Gene Weingarten Shows How To Respond To Bogus Trademark Threats: Stetson(R) Hats Suck

from the nicely done, sir dept

One of the lines in Techdirt’s style guide (yes, we have a style guide, even if we’re not always good at following it) is that we never, ever, post the little registered trademark sign: ® with a company or product name. If you follow business reporting, you will see that show up from time to time. Companies love to use that little symbol in press releases and such even though they don’t need to. But, where it gets really silly and ridiculous is when they insist others must do so too. JJ sends an example of a company doing this to humor columnist Gene Weingarten, and his rather simple response. The company in question was Stetson, of the hats by that name, and Weingarten had made an offhand comment in a previous column about how readers who wanted to feel more American could “put on a Stetson.” Stetson’s COO then chose to demand that Weingarten post a correction and in the future use “Stetson®” when referring to the brand. Weingarten’s reply was straightforward and simple:

The correction you are seeking, and which I now solemnly herewith deliver under the implied threat of a trademark-infringement lawsuit, is that “Stetson” is the name of your company and not a generic term for a hat. You further demand that all future references to “Stetson” contain a little R in a circle, like this: Stetson®. Okay. Done, and done.

Stetson® hats suck.

He then goes on to point out just how silly all of this is, before then clearing up any confusion:

I would like to clear up one misconception, though: I was not, as your letter suggests, using the word Stetson® as a synonym for “hat.” I was using it as a synonym for “doofusy cowboy hat” of the sort that has made the Stetson® company famous, and that can in an instant, on any city street, transform any ordinary man into a pretentious, truly comical-looking weenis®. I made up that word just now, and therefore own it, and therefore am requiring an ® sign whenever it is used.

Now that’s one way to respond to a bogus trademark claim.

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Comments on “Gene Weingarten Shows How To Respond To Bogus Trademark Threats: Stetson(R) Hats Suck”

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John Doesays:

That is funny stuff right there...

I cannot believe the COO at Stetson has the time to send nastygrams to everyone who uses the word Stetson without the registered trademark symbol. They need to find that guy something to do.

Oops, just realized I used the word Stetson twice, now three times, without the symbol. I sure hope I don’t get a nasytgram.


Annual Board Meeting: Okay, Mr. Smith, it’s time to elect a new COO. Tell us, what have you done for the company this past year? Raised profits? Increased productivity?
Smith: Uh no…
CEO: Excuse me? Then what the hell did you do you?
Smith: Well…I saw some articles that mention the Stetson hat, and sent…drumroll please…thank you…a strongly worded demand they put the registered symbol next to the Stetson name!
CEO blinks, swears underneath his breath and signs a termination of contract


Re: Re:

I do believe that you are mistaking Stetson, with one of our great financial institutions. I think it would go something more like.

CEO: Well golly gee, did you challenge him to a duel? That there city slicker don’t know who hes messin with. You done shown him good with that there letter. Here, have a whiskey.

For those I offended with this… I don’t care.

Chris Novaksays:

Improper use of registered trademark ?

In the last line, the use of the ? (registered trademark) symbol associated with a term just made up is improper. Instead, it should be weenis?. Registered Trademark means you have used the term for a period of time AND received application approval from the US Patent & Trademark Office that the term be registered to you.

A registered trademark costs $ to register, but for any company doing business globally (or on the internet), it’s about the only way to protect your brand rights internationally.

I agree with the sentiments expressed about overuse of the symbol, BUT registered trademark holders have to “use it or lose it”, lest their registered trademark become a common idiom — like ‘xerox’ or ‘kleenex’.



I find it incomprehensibly counterproductive when they do things like this. You would think that the company would be proud to have their name be a household colloquialism for a product, much like Band-Aids(r/tm/c), but instead they want to C&D people into their names not being household status.

As long as our trademark is protected, right?


Re: Re: Re:


Google has taken over from the term “search the internet”.
Kleenex has replaced “tissue”.
Xerox had/has replaced “photocopy/photocopier”.
Tippex has replaced “white correction fluid”
Post-It has replaced “little bits of paper with glue on one edge”.

Has that diluted their brands? I wouldn’t think so.


Re: Re:

I find it incomprehensibly counterproductive when they do things like this. You would think that the company would be proud to have their name be a household colloquialism for a product, much like Band-Aids(r/tm/c), but instead they want to C&D people into their names not being household status.

As long as our trademark is protected, right?

Not as much as you would think. When you ask for a bandaid you are not asking for the bandaid brand bandaid, your asking for A bandaid, whatever brand. Therein lies the issue. Same with kleenex (facial tissue) or any other product such. The concept of keeping your brand name separate from the product keeps people saying “I need new facial tissue, I want Kleenex.” versus “I need more kleenex, ah here is some cheap no-name stuff.”


There's Stetson(R) and Stetson(?)

I decided I’d bring the COO’s behavior to the attention of the company, since this is, IMO, a major Do Not Buy recommendation for the Stetson(R)(TM){can’t be too careful} brand, and discovered that there are two such companies in association. There’s the manufacturer in Texas, and the company in New York associated with them (marketer? brand name “guardian”?) and it’s the New York office(Microsoft tm) from which this idiocy originated.

The CEO there is:

Pamela Fields
263 West 38th Street
10th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Bruce Edigersays:

Article filled with (R) and (TM) and (C) characters

When you see an article filled with (R) and (TM) and (C) characters (online or not) you can be sure that the article is content free. All those characters, every one in its proper place, means that some entity, probably a large corporation or foundation, had the money to let a lawyer pore over the text in question, and insist that little (R) and (C) and (TM) symbols appear by words that he or she has verified are trademarks or copyrighted or whatever.

The corporation spent its money on a lawyer, rather than writing, proofreading or fact-checking. The article is probably on-brand, iconic and is guaranteed not to offend, and it meets Federal Requirements, does not violate the Law of the Sea, the Second Law of Thermodynamics and does not make Baby Jesus cry. But it’s certain to suck.


Re: Article filled with (R) and (TM) and (C) characters

Seriously, even one use of those symbols serve no useful purpose to anyone outside of an anal-retentive trademark lawyer and, as the examples above show painfully well, only clutter up text. The standard non-superscripted registered symbol, as employed in most fonts used on the Web, looks positively ugly and only gets worse with overuse.

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