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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Copyright Conundrum: How Far Would You Go to Protect Your Intellectual Property?

Yesterday, I tweeted this link, and it made me get lost in my head (not hard for that to happen) thinking about intellectual property and copyrights. The article talks about a Vermont man with a tiny business that prints the phrase "eat more kale" on T-shirts. His goal is to send a message of agricultural awareness. Now, a southern chain restaurant, Chik-fil-A, has taken issue with the man's slogan, saying it's treading on the company's slogan: "eat mor chikin" (the slogan is often paired with cow illustrations, the point being to turn people away from burger joints and toward the Chik-fil-A chicken place).

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I take issue with this because first of all, there is no way the phrase "eat more" is unique enough to be considered intellectual property. It's like when Parist Hilton filed for a patent for the phrase "that's hot." Dumb. Second, does a chicken joint that probably doesn't need extra money really need to step on the little guy over this? After all, Chik-fil-A and the man's T-shirt business are in two different regions and the slogans represent two very different things. 

After this initial reaction of mine, of anger and annoyance, the logical and intelligent part of me (it's a small part, but it's there) took over. Even though I hate to admit it, the chain restaurant in this case may have some legal footing. 

There are various levels of copyright law. As communication majors learn in mass communication law, anything that is created is instantly the intellectual or creative property of the person who creates it. This does not include ideas--but if I blog about my creative idea, it is my creative property. Now, without going through the proper channels and obtaining a legal copyright license, there is less that can be done legally if someone steals my creative property.

Since the phrase "eat more" is not an original, uncommonly used phrase, I don't think simply using the phrase makes it creative property. Chik-fil-A's "eat mor chikin" is creative property due to the humorous nature and the misspellings. So, the phrase "eat mor chikin" is most definitely copyrighted, but since the Vermont man is not directly duplicating it, I do not see that as an infringement. However, if the fast-food chain went so far as to legally copyright the phrase "eat more," the kale man might have to face a lawsuit. 

This really makes me wonder, how far would you go to protect something you thought was your intellectual or creative property?

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