Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Do Walmart own the smiley face

David Bollier has a nice piece about Walmart's trademark claim to the smiley face.

"Fundamentalism is not simply an affliction of religious zealots. It takes over the minds of secular people, too, and often manifests itself in a religious-like zeal to defend property rights at the expense of all else. Because I keep encountering ever-more extreme examples of this pathology, I thought it would be useful to start a occasional blog post, the Annals of Private Property, that will document the lurid extremes now dictated by the theology and veneration of property rights.

Let me inaugurate this feature by citing the epic trademark battle that Wal-Mart is engaged in, over the ownership of… the “smiley face.” If ever there was a cultural icon that emerged from the commons, or at least acquired value through its social circulation via the commons, ol’ Smiley is it. It’s been around for decades as a shared icon of dubious taste. But now the economic leviathan, Wal-Mart, is claiming that it, and it alone, owns the smiley face image, as a trademark."

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