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​THANKYOU: Citibank Sues AT&T Over Infringement of Trademark Law

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​ THANKYOU: Citibank Sues AT&T Over Infringement of Trademark Law

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Chapman University law professor Tom W. Bell once told Reason magazine that copyright law goes against free speech rights protected under the US Constitution. But to Citigroup, the banking giant, copyright law is worth the breach of the law left by our visionary ancestors.

TrademarkAccording to Ars Technica, Citgroup has filed a lawsuit against technology company AT&T claiming a trademark infringement. The federal lawsuit, which was lodged this past Friday in New York federal court, contends that Citigroup has trademarked “ THANKYOU,” effectively barring AT&T and other companies from using the same sentence to, well, thank customers.

The lawsuit argues that:

“For many years, Citigroup has used trademarks consisting of and/or containing the term THANKYOU, including THANKYOU, CITI THANKYOU, CITIBUSINESS THANKYOU. THANKYOU FROM CITI, and THANKYOU YOUR WAY, in connection with a variety of customer loyalty, reward, incentive, and redemption programs (collectively, the ‘THANKYOU Marks’).”

But AT&T’s new marketing campaign, which advertises the AT&T Universal Card, a credit card backed by both AT&T and Citigoup, uses “ AT&T THANKS,”  and “ thanks”  as part of their advertising phrases, causing “consumer confusion”  and constituting “trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup’s rights.” The company contends that, since everybody knows that the “THANKYOU marks” are synonymous with Citigroup, the lawsuit asks the judge to block the so-called illegal marketing campaign, adding that Citigroup is entitled to unspecified damages.

To patent attorney and director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom Stephan Kinsella, intellectual property is incompatible with capitalism.

In the past, as well as now, Kinsella argued during a Mises Institute event speech, intellectual property is how “sovereigns or monarchs”  issue “monopolies that [protect]  various goods and services for a limited period of time.”

When liberals, conservatives, and even some libertarians argue in favor of copyright laws and other intellectual property rules, Kinsella told the audience, they are arguing for the creation and protection of monopoly, an act that stands against the libertarian principles of free and voluntary trade.

The very roots of copyright, Kinsella also argued, is all about censorship.

When printing transformed communication, the government found a way to “control official and political thought” passing “copyright statutes to basically help limit what could be produced and said and what information people could copy and share with each other.”

In today’s world, large companies like Citigroup use copyright and trademark laws to strike deals and protect heir turf, crossing licenses to each other, just like Microsoft and Apple did, protecting their industry from giving smaller players the right to compete with them.

Again, instead of protecting the little guy, copyright laws are used to protect monopolies, making sure the industry’s giants are protected from outside competitors.

Instead of celebrating America’s free speech protections, companies like Citibank prefer to keep their influence unquestioned. Not surprising, considering the American multinational investment banking and financial services corporation is a powerful lobbying force in Washington.

Free Market or… Freed Market?

in Business and Economy, Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Free MarketHere’s a neat little phrase that can be very handy when talking about economics: “freed market.”

No, not “free market.”

Freed market.

Here’s why.

As we’ve discussed in the past, “capitalism” is often not a very useful word for libertarians to use to describe the economic system we advocate. Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation gives some good reasons for not always using the word “capitalism” here.

A more accurate and more popular (according to a Gallup poll) alternative I’ve discussed is “free enterprise.”  Also good is “free market.”

But even these useful words are often hijacked by big-government conservatives and others who don’t really mean what libertarians mean by genuine free enterprise.

Today’s economic system is nothing like a free market. Yet it is often described as one. So, when people see massive economic problems and scandals all around them — subsidies and bailouts of rich businesses, unemployment, high taxes, dangerous products, corporate favoritism, monopolies — all of which are due to anti-market actions — it’s natural that they would oppose the “free market” system that we supposedly have. After all, the terms “capitalism” and “free market” are frequently used by those who defend this very system.

Ugh! What confusion!

Which makes “freed market” a great phrase to toss into a discussion.

For example, asked about your economic views, you might say: “I believe in the free market. Or, to be more precise, a freed market.”

Your listener: “What do you mean, ‘freed’ market?”

And that gives you the chance to explain what libertarians actually believe. Something along these lines:

“I want to see our current economic system freed up, for consumers and for competitors. A free market — which we don’t have today — would do that, and we’d all benefit.”

You then persuasively share the many ways everyone would benefit from this.

The use of “freed market” lets you point out how government meddling and crony capitalism, not the market, are responsible for today’s economic woes. It frees you from defending the present system, while still letting you use successful examples from that system as examples of what libertarians are striving for.

Importantly, “freed market” also makes it clear that we don’t have a free market today. It makes it clearer that you are talking about a goal, a better future, something different and better than the status quo.

In short, it lets you present the free market as the solution — not the cause — of today’s problems. It lets you offer a vision of a better future — not a defense of current abuses.

It’s a neat little twist.

The word “freed market” and the idea behind it have been discussed a lot at the Center for a Stateless Society. Here’s an excerpt from “Embracing Markets, Opposing ‘Capitalism’” by Gary Chartier that nicely points out the difference between the economic system we have today — and the free market libertarians want to see:

“To a very significant degree, the economic system we have now is one from which peaceful, voluntary exchange is absent. An interlocking web of legal and regulatory privileges benefit the wealthy and well connected at the expense of everyone else (think patents and copyrights, tariffs, restrictions on banking, occupational licensing rules, land-use restrictions, etc.). The military-industrial complex funnels unbelievable amounts of money — at gunpoint — from ordinary people’s pockets and into the bank accounts of government contractors and their cronies.

“Subsidies of all kinds feed a network of privileged businesses and non-profits. And the state protects titles to land taken at gunpoint or engrossed by arbitrary fiat before distribution to favored individuals and groups. No, the economies of the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia, at least, aren’t centrally planned. The state doesn’t assert formal ownership of (most of) the means of production. But the state’s involvement at multiple levels in guaranteeing and bolstering economic privilege makes it hard to describe the economic system we have now as free.”

With the right listeners, the term “freed markets” can help you open minds to a new understanding of genuine economic freedom and the blessings it can bring.