Volume 47, Issue 7 - September 2008

Moulding the Future

by Kelly A. Schroeder,

Copyright Form: Yes
Is Your Product Legal?

Have you ever stopped on a Friday evening to reflect upon all of the questions that were thrown at you that week? How many would you categorize as inane? How many made you chuckle as soon as you heard them because they were so bizarre and out of left field?

Working at an industry trade association opens me up to a vast arena of questions ranging from moulding and millwork standards adherence to raw material supply to tree sitting. However, I was thrown a question recently that gave me pause earlier this year, and since then, a series of calls have come into my office regarding the same subject.

Mystery Caller
The caller did not want to identify himself, but was so earnest in his request to speak to me that my staff put him through to my line. It was a very unusual but legitimate question. Something was off, if you know what I mean. I replied as concisely as I could; the subject matter he had touched upon required an extended explanation, but I kept my answer short. He then shared some information with me hurriedly and hung up abruptly. I quickly wrote down what the gentleman had relayed and then sat there a few minutes staring at the telephone trying to process what had just occurred. I felt as if I should run out to buy a new raincoat, matching hat and oversized glasses to begin a career as a super sleuth. This cloak-and-dagger approach to relaying information to me piqued my interest in such a way I turned to my computer to do a bit of research.

I Googled what I had heard the caller say, and a moment later I was clicking on a company website. I thought the call was probably an exaggeration with a tad bit of validity mixed in, but the caller did not even begin to outline how extensive the transgressions were before he frantically cut our connection.The Wood Moulding & Millwork Producers Association (WMMPA) has run into this situation before. It just never occurred to me how many lines a company would cross in this situation to promote itself and its product line.

A Huge Violation
What transgressions you ask? Copyright violationsspecifically WM abuse as I like to call itin a big and extremely bold manner. My mysterious caller had just outed a company for illegally advertising the WMMPAs pattern catalog and profiles online. As I clicked through the companys website, page after page of WM profiles were displayed to include WMMPAs graphics and callouts. I printed out the web pages and contacted our association attorney immediately. It did not take long for the company to acquiesce to WMMPAs demand to take down all of the offending copyright violating material. Copyright violations result in severe penalties in the United States. Couple that with trademark infringement and, well, you get the picture.

Since that first outing, Ive had other mysterious and not-so- mysterious phone calls leading me directly to numerous company websites abusing the WM. Some of the violators only have one or two items listed on their website and, when contacted, they ask me for a break. However, I cannot give them the absolution they seek. Whether it is one WM profile or 100, it is against the law. One of my members is like the WMMPAs watchdog, and he has called in more than ten offending websites in the last six months. Funny how these things take on a life of their own.

Members Only
So, I ask you, is the moulding and millwork you advertise and sell legal? How would one know, you ask? Well, for starters, only members of the Wood Moulding & Millwork Producers Association (WMMPA) have the right to advertise WM profiles whether it is on their websites, brochures or promotional pieces. Can a non-member obtain rights to advertise WM profiles? Certainly, just give me a call and I will explain the marketing license agreement to you to keep you on the legal side of this issue.

Want to know what the latest mysterious caller question asked of me as I was heading out last weekend? It was a mindbender for me when I first heard it because it was asked late in the afternoon on a day I had been wrangling with millwork standards issues. However, in the end it made me laugh last Friday night and I categorized it as a dogchasing-its-tail question file.

Before I get to that, though, I want to tell you the WMMPA is staging its 46thWinter Business Meeting in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada, March 17-20, 2009, at the MonteLago Village Resort. Manufacturers of wood, MDF and poly moulding and millwork will all gather under one roof to talk about our market. If you would like further information on how to attend, give me a call at 530/661-9591 or visit our website at www.wmmpa.com.

And now, a brain twisting question for you to mull over: If a company is not a member of the WMMPA, and buys moulding and millwork from a company that is not a member of the WMMPA, but the products clearly state they are WM moulding and millwork when they are delivered, and the buying company offers the products for sale as WM moulding and millwork, what liability or exposure does the first company or buying company have when it comes to being in violation of the WMMPAs WM registered trademark? Or do you just file a grievance against the second company who actually sent the moulding and millwork in violation? Click.

Copyright 2008 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.