I am the de facto leader of a Stitch 'n Bitch group (de facto because I started it and nobody else wants to organize). Because of this, I am in contact with SnB leaders from many groups.
As many of you know (all three of you reading this), a company known as Sew Fast Sew Easy has trademarked the name Stitch & Bitch Cafe. They actually did this some time ago, but lately it's become a national issue because they hassled yahoo to send cease and desist orders to all yahoo groups that had Stitch 'n Bitch in their names or group descriptions. Which yahoo did and those of us who owned the offending yahoo groups did as we were told. This was at least a month ago. However, groups are getting harassed yet again. This time, the problem was that the phrase Stitch 'n Bitch was present in their archived messages (which should not have been surprising since these groups had, until recently, been calling themselves Stitch 'n Bitch). Fortunately, I haven't received such a notice, but I am now keeping a back-up copy of our member list should our group just disappear one day. However, I sympathize with my sister groups and cannot blame them for their acrimonious comments. And believe me when I say some of these people are hopping mad!
In the first cease and desist order, we all pretty much knew what it was about and went through and removed the phrase Stitch 'n Bitch from every thinkable location on our sites. However, in this second wave of c and d orders, people had no idea what the problem was. As far as they knew, they had removed everything in violation of the trademark. These people called yahoo who told them to call SFSE. SFSE refused to answer their calls. Some people were hung up on. Finally, after many, many calls and emails, people started getting responses with specific details about what was wrong. For many, that was messages in the archives. For some, it was their listing in the yahoo directory because yahoo hadn't gotten around to updating their group description.
Hence, "Can't we just all get along?"
Doesn't SFSE have anything better to do? Is there now someone there who job it is to monitor yahoo 24/7 to make sure no nefarious group of knitters is using their trademarked phrase? (And we won't even discuss how their trademark is for Stitch _and_ Bitch while we are saying Stitch 'n Bitch.) The party line from SFSE has been that they have a right to protect what is theirs and we would do the same. And I could see their point--if any of us was actually making any money off the name. However (leaving aside the Debbie Stoller books), we are all non-profit groups of stitchers who merely use the name because it is cute and because it's been around since the Depression, if not before. It's beyond me how using the name for our groups is hurting them enough to put this much time and energy into stopping us--if it is indeed hurting them at all.
What is hurting them, though, is the fact that there are now thousands of knitters out there, who previously had no feelings of ill will toward SFSE, who now want to find the owner of SFSE and burn her at the stake. In other words, it'll be a cold day in hell before any of us ever buys a single item from them.
I realize that there are other, more important, more depressing things going on around the world (war, ethnic cleansing, people dying of starvation), but somehow this saddens me more than other current events. What's happening on a global scale is too far removed for me to cry over. But this is in my own neighborhood--it affects my very own support group, one that has been so good to me. And what is so wrong with the world today, and the people in it, if a group of (mostly) women can't get together, talk and knit and help and praise and comfort, while calling themselves anything they want? What have people become if they are so worried about what is "theirs" that they are willing to harrass people thousands of miles away, people they have never met, people who are not even trying to sell something and therefore are not competitors? It reminds me of a small child, holding tight to her doll, shouting, "Mine!" while mother says, "No, you have to share." Nobody is saying the other child is going to take the doll home, nobody is saying the first child will be out of a doll at the end of the day (unless it's the mother who takes the doll to punish the child for not sharing!). I mean, is it really reasonable to expect peace in the middle east among people who have larger grievances if we who are living comfortably in the States are being harrangued for the names of our local knitting circles?
I don't know. I don't have the answers. And part of me says I should just completely change the name of the group just to get out of the line of fire. But that feels like giving in to bullying, and I am firmly opposed to that.
And so, tonight, I will get together with a group of friends at a gathering devoted to making holiday gifts entitled Holiday/Gift SnB and try to forget there are such petty people in the world.