Shades of followup

In response to some comments, and in response to some of the general reaction posted in other public fora.

First, I’d think that Stoller would be concerned because she has her own pending TM applications in the US. Potentially the older, registered, STITCH & BITCH CAFE could be cited against Stoller’s applications during examination of her trademark applications, so of course she’d be interested (I haven’t examined the wares and services to see what kind of overlap exists).

I gave away my copy of SnB a long time ago, but I don’t think that Stoller claimed to coin the phrase or invent the concept (tell me if I’m wrong)–I think she just resurrected the practice. And there seems to be anecdotal evidence posted on the net going both ways–yes, there were gatherings called “stitch and bitch”, no, there weren’t, or if there were, they were sewing related. Whatever.

I think the point that is being missed in a lot of the invective is that this is a trademark issue. It’s not copyright: you don’t magically become entitled to rights simply because you think you independently coined a name, phrase or word. You have to do something with the name (either register it as a trademark, or develop goodwill associated with it in a business context) in order to earn those rights. A brief explanation (Canadian law, of course) here. A good summary of US trademark infringement can be found here.

And it’s not about who came up with the concept of “stitch and bitch” either as an event or as a phrase first. Trademarks can make use of common language; slogans don’t make much sense if they don’t use words out of the language in which the target market communicates, right? Somewhere in a comment or post, someone referred to a Citibank promotion using the phrase “thank you.” As an example, there is a US trademark registration for THANK YOU VERY MUCH (not owned by Citibank) for use in association for conducting seminars and training courses in the field of customer service. That doesn’t mean that the general public is entitled to be rude and stop saying “thank you very much” to each other. It means that anyone else in the US offering similar services in association with that phrase risks infringing a registered trademark. Certainly that trademark owner didn’t “invent” the phrase “thank you very much,” and they’d be hard pressed to prove that there would be consumer confusion because individuals were using the phrase in casual conversation. Nevertheless, the fact that they didn’t coin the “thank you very much” doesn’t mean that they’re not entitled to trademark rights for their particular usage of the phrase.

Oh… and like others, I’ve been trying to figure out the reasoning behind the rebuttal on the SFSE guestbook, “Every attack you post, raises the value for the use of our intellectual properties…” The only thing I can figure is that with each visit to the page, their hit count increases, which they could use to either demonstrate the value of the goodwill they have associated with their mark, to demonstrate that they are indeed using their mark in association with an online forum, or to demonstrate depreciation of their goodwill by angry posters.

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8 Responses to Shades of followup

  1. j. says:

    Comments will be closed on this post because of a surge of comment spam. Sorry! If you want to comment, feel free to find another post in this category where the comments are still open.

  2. gues who says:

    there is a statement on the forum regarding the trademark issue. http://www.sewfastseweasy.com/stitch_and_bitch/index.php

  3. jenn jenn says:

    SFSE has been using that on their books since I took classes there in 2000. Not sure what is going on, but I am kind of interested in the gossip.

  4. deety says:

    I can’t remember where I read it, so it may not be that accurate. But I remember hearing that SFSE claimed they had only recently been made aware of the SnB books and groups. This sounds pretty hard to believe, and when taking a look at the archives of their posting board I found references to the book and groups going at least as far back as January 2004. The comments even include speculation about the origins of the phrase and whether or not it was lifted from SFSE. They obviously read this board, there are many responses from SFSE staff on that page. I cut and pasted the contents of those posts into my blog, or you can search this page for “bitch” and find them.

    It probably doesn’t mean anything, but it shows that they should have already been aware of these knitting books and groups, and they just ignored the issue for almost a year and a half.

  5. Kristi says:

    Robin, I saved that comment because I thought it was amusing. I don’t know who posted it though (I didn’t grab it from the original, someone else did and posted it elsewhere, where I found it). Anyway, here it is:

    My grandmother was in a Stitch & Bitch club at Sarah Lawrence University in 1938 when she was there, so I don’t think you all made up the phrase. If you took something of someone else’s and capitalized on it, fine. But don’t lie and say it was your idea to begin with. I even have the 1940 yearbook, the year she graduated, and there are pictures of 14 women and the phrase “stitchery and bitchery – the ladies of the stitch and bitch club, mcconley hall.”

  6. Robin says:

    I’m sure it vanished some time ago, but at the time I looked at the SFSE guestbook one comment cited her grandmother’s 1938 college yearbook, which had a group photo of a club captioned “stitchery and bitchery”. That seems like something that could actually be verified, if only one could recall the university…it was a name I recognized and in the eastern US is all I remember.

  7. Steph says:

    Thanks for clarifying. However it would be sad if someone could TM SNB for their knitting group and then no one else could advertise their yarn shop’s SNB for fear of a lawsuit.

    Or am I misreading this?

  8. Anonymous says:

    On the issue of whether the phrase or the book came first: the phrase defeinitely came first. I used it in a knitting a crocheting group 10 years ago, before the books were published. In fact, I’d be extremely reluctant to use that name for a new group. I’m not a huge fan of the books (for many reasons, not the least of which are the hordes of new knitters who are being taught to YO incorrectly), and with the popularity of the books, I’m sure that many newer knitters must think that the informal groups are somehow affiliated with or obligated to knit patterns from the books. Nuh-uh.

    Of course, I think the whole thing is silly. People are wasting their time and energy on this junk, when they could be writing more books or doing other things to get more involved in actual knitting related activities. It amazes me how litigious our society is. *sigh*