Please Stand By

First of all, sorry for the silence these past two weeks. I had a little surgery and I’ve been focused on finishing my book. There’s only so much writing one can accomplish on Vicodin.

I was reading Steve(n) Heller’s interview with author-cum-designer Douglas Coupland last week. The dialogue was interesting, if somewhat self indulgent (on both sides). Heller’s badgering insistence that Coupland’s fashion line is an act of satire is particularly amusing. But what I really appreciated about the interview was the thread it led me on.

The article links to the RootsxCoupland mini site, which is a neat looking but totally annoying seething collage of images and product. One moment of clarity, however, comes from the legal disclosure at the bottom of the page. It turns out (and I never even paused to think about this before) that the classic test TV color bar pattern is a trademark of The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).

Coupland and Roots use the image with permission (maybe they will rethink that license now that Heller has exposed the effort as satire). Others are almost certainly using it illegally. At first it seemed like a surprising thing to protect, but on reflection it makes sense. SMPTE paid to have it developed and as an icon it represents the organization. It may not be as directly connected to a brand as the Burberry pattern or “Tiffany” blue, but it is no less worthy of respect as intellectual property.