Tuesday, October 25, 2011

X Factor: Bullying charity

As if the transparent faked storm on the front pages of the papers today weren't enough of an image-dent for the X Factor, there's a genuine storm brewing. A music charity claims that Cowell's people have been trying to bully control of its name from them:

On 23 September 2011, Simco (a company owned in large part by Simon Cowell) lodged an application in Europe to trademark the name "Rhythmix" for use by the programme X Factor. At the time of lodging that application, X Factor and Simco were fully aware that "Rhythmix" was an existing trademarked name of a music charity that works with vulnerable young people. Rather than seeking any discussion with the Charity, considering any of the moral implications of their actions, or checking with the Charity whether the pursuit of an exclusive trademark might have any negative impact on the activities of the Charity, Simco and their legal representatives sought a way to use the law to circumvent the trademark of the Charity.

The two questions for X Factor, ITV, Syco, Simco, Freemantle and Talkback Thames are simple:

1. You knew it was a music charity working with very vulnerable young people, so why did you try to take the name, aggressively seeking to limit the use of the name by the Charity by lodging applications to grant you the exclusive right to record, create promotional items and even use the word in printed media?

2. If you thought it wasn't going to be a problem, now you know it is. Professional people who work in this field are telling you it is. The media are telling you it is. The public are telling you it is. Why have you so far failed to make a public statement clearly laying out your reasons why you need to keep the name.... or why do you not simply change the name?
Perhaps even more unedifying than the idea of Cowell trying to snaffle a charity's name is some of the comments from what we can only presume to be X Factor fans on the charity's Facebook page. Take Ross Greig:
Maybe instead of wasting time into long notes you should put more effort into the charity. The whole point of charity is helping people. But how can you do that whilst arguing on facebook... Priorities
Clearly, reading what is an admittedly long but fair explanation of the charity's position was a bit of a strain for Ross, and made his head hurt. Otherwise why would he have written a comment so preposterous? Unless he really believes that trying to protect the name they've been using for over a decade is a waste of time. Perhaps they should just view this as if Ricky Gervais had "reclaimed" their name for them, right?

Rhythmix have rather a good response:
Actually Ross, I completely agree with you. I don't see any reason at all why we should have to monitor this wall, or write long notes, time that could be usefully spent doing what we want to do. Could somebody please tell Simco that as well?
Jake Ryan looks on the bright side:
If worst comes to worst and you lose and change your name, people will:-
A) Only remember the girl band as the band that stole the charity name (which will always have comedic value and they will be despised)

B) Still remember who you USED to be and remember the name you change to, everybody remembers the World Wrestling Federation, im sure you guys will be fine!

+If worst comes to worst, and you lose the name and all your publicity and everything, you'll know to get better solicitors!
Yeah, that's a good point. If you lose the name you've spent all that time building up, all you need to do is mount an expensive rebranding exercise. A few weeks of nationwide TV programming under your new name and you'll be fine, yeah?

It's unclear if Jake remembers that the wrestling people had to change their name after a charity had to fight a legal action to protect their brand in the face of a muscular attempt to snatch a trademark by a populist entertainment company.