“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be
put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
I’ve seen a bunch of posts on tumblr recently criticizing Taylor Swift (or her reps) for taking down fan-created crafts or artwork that uses trademarks related to Ms. Swift.
The problem they face is that, as explained in this video, you cannot selectively enforce trademarks. So if you don’t tell fans they can’t make fan art, then Urban Outfitters can come along and say, “Your trademark isn’t real because you didn’t enforce it with this or that product for sale on etsy, even though you knew about it or could have easily discovered it, so we don’t have to pay you for all these Taylor Swift shirts we are selling.”
This is why we have chosen not to trademark “DFTBA” or “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.” We aren’t going to tell nerdfighters they can’t make DFTBA stuff and sell it, and so we can’t tell Urban Outfitters they can’t make DFTBA stuff and sell it.
But that’s much harder to do when you’re Taylor Swift and there are a bajillion corporations trying to cash in on phrases and images related to you.
Trademark law is really stupid and annoying, and unless you create a series of complicated hurdles offering some people free licenses, it’s almost impossible to restrict certain people from using your trademark without restricting everyone from using it.