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Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, March 11, 2011

The Science of Trademarks

My wife’s Internet meanderings brought her into a Canadian Curio City. It’s a science education resource site. No link here for obvious reasons, but you can find it easily enough if you’re so inclined.

Years ago I had a trademark challenge against some sleazebag who was using the Curio City name to sell one of those worthless gasoline additives that’s supposed to miraculously boost your gas mileage. I found him out when his customers started calling me with complaints. A cease-and-desist letter quickly
convinced him to go bilk the gullible under some other name.

Should I go the cease-and-desist route again this time? My attorney friend explained that

Generally, US trademark rights are effective only in the US, which is why multinational companies spend huge amounts to protect brand names in foreign countries. The situation with Canada is a bit different because of NAFTA, which includes provisions for mutual protection of intellectual property rights. Basically, Canada is required to protect a US trademark owner against use of a substantially similar mark for substantially similar goods or services where the use is likely to cause confusion in the marketplace. Your initial impression is that there isn’t much overlap with the Canadian user, but that might become less true in the future. For example, you sell products that have scientific educational value. The Canadian site might start selling T-shirts or educational toys to support its mission. So there might be a chance of confusion down the road.

I don’t currently have a legal argument against them. Even if I did, I am a gnat compared to their well-funded and prestigious backers (including the Ontario government). Besides, I believe strongly in science education. So many Americans don’t believe in evolution and deny global warming precisely because education has failed in entire regions of the US. I don’t think that willful ignorance has much traction in Canada, but one must never be complacent – once superstition gains primacy, it’s nearly impossible to unseat. The Canadian Curio City site is a credit to our mutual name. I wouldn’t want to smack them down even if I could.

Still, I’m obliged to protect my commercial interest. I should at least politely inform the Canucks of my existence. Maybe we can work out a mutually beneficial understanding, like cross-links. This goes onto my list of “Things I ought to do someday”.


This week finally delivered the new 4-LED Panther caps that I’ve been hinting at for the past month or more. The amount of work and money spent to change over my biggest product line made this a milestone. The deluge of orders from people clamoring for new caps and snapping up discounted old ones has not materialized. In fact, another dramatically dead week erased fully half of last week’s big spike. The Switchables surge ended and bird kites
haven’t taken wing yet. A few people bought a handful of golf balls at $10 a pop, and not much else. The week is on track to set another record low.

Curio City is back in the toilet, baby. Somebody please flush.

No, I don’t mean that. I must persevere. Maybe the Boston Gift Show will reveal some fabulous new product this year. Maybe those Panther caps will be a late bloomer.

At least I had time this week to finish preparing my portion of our personal tax return and hand it off to Anne. I don’t care much about our foundering personal finances anymore, either. I am tired of struggling to slow down decline and postpone collapse everywhere I look.

That's a great segue for another political rant. But the news breaking right now about a devastating tsunami in Japan has sapped my will to pursue it. Life could be a whole lot worse.

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