That's right, you heard it here first - Debbie Stoller's trademark application for "Stitch 'N Bitch" was refused today. I have mixed feelings about this. I think that the phrase is generic enough that no one should be granted a trademark - this has been used by individual sewing and knitting circles for a long time. However, if DS were granted the trademark, it has been widely assumed that she would be a benevolent dictator. There are many online loosely affiliated(?) groups with the Stitch 'N Bitch name, presumably after the famous Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook. As it stands right now, all of the Stitch 'N Bitch groups have been kicked off of Cafepress, by a very small New York business that shall remain nameless, since I really don't want to up their pagerank. Let's call them Sue Fast, So Sleazy, or SFSE for short. SFSE was granted a service mark in 2002 for an online discussion board (really a guestbook in a really cheezy early 90's site), "Stitch & Bitch Cafe." This met the letter but not the spirit of the law; there is no inherent connection between an online discussion group and stitching and bitching. However, since virtual space has become a continuation of realspace, it cuts out individual groups that have been using the moniker informally for a long time.
I really wish I knew whether the patent had been refused due to being too generic, or due to infringement. Since Stitches for Bitches was approved for publication (the public, otherwise known as the public that retains lawyers, gets a month to comment before final approval), I'm assuming it was not due to infringement on the SFSE service mark. However, that does not help the TC SnB get back online with Cafepress - SFSE registered for "Stitch and Bitch" at the beginning of June, so even if the phrase is too generic, there is a year or more before they are finally turned down. In the meantime, even if SFSE doesn't have a case, Cafepress will not allow merchandise with "Stitch 'N Bitch" on it. Also, Cafepress does not forward the cease and desist order to the organization. I suppose they have the right to run their business however they want, but I wish that there were an alternative. Cafepress does not judge on the merits of the case, and do not recognize fair use or parody - any c&d order, no matter how spurious, and they fold. I assume Debbie Stoller is going to appeal the decision, though, and won't be giving out the reason for the refusal anytime soon.
Something you can buy in protest (unfortunately from Cafepress): Free to Stitch, Free to Bitch merchandise. TC is replacing SnB with this phrase, also.
In other trademark news, Dykes on Bikes was turned down on the basis of standards and decency - apparently "Dyke" is too offensive. But based on the number of trademarks granted for "Bitch," apparently that is not. But I think dyke has been reclaimed more thoroughly than bitch - I would far rather be called the former than the latter, even if it is technically inaccurate. Besides, it is a common term in geology (one of many, many terms useful for off-color puns - don't get me started), for a tabular intrusive igneous body.
Haven't had enough trademark talk yet? Get the Stitch and Bitch backstory from girl from auntie.
Surprise! I have more to say. Read on, McDuff...