view the stumbler called, “jesuspete.” I found more foder there.

  15. Bex says:

    I’m the recipient of that other nastygram. But I’d call it a threat, myself. (And I’m really not a business owner, Amie!) Here’s the contents:

    Name: watch your back | E-mail: watching@eyesonyou.com | IP: 71.247.113.248

    they are watching and know who you are and where you live. OH will not hide you….

    Yep. That’s a threat. From New York, New York, according to me IP search.

  16. Carol says:

    Thanks for an excellent, even-tempered analysis of an interesting and infuriating subject. I recommend your blog and your analyses of intellectual property issues to many, many people.

  17. Jenny says:

    Quote Amie: “I received a letter from someone with a false email address called, ‘funny@wearewatchingyou.com.’” Really? Can you repost the content of this letter? I’m guessing it’s from SFSE? And it doesn’t appear that they are consulting any lawyers. It seems they’re just handling it the way they understand it should work, with their own brand of uh…logic.

  18. Amie says:

    Every day this saga gets more ridiculous. I had friends over last night and I snuck away to check my email for a moment when I received a letter from someone with a false email address called, “funny@wearewatchingyou.com.” Then, I went online to the thread we’re most likely all reading daily, to find out that I wasn’t the only one who received a nastygram. Two of us who own businesses have logged in IP addresses for SAID individual. The other letter was more ridiculous than mine, but I think it speaks to the character of the person behind it.

    I also think the posted letter speaks volumes about the lack of authenticated information in regards to the lawsuit. I mean, it quickly delves into a multi-paragraph rant about Debbie Stoller using a childish self-created nickname. The points that were addressed were felonious and without merit, and more than several times were defametory. I can’t imagine that SFSE would desire to have someone on their payroll who would stoop so low, or would they?

  19. Meg says:

    That letter is ridiculous, they weren’t the first to use “Stitch and Bitch”… my mom has a few yard sticks from a store she used to shop at forty years ago that said “Stitch and Bitch”

    And attacking Debbie because she asked for submissions? She isn’t stealing, people are giving those… duh, and gosh, that letter just angers me. I’ve been kinda not really holding an opinion on all of this, but with that letter I’m all for attacking Sew Fast Sew Easy.

  20. LissaKay says:

    Screen shots are being taken here! I’ve taken screenies of my posts in their forum (KnoxvilleSnB is me) and I also have screenies of the letter. See here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lissakay/tags/stitchnbitch/

    You all have my full permission to download and use the SFSE letter screen shots as you wish.

    All of you with blogs need to get on this … the power of blogs is incredible. Post it up, link to each other … get this in the public eye. Be careful though, don’t write anything that can be construed as slander or defamation … just the facts, ma’am (and sirs), and personal opinion. There is a world of difference in saying “Greg Garvin IS a doody-head” versus “I THINK Greg Garvin is a doody-head” … write with care. Bad publicity is the bane of any business, and they are just asking for it.

    At this point, whether or not they have any real legal claim to the SnB phrase is moot, let the lawyers hash that out … their behavior and actions should be what we highlight in our writing, how they “attached” peaceful knitting communities that pose no threat to them, the deletion of posts on their forums, the slander against Deb, and other derogatory statements they have made about us knitters.

    Let’s show them that messing with chicks with pointy sticks is not a good thing to do …

  21. j. says:

    Yup, you can. More than one person has checked…

  22. Janice in Ga says:

    Maybe he posted it in Flash so it *wouldn’t* be easy to copy and paste over the internet? I thought that was weird too. Wonder if I can get a screen capture…

  23. Kristin says:

    Where the heck are they getting lawyers from that not only would represent them if these are thier claims, but that would allow thier representees to make slanderous statements publically about the situation in question? I mean, they’re in NY for God’s sake….it’s a veritable storehouse of lawyers.
    Oh, and they are also starting to send threatening letters to people, I guess the people who have been leaving messages on thier forums saying that they don’t want to start up a SFSE related SnB group. How low can they go, really?

  24. Scout says:

    Hi, can you say DUMBASS?

    Stop attaching me! STOP!

    lol

    /sarcasm.

  25. amyknitty says:

    are you kidding me? if deb stoller is stealing ideas by paying for submissions [we will not debate the fees paid here, please] to her knitting/crochet books and crediting the designers thoroughly and clearly, then a lot of other knitting book authors are also thieves.

    gosh, that means i’m a thief too! how can i live with myself? and all the other [many] knitting books that include work by designers other than the author? cause there are a LOT of them.

    dear lord, if that’s their defense, i just don’t have any words. yes, i do. SFSE — you guys are really dumb. i have no idea what YOU have done for the knitting community, but i do know what deb stoller’s done and it’s been nothing but good.

    [how do you stick your tongue out over the internets?]

  26. j. says:

    Heh. I just fixed a spelling mistake in my post. (It was late when I wrote it.)

  27. Lanie says:

    Did Mr. Garvin neglect to proof his open letter?
    Each time he uses the word “attaches,” I believe his actual intended word is “attacks.”

    Thank you for pointing your readers to the open letter & for your deliberate, proofread summary.

  28. Bryn says:

    I also thank you for a well-written summary. I’m not big on spelling flames, but Mr. Gavin not only needs to learn that “coping” is very different from “copying”, but that “attaches” are either aides or cases, not something that would be posted on his miserable forum.

  29. Chris says:

    Once again, I thank you for your insightful summary!