I just opened up the December 2009 issue of HOW and came across a rather weird ad, a very deliberately placed ad, on the same spread as the table of contents. The ad is extremely reminiscent of all the stuff going on with the movie and music industry and how they are basically killing fair use (i.e. if you post a video on YouTube of your idiot friend dancing while the new Britney Spears song plays in the background your video’s audio will be disabled for copyright infringement, despite this falling under fair use). But this ad is for a shape—a trademarked shape—of a tree. You know, the little car air fresheners. The ad reads, “THIS is privately owned property. So is this...and this...no matter how you use it. The Little Tree(R) design is a registered trademark. This means it can only be used by the trademark owner (that’s us) and those who have permission. In other words, it is illegal for you to use our trademark without our consent. To ask permission email...”
OK, seriously, are that many people stealing Little Tree’s trademarked shape that it warrants them to run a full page ad in a design magazine telling people to not do it? And does that mean that this blog post might piss them off since I’m showing Little Trees without their permission? Obviously I’m not advocating stealing people’s designs and claiming them as your own. But really, what’s the motivation behind this ad, and that it’s so specifically placed in a well-known design magazine? Has anyone out there ever used this shape or anything close to it? I just can’t imagine that this thing is being used without permission so much that this ad was worth it for them to run.
The ad in HOW.