University of Iowa professor Kembrew McLeod “reserves the right to rock” and has the ‘do to prove it (there are plenty of “hair bands” but this is a “hair family”). A statement released today shows McLeod plans to rock AT&T with a cease and desist letter, mailed by his lawyer yesterday, regarding their use of his federally registered trademark “Freedom of Expression.”
The NY Times is taking him seriously:
- The bigger idea behind his legal action, he said, is to object to corporate power over words, speech and even ideas.
“I do want to register my genuine protest that a big company that really doesn’t represent freedom of expression is trying to appropriate this phrase,” he said.
AT&T has not received the letter and will not comment before it does, said Jeff Roberts, a company spokesman.
While it may seem unlikely that Mr. McLeod will be able to push around a corporate titan like AT&T, stranger things have happened on the increasingly bizarre battleground of intellectual property, trademark and copyright law.
The notion of intellectual property became tabloid fodder in 1993 when NBC lawyers tried to prevent David Letterman from taking skits like Stupid Human Tricks from “Late Night” to his new CBS show. Then the game show hostess Vanna White successfully sued Samsung Electronics for making a commercial with a robot in her likeness without her consent.
….The stakes seem lower for AT&T. The ads using “freedom of expression” ran only in college-oriented newspapers during the third quarter of last year, said Mr. Roberts, the AT&T spokesman.
For Mr. McLeod, however, a confrontation with AT&T could generate welcome publicity, and not only for his belief that private ownership of language can impede the free flow of information. His trademark certificate will be part of an exhibit of art on the fringes of intellectual property, entitled “Illegal Art,” opening in Chicago on Saturday.
That “Illegal Art” show gets around, does it not?