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January 31, 2009

It's Hip to Be Ethical

Babble.com has been making a splash ever since it launched its self-described website for hipster parents. But it has attracted its fair share of controversy for veering from the ethical path in a rather nasty way, one that was disrepectful to both parents and members of the creative community. That led to a nasty backlash by members of the Babble community, proving that as much as parents want their websites to be hip, they also want them to be ethical.

This week, Babble.com announced its intention to become the dominant parenting website, overtaking iVillage.com, Parents.com, and BabyCenter.com, and other top websites. My advice to Rufus Griscom -- not that he's likely to pay attention to what I have to say -- is to pay attention to the small and seemingly unimportant ethical details. These things do matter with parents. And they can take on a life of their own if parents think that a corporation has behaved badly. Just ask my friend Julie, who recently gave a piece of her mind to Motrin.

I'd like to be able to wish Babble.com all the best, but right now I have an ethical bone to pick with them. It's an issue they've been ignoring for the past year-and-a-half.

What bone could I possibly have to pick with Babble.com? If you take a look at the banner which was published in yesterday's New York Times article about Babble.com's plans to become the parenting website category killer, you will note that the accompanying screen shot features the Strollerderby banner. And the Strollerderby banner features a catchy little tagline: "The Mother of All Parenting Blogs."

As you might suspect, I have a bit of a problem with Babble branding Strollerderby with a subhead that incorporates

1. the title of one of my parenting books, with "books" being replaced by "blogs" to reflect the context (The Mother of All Parenting Books -- part of THE MOTHER OF ALL series I launched with Wiley Canada in 2000; and was published for American parents by Wiley Publishing Inc. in 2004),
2. a trademark I hold both in the US and in Canada (THE MOTHER OF ALL) Note: there are numerous other related trademarks,
3. a blog name that is very similar to the name of a parenting blog I have been publishing since 2004 (The Mother of All Blogs).

Strollerderbying over someone else's intellectual property rights may be the hip way to run a business. But it certainly isn't the ethical way to run a business.

Surely the creative types at Babble.com can come up with a catchy tagline for Strollerderby that doesn't involve taking something of mine.

I'm tempted to hold a contest to come up with a substitute alternative tagline for Strollerderby. What do you think? Anyone want to play for free books? (Free books for the top ten non-rights infringing names. Winners can choose from any of these titles. If you're Canadian, I'll substitute the Canadian edition, if you'd like.)

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hey! what are they doing stealing YOUR tag line! $%**#$!

What I can't understand is why the company is choosing to ignore my rights as a trademark holder. The whole reason I went to the expense and trouble of registering my trademark was so that I'd have rights under the law. Should we all just ignore the laws we find inconvenient or bothersome?

Take them on, legally and formally. Babble is notorious for being unethical, pilfering people's intellectual property, stealing ideas, etc. And why would you (or we) come up with other ideas for Strollerderby? That't their job, one that they've already failed to do once before by stealing your idea.

Good point, Natalie. They don't deserve any freebies, do they?

My lawyer is on the case. I resent having to pay her to convince others to do the right thing (ethically, legally, etc.) I (naively) believed at the outset that all I needed to do was point out that there was a problem and the problem would be rectified once I produced evidence that I was the trademark holder. Isn't that the way things are supposed to work? Sheesh.

It's called the WWW because it's the Wild West Web.

I hardly bother with their stupidity since when strollerderby was launched the image was a mom jogging on Vancouvers seawall and they had no Canadian blogs affiliated with them.

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