|Stephen Colbert's coverage of "Superb Owl" satirizes trademark litigation.|
U.S. trademark law is a tricky thing, and different from copyright. The distinction is something important for all of us who say or post anything online or make anything for a public audience--because ignorance of the law is not a defense! So, try using the Colbert clip above as a springboard to some research to find out when you can and can't say...
Superbowl! Hey, we're nothing if not risk-takers!
But seriously, your English, social studies, media studies, or media law class students need to know what intellectual property means, what fair use is, how copyright works, and how trademark and patent law work slightly differently. So--research time! Use the Colbert clip to brainstorm some questions with your class and send them on an Internet search for reliable answers. Here are some likely questions that will come up to help you prepare:
- Can news shows use trademarked images and words in the news?
- Is parody protected speech in relation to trademarks? Does fair use apply?
- Can you move one letter, as in "Superb Owl," and escape infringement danger?
- How does intellectual property law work in other countries? Who else observes trademark rights?
And here are some places to start for answers...link roundup:
- U.S. Trademark and Patent Office webpage on trademark basics (advanced)
- U.S. Trademark and Patent Office high school resource guide
- Harvard Law webpage on overview of trademark.
- Media Education Lab resources on teaching about copyright and fair use
- Center for Media and Social Impact website
There have been many newspaper and news blog articles written about Colbert's Superb Owl segment in relation to trademark law. Once you and your students learn about trademark law and intellectual property from reliable sources like the ones above, look around the Internet and evaluate whether or not the journalists have their notions of trademark law in order and assess how well their coverage informs their readers about the law.
If you need some more funniness on the topic of Colbert's video, here's a fun Reddit thread.
Can anyone suggest some engaging sites for high school (or younger) students learning about trademark law, or other areas of intellectual property?