Are Agencies The Worst Offenders?

Over the years I’ve noticed a peculiar tendency of agencies to “borrow” the intellectual property of other agencies, including registered trademarks.

This is no different than the way Chinese companies “borrow” the trademarks of Louis Vitton or Prada or Gucci or even HP to make knock-offs.

Actually, it should be of great concern to corporations when their agencies are “borrowing” the IP of other companies. After all, these are the same agencies that are being tasked with creating names, slogans, designs, advertising campaigns for those clients. It can be costly for clients when they are using another company’s trademarks. For example, in 1999 AT&T Wireless affiliates paid approximately $1 million in settlement for using the Suncom brand name. More recently there is the case of Apple introducing the iPhone — although Cisco had a trademark on that name. It was settled for an undisclosed sum.

I’ve witnessed first hand agencies “borrow” the name of another other agency, “borrow” the trademarked methodologies, “borrow” patented methodologies and even “borrow” the portfolios and client lists of other agencies. And, yes, the “borrowing” extends to creative campaigns. Of course all of this “borrowing” is done without compensation to the agency whose work is ripped off.

When agencies are “borrowing” the IP of other agencies, they are giving a black eye to our entire business.


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