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Trademark turmoil update April 30, 2010

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Web sites.

The controversy between Route 66 vendors, retailer Zazzle.com and a firm in the Netherlands that is claiming trademark ownership of the Route 66 shield morphed from aggravating to surreal.

It was reported a few days ago that Route66Licensing.com and a sister site, Tempting Brands.com, is claiming a trademark of “Route 66″ and its shield. Subsequently, Netherlands firm persuaded Zazzle.com to remove the listings of American vendors sellingRoute 66-related products on the website. However, Route 66 and the Route 66 exist in the public domain in the United States, and cannot be trademarked here.

The situation turned especially strange in the past 24 hours when it was learned that this image of the Route 66 ghost town of Spencer, Mo., by Mike Skidmore was removed by Zazzle after another infringement claim by Route66Licensing.com:

The part of the image that apparently ran afoul is the replica of the old Phillips 66 gas station sign. Route66Licensing.com either is claiming the Phillips 66 sign is a Route 66 sign, or a hypercautious Zazzle nixed the image without looking at it closely. Jim Ross, a Route 66 expert in Oklahoma, wrote in response:

Where are these Zazzle idiots from? Do they not realize that the shield pictured is a trademarked brand of Phillips Petroleum? If they are not going to  require any proof whatsoever of brand ownership from Route 66 Licensing, then we need to organize a boycott of  Zazzle as well. In fact, it might be a worthwhile to investigate whether Zazzle can be sued for violating laws of interstate commerce or unfair trade practices.

E-mails to Zazzle and Route66Licensing.com from Route 66 News have gone unanswered.

In the meantime, longtime New Mexico Route 66 advocate Johnnie Meier on Friday built stoproute66licensing.com as a way to fight back. he said in an e-mail:

We will construct the web site cataloging abuses by route66licensing.com.

We will provide well-researched and documented resource information on the shield image, Route 66, Mother Road and other identifiers claimed by route66licensing.com.

We will also expose the route66licensing.com tactics used to unethically register Route 66 identifiers as trademarks in foreign markets.

After a fact-finding period, we will be organizing aggressive action against route66licensing.com.

I’m convinced the folks at Zazzle are asleep at the switch, and these probably are isolated incidents. However, the problem has become so potentially serious that it’s time to put Zazzle and Route66Licensing.com on notice. The financial future of many Route 66 retailers could be at stake.

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