Y’know, there’s something about this that just burns my butt in a way I can’t explain.
The basic info is this. According to Blastr and The Mary Sue, fans who have been making and selling their versions of the Jayne hat for, oh I dunno, the last 10 year, are being hit with “cease and desist” notices from Fox.
Yep. Since Ripple Junction now has an official license to make the Jayne hat, any independent Browncoat knitter making and selling them is now making an item that infringes on their license and Fox is sending notices to enforce that license.
“in the last few weeks many of them have received cease-and-desist letters or have simply been banned from Etsy for producing DIY Jayne Hats.”
And, yes, I know, they came from Fox, but do you think Fox was trolling Etsy to see if people were making Jayne hats in their spare time to help Ripple Junction out? Yeah, no. Ripple Junction, worrying about market share, likely informed Fox Legal and legal did what it does.
And here’s why it pisses me off.
As you may know, I worked over at QMx for over a year and a half and QMx has officially licensed Firefly merchandise. QMx has the license for Firefly prop replicas and the Firefly Jayne Hat is, while wearable, a prop replica. Which means QMx could have made it and just didn’t.
Now, I don’t know why they never did, but I have a theory.
My former boss is a Browncoat to the core. He started QMx because he wanted to make prop replicas and because he was a fan. QMx started with Firefly and Serenity and they’ve made some really amazing stuff. But they left the hat to the fans.
Because those hats, like the one Ma Cobb made for Jayne, we made with love and with care and with small imperfections — and every one of them was unique.
Just like Jayne and just like Firefly.
So, somehow Ripple Junction gets the license for the hat and they’ll be made in mass quantities for pennies in China. Fine. Hey, whatever floats your boat, RJ.
But you couldn’t be happy to take the Browncoat money hand over fist and leave the crafters alone? Because mom and pop shops making Jayne hats was really going to cut into your financial bottom line that much?
Shame on you, Ripple Junction.
(via The Mary Sue)
I’m not giving legal advice in this comment but (as a trademark lawyer) I am wondering how the doctrine of laches would apply to crafters of this cunning hat. If a complaining party has slept on its rights, they often cannot be heard to complain that a third party has (allegedly) infringed on a trademark.
Since you can’t copyright clothing designs (although you can copyright colors/images that are separatable from the clothing itself) they’d have some difficulties making copyright claims in a court of law (and I assume they haven’t patented the hats).
The Jayne hat is not very unique, and I question whether the Cease and Desist would hold up in Court unless the person selling them claims that the item is “official” or “Licensed.” What these guys do, however, is threaten litigation even though they might not win. The cost of fighting this in court is simply not worth the small profits that would be generated by sale of the item. It would be interesting to see if someone who was making “a hat similar to the one worn by Jayne in Firefly” responded to the C&D letter with a “hell no,” and whether a court would prohibit the sale of the hats. Sometimes those C&D letters are simply a scare tactic to limit competition.
It pisses me off.
So NOT cool.
My understanding based on a FB post elsewhere that’s since been deleted is that someone reported Etsy sellers to Ripple and under their contract they were required to report them to Fox at that point.
I don’t actually know if this is what happened, as I haven’t seen anyone confirm it. But that’s the story another seller of Firefly goods is telling, anyway.
I’d still lay it at Ripple Junction’s feet.
My issue isn’t TG’s choice to make them. Heck, I’m sure loads of people are thrilled about that and it means mass parket avail for people, so great.
My issue is with the choice to enforce the license to the point of C & D’s to Etsy sellers and mommy knitters.
They could have just let them alone. No one was making millions of dollars off making them.
FWIW, as far as I know Ripple makes Jayne hats because ThinkGeek wanted to sell them and found someone to make them. At least I assume that’s what TG meant when they said “We found a vendor with the Firefly license who agreed make the officially-licensed version of the Jayne hat.” back when they started selling them late last year. So, really, this goes back to ThinkGeek as instigator, and Ripple saying “sure!” as far as any current information suggests.