Walk a mile

You know, I’ve tried to remain neutral. Some of you have even congratulated me on that, but I don’t feel neutral.

I’ve been trying to avoid answering the questions like “do I think SFSE has a valid trademark?” or “do I think that Deb Stoller’s and SFSE’s trademarks can co-exist as registered trademarks?” or “if Stoller started branding sewing items with STITCH ‘N BITCH right now, would SFSE be successful in a trademark infringement or passing off action?” because those aren’t questions that can be answered with 100% certainty until the USPTO or a court (depending on which question, and how far up the legal food chain the question is taken) has rendered its answer. I can certainly see how reasonable lawyers can take either position in any of those questions.

And, like a lot of knitters out there, I don’t actually care whether SFSE keeps or loses its trademark registration for STITCH & BITCH CAFE, whether Deb Stoller manages to get one or more of her STITCH ‘N BITCH trademark registrations, or whether SFSE also gets a trademark registration for STITCH AND BITCH. You got a registration? Good for you. You didn’t? Well, the key benefit to a trademark registration is that it makes it easier to stop other people from using confusingly similar marks in the same territory as your registration. (And in some countries, having a trademark registration may effectively be a defence against infringement of someone else’s registered mark.) You can have an unregistered trademark, and if you feel (preferably, you got legal advice) that you’re not infringing anyone else’s mark in using it, have fun. Sell things.

But it’s hard — it’s damn hard — to remain neutral in the face of certain bad PR decisions. It skews your perceptions. I did actually think about imposing a cure: pretending that I was in charge of SFSE’s public relations, and writing a letter that I thought might explain the trademark situation and smooth things over. That sort of thing is generally not my job: I usually take the position that the least said, soonest mended, and that the business owner (or whoever) is the expert in customer relations, and that they have better insight into what their customers want to hear. If they feel they must make a public statement, it’s my role (should they care to instruct me to do so) to make sure they don’t misstate anything, and that they don’t make any damaging omissions. Then I throw in the spelling corrections for free.

Anyway, I got lazy and didn’t try the cure. If I feel myself slipping again, I promise to do it. Or at least think about it again.

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3 Responses to Walk a mile

  1. Robert says:

    Get this: Anne L. Macdonald documented the use of “Stitch and Bitch Clubs” by a group of Akron, Ohio women during World War 2. (see page 302, _No Idle Hands_, 1988 Ballentine.)

    Wonder if that means anything……..

  2. Ellen says:

    I am a senior PR professional in a sensitive/regulated industry (so I know whence I speak). Good PR, ultimately, boils down to a combination of integrity, common sense, and good manners. I don’t know about SFSE’s integrity, but I believe most ‘reasonable people’ (there’s a legal term for you) would agree that their letter demonstrated neither common sense nor good manners.

    It’s too bad. This is PR, not rocket science.

  3. Enjay says:

    Please, do. I’m not particularly up in arms over this, but I am interested in the legal doings and the responses of the representatives at SFSE. I have no clue why this person has not yet been muzzled or fired.
    Thank you for keeping us informed of the situation.