Zazzle illustrates a surprising lack of knowledge regarding IP law

Steven Trustrum Uncategorized

Zazzle has just informed me that it has removed all my Zod Fish and “Zod Says Kneel” products based solely on the use of the word “Zod.” Their reasoning,”Zod is a Superman character”, took me a bit by surprise considering a) they have t-shirts and other merch for sale that say “Kneel Before Zod”, the famous line from SMII, on them. At least one even has Terence Stamp’s face incorporated–just go to Zazzle.com and enter “zod” into the search field. (I won’t even get into how many products they have for sale with Superman’s shield or image on them.) They explained that Zod is DC’s IP and can’t be touched.

So, when I explained to the phone monkey I spent 30 minutes on hold waiting to speak to that I had the following open on my browser: the US patent and trademark’s search engine, the US copyrights site with the relevant laws regarding protecting a single word name and fair use regarding satire/parody, the US trademark site with the relevant laws with regards to graphic representations of same (including pointing out “Zod” is not a registered trademark), and numerous storefronts on their own site using “Zod” in their products (as previously mentioned), said phone monkey just kept repeating “you can’t use Zod. It’s a Superman villain” and explained that somehow my storefront was just the first in a sweep to get all those other products down as well.

Well, I can understand it they just said “it’s store policy that we don’t allow that sort of thing.” They do, after all, have the right to deny service as they see fit. If they’d just said that and not taken it the extra step to try and explain the legalities regarding DC IP I would have been annoyed but understood. However, I find the whole “you were caught during a sweep and all the rest of the products like it you pointed out to show us our reasoning is just so much bull are also coming down” a bit hard to swallow, especially when they start saying “Zod” is, in and of itself, DC intellectual property and unassailable, regardless of context (satire), design, and presentation. That’s just phone monkey speak for “I’m just doing what I’m told.” And Zazzle’s attempt to couch it in legalize only served to communicate that their phone monkeys have no idea what they are talking about.

When I asked to speak with a manager I was told everyone was out of the office. When would they be back? Oh, nobody knows, but I can leave a message and they’ll get back to me.

Yeah, right.

Oh, and let’s not talk about the phone monkey’s response when I pointed out they had a product category entitled “superhero.” (For those who aren’t aware of why this is ironic, Google “is superhero trademarked?”)

Okay, Zazzle. It looks like I’ll be taking those designs on over to Cafepress.