Tod Bol and Rick Brooks had a brilliant idea: Build a little box, fill it with books, put it somewhere public, and invite people to take a book and leave a book. They called it all:
LITTLE FREE LIBRARY.
They took care to protect what they were creating.
They registered their trademark rights in LITTLE FREE LIBRARY and the logo that went with it.
They formed a non-profit, Little Free Library, Ltd., to run the operation.
When Tod Bol died in 2018, everything was in place to assure that what he and Mr. Brooks had created would continue to grow and serve individuals and communities.
In 2019, Tod’s younger brother, Tony, started selling wooden book boxes. Nothing wrong with that. No one has an exclusive right to make or sell wooden book boxes but Tony started calling his wooden book boxes: “Little Libraries.”
Unsurprisingly, Little Free Library, Ltd. objected to that use.
The Washington Post quotes Tony as saying that Little Free Library, Ltd.’s actions are “akin to some organization wanting to own all bird houses by applying to have trademark control over ‘wooden boxes with a nesting area for birds.’ ”
No, Tony, no one’s doing that!
Tony can sell wooden book boxes today, tomorrow, and forever because trademarks give the owner exclusive rights in the brand, not in the product.
In other words, making and selling book boxes is fine, just stop implying they’re coming from Little Free Library, Ltd.
Thanks to Liz B. for sending me the Washington post article that inspired this post.