"Who steals my purse steals trash.../But he that filches from me my good logo/Both robs me of that which enriches him/And ravisheth my trademark."
I've always thought of the Rumor Mill as a kind of open-source project, in which a worldwide network of gossips contribute information, while my staff and I do a little quality control and release the results for free and licentious use.
In this spirit of sharing, and with the knowledge that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I've never gotten too exercised about Red Hat's logo of the man in the fedora, which bears such a striking resemblance to--well--me. Nor have I felt it necessary to broadcast that the debut of the Rumor Mill logo in September 1996 predates Red Hat's October 1996 premiere appearance by precisely one month.
Not every open-source organization is quite as liberal with its logo, however. Red Hat itself is beating its legal war drums against none other than Microsoft for a potential trademark infringement on the same image.
The story surfaced this week when Red Hat Skinsiders brought to our attention Microsoft's new .Net demo site, IBuySpy.com, whose logo consists of a man's face mostly obscured by a fedora.
Microsoft dismissed the resemblance as "a silly coincidence."
"Microsoft would not knowingly copy that," said a representative. "Microsoft thinks this is a nonissue."
But Red Hat thinks it is an issue--a trademark issue, to be exact.
"As an open-source company, our logos and trademarks are pretty much the only thing we own," said a Red Hat representative. "Our legal team is looking into this. They did indeed see the similarities to our logo."
Microsoft wouldn't be the first company to arouse the ire of Red Hat's trademark police. The company in October lost a motion it lodged with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board opposing the trademark registration by Taiwan-based CMC Magnetics of a "Mr. Data" logo depicting a nifty banded top hat.
Red Hat's loss in that case could weaken a claim it brought against Microsoft, said the Rumor Mill's resident intellectual property maven.
"I suppose Microsoft would point to that decision if they were going to try to defend their position," said Carl Oppedahl, of Patents.com. "What you have is a Red Hat with a less-than-perfect track record."
On the other hand, Red Hat may have been so far off the mark in its claim against Mr. Data--an uplifted headless top hat, in contrast to Red Hat's, Microsoft's and the Rumor Mill's downturned, head-bound fedora--that a claim against Microsoft's more similar logo might hold water.
"The lesson here is that if you can, anyone who has a logo or mark that's important to them should run, not walk, to the trademark office because it could be a big help if anyone ever comes along and challenges them," Oppedahl advised.
But enough about me--let me tell you about my editors. CNET Vice President Jai Singh and Executive Editor of commentary Charles "Coop" Cooper were seen last week sharing a laugh with the erstwhile president of the United States of America, Bill Clinton.
Said editors encountered the famed Arkansan at Pier 23, a watering hole on the San Francisco waterfront.
"He's a big guy," Coop observed. "I would not mess with him. He was looking happy. He doesn't have to deal with Putin or Trent Lott anymore."
Singh reports that the president was presented with a Pier 23 T-shirt, said to be a fairly risque item.
"Heck, I don't care," Clinton responded. "I can wear whatever I want--I'm not the president anymore."
Speaking of risque, the San Francisco bureau of the Asian American Journalists Association has launched its Web site with a trenchant analysis of one of the pressing problems of modern-day journalism: How do respectable, family-oriented publications refer to the Web's most famous dot-com deadpool?
"ZDNet offered as much modesty as a thong with its use of 'F*ckedCompany.com,'" wrote Gordon Mah Ung, a senior editor at MaximumPC. "The South China Morning Post felt one more asterisk, or 'F**kedCompany.com,' would prevent people from spitting their cereal out while reading the morning paper. BusinessWeek used the seemingly AP Style-approved 'f***edcompany.com' as did CNET News.com and a host of other news orgs. New York Post editors obviously felt one more asterisk would help when it printed 'F****d Company.'"
Our favorite solution came from the Toronto Star, which, Ung reports, "broke all conventions and apparently referred to 1930s comic book swearing styles with their use of 'F@#!edcompany.com.'" Every week my job is to fill in the blanks. Help me out with your rumors.