“Yes we brand”!

Bloomberg News reports that “my generation”‘s President is every bit as thoroughly modern as you’d expect. In other words, no unauthorized drawing down of his icon-equity will be permitted:

White House lawyers want to control the use of the president’s image, recognizing the worldwide fascination about Obama’s election, First Amendment free-speech rights and easy access to videos and photos on the Web.

“Our lawyers are working on developing a policy that will protect the presidential image while being careful not to squelch the overwhelming enthusiasm that the public has for the president,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Obama’s calls for change and his “Yes We Can” campaign mantra are being evoked to sell assembly-required furniture in Ikea’s “Embrace Change” marketing campaign, bargain airfares during Southwest Airlines Inc.’s “Yes You Can” sale and “Yes Pecan” ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. shops.

“I can’t remember this ever happening to an active politician before, as a spokesperson or as an image for a brand,” said Brad Adgate, director of research for Horizon Media Inc., a New York-based advertising agency.

Yes you can, Brad!

Oops, sorry. The article continues with a decently thorough examination of the issues, quoting IP lawyer Jonathan Band as saying:

“It will be difficult,” Band said. “Because he is the president of the United States and there was this campaign and everyone’s proud, I think the First Amendment will be applied much more broadly with respect to people wanting to use an image of the president than it would be with typical entertainment figures or sports figures.”

Sure hope so. Band continues:

The use of Obama-related images also may involve copyright issues and various state laws about the ability of individuals to control commercial exploitation of their likenesses, Band said.

Good work, Jonathan! I also appreciated this grace note — a little perspective:

Appropriation of a president’s face and voice, to a large degree, come with the territory, said Princeton University historian Fred Greenstein.

“It’s par for the course,” he said.

Yes… but then again, these days, “IP management” that infringes on free expression and free enterprise is also “par for the course.”

I sure hope the Obama White House doesn’t get carried away with itself on this — either on its “policy” on the use of President Obama’s brand equity or on appointing judges who could possibly agree with such restrictive and essentially antidemocratic views.” Can we handle any more of those? No, we can’t.

Oops, sorry!

Originally posted in Ron Coleman’s intellectual property law blog, LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION.

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