Intellectual property rights are so powerful that it is tempting to stretch them into new areas – where they weren’t (originally) meant to be.
Or at least where they weren’t originally thought of.
Traditional examples are patentability of business methods and gene sequences, copyright and the internet, trade marks for functional items, shapes, smells and sounds, etc etc.
So, now we have AT&T using trademarks to try and solve the problem
of mobile phone unlocking (which allows a phone to be used on any
network, not just the one tied to the manufacturer).
We this kind of thing all the time in all areas of IP. It makes sense, right? It’s the way IP law keeps up with progress – right? In fact, I think it is an invaluable component of an IP Strategy to think long and hard about this and how it applies to you.
But, should there be a limit?
There are already limits in place – the international IP treaties, the local legislation in each country and its interpretation by the judiciary in each instance – all supported by local competition law.
That seems enough to me.