• Find the point of novelty
  • Broadcast your rights
  • Turn ideas into assets
  • Drive forward
  • Draw the future

Tag: innovation

Lemons, Lemonade, and Legal Advice

Lawyers are famous infamous for saying “no.”  Clients rarely want to hear that answer, but part of fulfilling a lawyer’s obligations sometimes requires it.  

When I was a kid, I played with G.I.Joes.  I recently delved into the recesses of my guilty pleasure pool and pulled up the new GI Joe movie on Netflix.  Not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Most enjoyable for me, and probably many males my age who also saw it, was the nostalgia it conjured up in my mind.  I saw characters, planes, tanks, and toys I hadn’t thought of for years. 

It inspired a bit of an Internet walk down memory lane.  Soon after beginning that walk, I stumbled across an interesting story regarding some Hasbro trademark issues.  One of the GI Joe character’s names (I can’t remember the name, so I’ll just call him OLD NAME) apparently presented some trademark problems with another toy with the similar name OTHER NAME.  GI Joe re-released the character with a NEW NAME, and developed a story line which revealed that NEW NAME was more than just a re-branding; it was in fact, a new character, a twin of deceased OLD NAME! 

While reading this, I imagined what the lawyer advising Hasbro had said.  I wondered if it was something like, “look, OLD NAME may infringe OTHER NAME.  We have to get rid of that character.”  If that was the case, then did marketing, or the creative department, or whoever it may have been, realize that the situation could be fixed differently?  The question probes at whether lawyers should simply give legal advice or tailor their counsel to the client’s situation, becoming not just involved in the decisional tree but helping a company develop and strive toward a more successful future. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this problem was turned into an opportunity, but I would argue that the solution was a very creative one that considered a multidisciplinary approach.  This solution saved manufacturing costs while still turning out a product (by not having to design and create a new character and all the associated molds), it addressed a legal problem, and it helped establish a new storyline that could be woven into the various movies, comics books, and lunch pails on which GI Joe appeared.  The result could have been much different.  The lawyer could have said, “No, we can’t have this character anymore,” and the character, its molding process, its story arc, everything could have dropped from existence.  And what a loss that would have been to the GI Joe universe.

In the end, whether you are a lawyer or a client, when the answer is “no,” try to see how that conclusion doesn’t have to be the end of the story.



Enlighted Designs bridges copyright-patent gap with lighted clothing

Fellow Harvey Mudd College grad Janet Hansen, who is President and Chief Fashion engineer of Enlighted Designs, has found, perhaps inadvertently, a way to combat the inability to get copyright protection in clothing design.  While you generally can’t protect the cut, stitch, weave, and design of clothing with copyright, you can protect the designs on the fabric – the print.  Design generally isn’t eligible for copyright, because the law says clothing is a functional item.  Functional items aren’t the realm of copyright, unless the artistic elements cannot be separated from, or cannot exist without, the functional aspects.  Clothing covers the body, protects it from the elements, and those functions are generally not related to the appearance, fashion, or artistry of the clothing.

However, Enlighted Designs combines function and artistry in clothes that meld lights with fabric.  The clothes can light up, pulse, blink, and glow.  Why blog about this now?  She recently was featured in an alumnae newsletter, and Katy Perry and Christina Aguilera grabbed spotlight attention wearing her outfits in performances this past weekend at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards.   Congrats to her and her company!