A Virginia-based consultancy has claimed ownership of the phrase "clue-by-four," according to Perpetual Beta and other sources in the blogosphere. Not only that, said firm is sending out cease-and-desist letters demanding removal of the phrase "clue-by-four" from said Web sites.
One of the best responses I've seen yet on this has come from David Tepper, who informs us that the "clue-by-four" trademark is for a foam board:
I'm damned if I'm going to capitalize or put a ® in front of a phrase in common use, appropriated by a company I've never even heard of. Personally, I suspect this is just a way for him to get free publicity. Let's give it to him. Let's all point at him and laugh, children.
Yeah, I'd buy that.
A few years ago, the Good People at Despair, Inc. trademarked the ":-(" emoticon, and joked they were going to sue anyone who had used it in an e-mail. This was a really neat trick. The company received worldwide publicity and then joked they would sell Frownies (TM) to the community at large. (By the way, Despair's products are really cool).
Despair did everything right in that instance: they did something really clever, and they didn't actually do anything that might negatively impact ":-(" users. These consultants, on the other hand, have done everything wrong. For one thing, it's been done, which means it is no longer cool and with it. For another, "clue-by-four" has about as much current coolness as the phrase "show me the money!" And lastly, actually sending out cease-and-desist letters only antagonizes and appalls the God-fearing Blogging Public, which takes such things as an invitation to ... well ... Fact Check Your Ass.
Heh. Didn't Layne come up with that? Somehow, I don't expect to see him down at the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office anytime soon!