21 November 2008

Hannah update: 2 months

The idea was that keeping up a blog would be easier than updating web pages at my personal site, but it's not working out that way. Apologies, but here's a late update on Hannah. At a six week checkup, she was up to 9 pounds, 11 ounces and 22 inches. Now she's up to 10 pounds, 2 ounces and 22-1/2 inches. Growing like a weed, but she's right at the 50th percentile in height and weight. Our perfectly average child. :-)

Earlier this month she was baptized. At the left you can see her sporting the lovely christening gown one of her aunt's knitted crocheted for her. She did an ensemble made up of the dress, hat, and a blanket. She couldn't ever quite get the booties right, so Dorothy bought a pair (not shown). I'm not sure, but Aunt Beth may have spent nearly as much time working on it as Hannah did in her mom's tummy.

Our church does two services each Sunday and we, having three kids to prepare, almost always go to the later one. But on the Sunday of her baptism, we got a call from a friend about the time early service was starting. "Is Hannah's baptism today?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"But not at early service."

"Uh, no."

"Okay, we'll go straighten the pastor out."

We had six people, not counting Hannah, at the baptismal rehearsal. All but one knew the baptism was to be at the late service. Unfortunately, that one was the pastor. (Of course, the rest of us were focused on this one thing while he has a dozen or more to coordinate each week.) Luckily no harm was done, other than the bulletin had the baptism listed for the wrong service. The pastor worked around it with seeming ease.

And here is a photo from the actual baptism. (Thanks to our friend, Sarah W. for taking photos for us.) Up until this point, Hannah had slept through most church services in her mother's or my arms. We were hoping that might be the case this morning, but it was not to be. Right before the baptism, the youngest children's choir sang. Doing a great job, I might add. Unfortunately, as they rushed back to their seats, one child ran past Hannah, stomping just right and waking her up. There was no time to get her back to sleep, so she fussed through a good portion of her baptism. It was probably the most anyone at church had ever heard from her up to that point. The pastor even commented as he showed her around that he'd seen her at church a lot since her birth and this was unusual for her.

So Hannah's doing fine. She's been remarkable at sleeping through the night . . . most of the time. Hopefully the next belated post will show off the kids' Halloween costumes. I've just got to manage to get Andrew back into his costume long enough to get a good photo.

19 November 2008

Hasbro re-registering trademark on Rom

On November 6, 2008, Hasbro began the process of re-registering trademarks on "Rom" and "Rom the Spaceknight." What exactly they have in mind, I can only speculate on. But first, let's review a little terminology and history. In the interest of keeping this (relatively) short, I'm going to gloss over some details where possible. And naturally, I must disclaim the following as legal advice, as I am not a lawyer and don't even play one on TV.

First, if you don't know, a trademark is merely a word or logo used to distinguish the goods of a company from all other companies similar goods. The words "Coke," "Pentium," and "Spider-Man" are all examples of trademarks. Any company can declare something a trademark by adding that little TM symbol (™) after the word or logo wherever it appears on the company's packaging.

However, to assure full legal protection, it is best to register the trademark with the federal government. The agency that handles this is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once a trademark's registration is approved, it becomes a registered trademark. At this point, and only at this point, the company can use the little R in a circle (®) on its logos instead of the TM.

Another aspect of registered trademarks is that they only apply to the category of items for which they are registered. For example, while no one else can call a drink "Pepsi," one might be able to use it for a hammer. (I by no means advise trying this, as the litigation would probably kill your company even if you ultimately manage to win the lawsuit.) This is also why Apple Computers has had a history of trouble with Apple Records since going into the music market with iTunes.

That's trademarks in a very small nutshell. For further reading, I suggest reading the USPTO's Trademark FAQ and/or visiting their trademark page.

Moving on to the history, back in 1979 when Parker Brothers released the Rom action figure, they filed with the USPTO for a trademark on the word/logo ROM. This was actually done through their parent company at the time, CPG Product Corp. Although the toy was only sold for a couple years (at best), they maintained the rights to the trademark until 1987, about a year after the character's Marvel comic book series had been canceled. Parker Brothers assets were later acquired by Hasbro, who is still Parker Brothers' parent company today.

Trademark law is a tricky thing. Because Marvel had licensed the Rom character from Parker Brothers, they could no longer use him upon expiration of the agreement. Or, at least, not blatantly. He managed to make a few cameos in the years after his series, but by and large it is most likely Marvel has seen no potential profit in reviving a B-list character they'd have to pay for the rights to use again.

It is important to note that Parker Brothers only registered a trademark on the mark "Rom." Not "Rom the Spaceknight" or anything similar. The title of the comic book series, according to the indica, was similarly just "Rom," not "Rom: Spaceknight" or any other variation on that theme. Although generally included on the cover, the word "Spaceknight" was sometimes omitted there as well. Furthermore, the registration only covered it's use for "toy figures and related accessories sold as a unit." If you look at your Rom comic book collection, you will not find a single instance of "Rom" as a registered trademark because comic books weren't the category the trademark was registered for.

This became important in 2000 after Chris Batista got the green light for his Spaceknights limited series. He was kind enough to contact me during this period and one of the things he told me was that Marvel's legal department was concerned that they couldn't use the name "Spaceknights" because it might be co-owned with Parker Brothers as well. Ultimately they not only decided they could use the name – most likely for the reason just noted above – Marvel even applied for registration of the "Spaceknights" trademark themselves. (Only as a comic book title, mind you.)

Now we're back where we started: Hasbro has re-registered for a trademark on Rom. This time they've gone much further than they did back in 1979. They applied for eight trademarks, four on "Rom" and four on "Rom the Spaceknight." (I should note that the phrasing of the latter was most likely chosen because it is the three word phrase that actually appeared on the action figure's box back in '79.) That's one for each of the two versions of the mark in four different categories: entertainment, paper goods, toys, and equipment. The last one is a bit puzzling. In full, the category is:
Scientific, nautical, surveying, electric, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; magnetic data carriers, recording discs; automatic vending machines and mechanisms for coin operated apparatus; cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment and computers; fire extinguishing apparatus.
If that seems like an odd combination of items, it might not entirely be Hasbro's fault. The USPTO seems to have certain categories for marks and many of them are some odd groups of things. The forum that I believe first announced Hasbro's move says the category is "normally used for video games." Although in this case it seems Hasbro's wording for the numeric categories they registered might simply be out of date. Other video game trademarks in the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database actually just say "video game software." Then again, a vending machine that looked like a life-sized Rom would be really cool!

So we're finally back to the question of "why?" Why has Hasbro chosen to do this after all these years? Could it be that repeated interest from various parties in somehow bringing Rom back to comics has finally gotten their attention and something is forthcoming? Or have they gotten wind of someone who was going to take advantage of the Rom trademark's inactive status and are preparing for a lawsuit to stop it? I hope it doesn't mean they're coming after my humble fan site. Surely it wouldn't be worth all that trouble. All I can say for sure is that, pending the actual approval of the USPTO, I might have to change the fine print at the bottom of all those pages from "ROM was a trademark" to "Rom is a trademark." Thank goodness for server-side includes.