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Belladonna, a jackalope, and the future of the world

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
What happened to the jackalope? What happened to BellaDonna Tails? Those questions are what several people have asked me.

Last month, my hubby and I decided that our business BellaDonna Tails needed to be changed. The business changed with the mediums that I was doing. BellaDonna Tails primary was myself when I was doing a lot of pottery and sculpture with a little bit of jewelry. It was also named after my deceased cat, Belladonna.

We wanted to rename the business because our focus had also changed. For me, the name was depressing. It really reminded me of my dead cat and after ten years, my focus has changed.

So we chose ‘The Jackalope’ as a domain name and named our business ‘Jackalope Studio’. The long term intention was that ‘The Jackalope’ would be the name of a fine art gallery when we moved out of Texas. This was a bad move…we stepped on somebody’s toes with this name. There is another jackalope out there in cyber land that also does jewelry. We received an email cease and desist…which at the time I found totally odd and a bit bizarre. To be honest, I really thought it was kinda of a joke…I don’t now after doing lots of research and digesting consulting legal advice. Intellectual property is a HUGE deal, which hasn’t been fully explored. If your curious nature compels you to read more…take a look at http://www.negativland.com/intprop.html. If you are really ambitious, read http://www.bu.edu/lawlibrary/research/ip/patent.htm.

Or if you are like me (and rather be in the studio), hire an attorney.

We didn’t find any jackalope conflicts on the TESS (http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm) before or after the notification. Then I looked at their website but didn’t think that they did the same type of jewelry nor did they even look like us nor were they in the same state. BUT during that cyber looking around, I did find a jackalope importer, a jackalope on ebay selling jewelry, a very odd disease that makes rabbits look like a jackalope, and some questionable references to jackalope-ing. Even without the C&D, the term ‘jackalope’ lost it’s appeal to me. Yes, the jackalope is a mythical creature…having much of the same favor as a dragon, werewolf, unicorn, chimera, phoenix, thunderbird, or even the Australian Aboriginal kestrel. This is another line of thought and I’m digressing, so back to the story.

Then we contacted a couple attorney friends who then told us to contact a trademark attorney. Which we did and am glad we took their advice. The end result is that it wasn’t so bizarre nor was it that odd. It comes down to jewelry is jewelry as music is music. Just because Domino Pizza and Domino Sugar can co-exist doesn’t mean that the jackalope or dragons or owls or whatever can.

Now there is a bright side…we trying the name on for size. We worked with it under a month, closer to only a couple of weeks. We didn’t have huge amounts of money tied to it or any financial gain. This whole issue brought me to an understanding that every small business needs to consult an attorney to look over their business direction.

The C&D from the jackalope folks brought up even a bigger issue…the name also being attached to a major southwestern importer that also has retail locations. There is nothing more damaging to an artist or art in general than being associated with imports in any way, shape, or form. This is just my opinion, for what it is worth…but isn’t that the way of bloggers? (smile)

I labor very hard for my work not be confused with costume or imported jewelry. That’s the reason why we do so many different mediums…we try to run with a 90/10 rule. That means we hand make 90% or more of what goes into our jewelry. We don’t make seed beads or some of the smaller accent beads. We don’t make the sterling from raw silver. We make most of our clasps…there are times that a design calls for either a trigger or lobster claw clasp. The lampwork beads is made by us, the wire work is done by us, the complex seed bead work is by us…we do chain maille, lapidary, hot glass, metalsmithing, and the list goes on.

I’m still working on perfecting my glass and metalsmithing skill base. I still need to add stone carving, engraving, and maybe some higher detailed hot glass skills. I’m still working on making interesting sterling chain and my enameling skills. It’s taken decades to even get this far to be able to do mixed media jewelry; even in my limited capabilities so why would I want to be associated with an importer? (Or with another jeweler for that matter.) I don’t, it intricately takes away the ‘art’ from art jewelry.

So you have read this far, let me make myself perfectly crystal clear. By no means am I trying to be down play this situation nor am I trying to be a smartass. I’m also looking at the future and the world as a whole. Today’s world has become very small because of the internet, advances in technology, and the age of communication. The world, in my opinion, as also taken on a “them and us” sort of way of dealing with things.

So is it all about the money? So is it all about slick packaging and marketing? So it is about get the other guy before they get you? These are colossal topics in relation to the world in general. Or the small business person? Or even the small non-profit that is trying to give back to their community? Or how our government interacts with other governments? That’s a topic that I would wager is causing many heated discussions. To pare it down, just how does this impact the art community? What the answers are, I don’t know.

Just living in the United States has become increasing complex at an alarming rate. I can think of several prime examples…IRS code (who files your taxes?), our legal system, and even how our ‘News’ is fed to us.

Well I digressed…I will finish up the jackalope and belladonna topic tomorrow…so we moved on….but this is were the hard part comes. What were we going to call ourselves?

Same bat time, same bat place. (smile)

~Moon
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