Commodifying Decommodification

A guest post from our reader Pantsless Santa. It’s an eye-opener! The desire of these people to laugh at the very principles they created, and told us we had to live by, seems to know no bounds.

image: RK Richardson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: RK Richardson/Flickr (Creative Commons)


 

By Pantsless Santa:
This belongs in the totally effin’ hilarious category more than anything else:
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Decommodification LLC is actually trying to register the word “decommodification” as a trademark itself, and they’re doing it in the most hypocritical and illogical way possible.
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Trademark registrations and applications are all public record. If you search for “Decommodification LLC” on the Patent and Trademark Office’s search system, “TESS,” you can see all of the trademarks that that the LLC owns and has applied for.
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 decommodification1
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There are the usual suspects “Burning Man,” “Decompression,” and “Black Rock City.”
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Flambe Lounge,” which dates back to 2003, is probably some old business idea that never panned out.
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Burning Man Brew” was originally registered by a brewer and later purchased (I suspect) by the LLC, likely because it would have been more expensive to fight over it in court – nothing indicates that the BMOrg intends to get into the speciality beer business.
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Black Rock Gazette” is registered by the BMOrg (Black Rock City LLC). Nothing is currently registered by Larry, Michael, or Marian.
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Finally, the LLC has applied to register “Decommodification.”
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I’ll stop for a minute here to explain a couple of important things about trademarks. Trademarks are very different than copyrights. You can’t simply pick out a word or phrase or logo (a “mark”) and get the rights to it.
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To oversimplify greatly, you can’t register or protect a mark unless it’s associated with a particular good or service (defined broadly), and has actually been used publicly to promote or sell the thing it’s associated with. That last part is called “use in commerce.” People often get tripped up over “use in commerce,” because in normal human language it looks like it means the same thing as “used commercially.” It doesn’t. It’s a legal term of art meaning something like “used to promote or sell any type of good or service for any reason whether or not for profit.” This keeps companies from simply registering all of the words they think that they or their competitors might use and squatting on them. They can only register marks they’re actually using.
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To oversimplify again, you can only protect or register a mark in order to keep people from using your name (or brand or logo) on their products in a way that might fool consumers.
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So, Decommodification LLC applied to register the mark “Decommodification.”
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Thinking back to the above, you might ask yourself: “What the hell good or service could Larry & Co. POSSIBLY plan to use this for?” Well, they put it right in the application: “Commercial administration of the licensing and sublicensing of intellectual property by others.”
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 decommodification2
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Now, before anybody (*cough*) gets started with grand theories about what the LLC might be planning with this, I want to share my opinion that absolutely nothing sinister or underhanded is going on here. “Commercial” is still being used as a term of art as above, and the rest of the sentence simply describes exactly what the LLC does. In other words, the actual purpose of this trademark application is to prevent somebody else from opening up their own Decommodification LLC or Decommodification Inc. or Decommodification Gmbh that does the same thing as this one.
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This trademark has a very narrow reach. Remember, a trademark must be associated with a particular good or service. This wouldn’t stop any of us from calling our toilet-removal businesses “Pantsless Santa’s De-Commodeification” or whatever. So why bother bringing it up in the first place? Like I said above, it’s effin’ hilarious! To spell it out:
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Larry Harvey & Co. are attempting to define the word “Decommodification” as “Commodifying intellectual property.”
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Decommodification LLC filed their application for “Decommodification” on March 26, 2012. The application is still being processed because the LLC has not, even after multiple extensions, been able to provide evidence that they have actually used the word “Decommodification” in “commerce.”
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Honestly, there is no reason for them to actually register “Decommodification.” Who else in the world would ever create an intellectual property licensing company by that name? The only reason anybody might do that is to poke fun at the BMOrg/Decommodification LLC: and a trademark does not protect you against parody.
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You can check the history and status of the trademark application here: http://tinyurl.com/mojkq47
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Pantsless Santa, Esq.
General Counsel
Portland Cacophony Society

22 comments on “Commodifying Decommodification

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  4. wow – that really is orwellian!

    sort of like “arbeit mach frei” as a slogan over the concentration camp gates? to apply for a trademark “decommodification” for a company whose goal is specifically about making money not from actual goods & services, but simply monetizing the words and names whose existence would never have happened without the active support and efforts of tens of thousands over the years is……obscene?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Commercial administration of the licensing and sublicensing of intellectual property by others.”

    Below is the intellectual property that Decommodification LLC is licensing and sublicensing.

    Stated within the artist contract.

    “3.2 A nonexclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free license to: (a) copy, distribute, publicly display, create derivative works based on, and otherwise use any photographs, video or other images of the Art in connection with the Event or any Burning Man related project; and (b) sublicense the license in subsection (a) to third parties in connection with a Burning Man related project or a third party project …”

    Stated within the 2014 ticket terms and conditions.

    “I acknowledge that the name “Burning Man” is a trademark owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and that BRC LLC has been given the sole right to license and enforce that trademark, and that all of Burning Man’s logos, trademarks or other intellectual property are owned by Decommodification LLC and licensed to BRC, and I understand that these two organizations control all rights regarding the licensing and reproduction of any imagery recorded at the Event. I agree that I will not use the mark “Burning Man,” the logos of Decommodification LLC or BRC LLC, or the likeness, drawings or representations of the Man or of the Black Rock City map, or any other trademark of Decommodification LLR or BRC”

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    • Oh bloody hell. Upon viewing this, again, I realized the statement of ‘or other intellectual property are owned by Decommodification LLC’, means all photos or videos priorly owned by the BRC LLC, i.e., Burning Man, over the history of Burning Man. Thus, all prior books, or movies, paying a licence levy to the BRC LLC, are, in actuality, paying the licence levy to Decommodification LLC. Their Decommodification LLC obtained this also during the donation of the BRC LLC to the Burning Man Project.

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  6. did anyone notice that the address of Decommodification LLC is 50 Balmy St. That’s the tiny street of great murals in the Mission. A search for 50 Balmy St turns up this: http://www.osrfirm.com/ I guess I just was surprised that DecomLLC isn’t listed under the Burning Man address. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

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  8. I do not understand this, is the Burning Man Project changing from an ‘educational’ 501(c)3, purposed towards educating people upon the Tin Principles, to an ‘art’, and art festival, 501(c)3, purposed towards art? Or, might the Project always been an ‘art’ 501(c)3, I do not know what their determination letter states. Might this be the rationale of the Black Rock Arts Foundation 501(c)3 taken over by the Burning Man Project? Might the Project change to an ‘art’ 501(c)3, the Project bylaws need to be changed, they are penned in the manner of the Tin Principles. Changing to an ‘art’ 501(c)3 is most appropriate, and, would be a rad change.

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    • If you are trying to understand this in the context of any that stuff, you will never understand it, because they have about as much to do with each other as either does with Larry’s hat rotation schedule.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Apologies, I intended to place this comment as a reply to the post, by Nomad, on the Tin Principles, below. Much obliged, Pantsless Santa, for your post.

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  9. Thank you for the update and tutorial on trademarks. I am working on establishing Tin Principles(tm) as a set of rules that don’t have to be followed if you don’t want to. We plan on rolling out a whole commercial service of promulgating rules for commoners that the elite can ignore. We see it as a clear growth sector of the economy.

    Liked by 2 people

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