Gay doll gets UPS all hot and bothered.
January 16, 2002 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Gay doll gets UPS all hot and bothered. Apparently Billy, the first openly gay doll, has his hands full fending off UPS lawyers for trademark infringement, because of the BPS logo and outfit Billy is sporting. I've read elsewhere that Totem says it's a parody and doesn't plan to back down. The thing that made me laugh the hardest was the collection of limited editions at the homo depot. Tell 'em Carlos & Tyson sent ya'.
posted by mikhail (19 comments total)
Holy Shit! Billy's packin'!

And people bitch about Barbie's unrealistic proportions!
posted by ColdChef at 2:41 PM on January 16, 2002

Alternate joke: "Billy's gonna have to pay extra if he's planning on shipping that package."
posted by ColdChef at 2:50 PM on January 16, 2002

oh my god... that' ludicrous.. in fact, it's ludacris (but i'd prefer not to receive his southern hospitality.) excuse me while i go somewhere and cry...
posted by lotsofno at 3:00 PM on January 16, 2002

Since when is the UPS man a gay archetype? I thought the typical gay archetypes were represented thoroughly among the members (hee hee!) of the Village People...?
posted by UncleFes at 3:12 PM on January 16, 2002

I was searching for some more info on the whole thing but my guess is it's a conspiracy. They're trying to keep the story from busting out and everyone is remaining tight-lipped about the whole thing.
posted by mikhail at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2002

Are you kidding? There are a lot of guys who go crazy for a man in uniform, UPS browns included.
posted by jason at 4:52 PM on January 16, 2002

What's an "openly gay doll"?
posted by jpoulos at 5:10 PM on January 16, 2002

What's an "openly gay doll"?

A doll marketed as gay unlike earring magic ken which is still in the closet about his sexuality. heh
posted by mikhail at 5:48 PM on January 16, 2002

This whole thing is ricockulous.
posted by hellinskira at 5:53 PM on January 16, 2002

Since when is the UPS man a gay archetype? I thought the typical gay archetypes were represented thoroughly among the members (hee hee!) of the Village People...?

It's time to leave the '70s behind, Uncle Fes. These days, a macho man wears brown and drives a big delivery truck.
posted by anapestic at 6:23 PM on January 16, 2002

Since when is the UPS man a gay archetype?

There are some fine-looking women driving those brown trucks, too!
posted by Carol Anne at 6:25 PM on January 16, 2002

Wow, those are expensive dolls. What's the normal legal procedure in cases like this? Aren't they protected by parody, or by a notice saying that there is no official UPS affiliation? As it is, UPS is only giving Totem free publicity.
posted by Charmian at 7:29 PM on January 16, 2002

Trademark & parody is a murky area of case law. Generally parody is a permitted defense, but in this case it might be seen as attempting to either profit off the UPS brand or conversely to sully it.

The dumb part is that they used an obvious UPS logo with one letter changed. If they hadn't done that, the brown uniform alone would be hard to litigate (especially given the brown-uniform package delivery services in TV shows and movies such as Drew Carey).
posted by dhartung at 10:30 PM on January 16, 2002

Oh, and as for UPS's response: Everybody always says Boy, the mean ol' corporation should get a sense of humor, they don't need to sue, when in point of fact, trademark law requires companies to vigorously defend their marks, lest they become generic like "aspirin" or "escalator". Sucks for the little guy, of course.
posted by dhartung at 10:32 PM on January 16, 2002

I'm straight and I still get excited by the UPS man. Everytime he comes over he brings me a present ( even if it is a present which I have already paid for).

Just ask my girlfriend how anxious I was for the UPS man to bring me my new digital camera last week. I was the doggie in the window.
posted by ttrendel at 11:03 PM on January 16, 2002

dhartung: Isn't this a separate issue from the risk of a trademark being used generically? UPS isn't going to lose its trademark because of the BPS dolls.

The more likely argument is that these dolls do damage to the reputation of UPS trademarks, and if that's the case, it probably would have been better for the company to ignore the dolls instead of giving the manufacturer millions in free publicity.
posted by rcade at 6:21 AM on January 17, 2002

Doll sexuality, regardless whether it is pitched as homo or hetero, is just completely nonsensical. Guess I'm just too literalist.
posted by yesster at 7:47 AM on January 17, 2002

These days, a macho man wears brown and drives a big delivery truck.

Mea culpa. I should have spotted the rather obvious symbolism of a man throwing a "package" in a big brown truck. Don't need Freud standing around with a notebook for that one.
posted by UncleFes at 9:19 AM on January 17, 2002

Probably no one's reading this thread anymore, but there was an interesting piece in the New Yorker about the increased power of copyrights this century, and the fact that Mickey Mouse was due to enter the public domain in 2003, until the Sonny Bono Act was quietly passed, giving Disney another 20 years of control (keep in mind that any character - e.g., jolly red-suited Santa Claus - was originally one person's idea).

Also, a few years ago, I made a batch of I guess you'd call them protest stickers against Starbuck's, and I used their logo as the basis. The first two printers I went to refused to print them because they were concerned about copyright infringement. I was shocked by this because I had figured the reason for the copyright was so that random people couldn't profit of off Starbuck's' (?yikes) work, and customers could know who was affiliated with whom. My stickers were not going to mislead anyone in those departments, and were clearly making a statement about the store, so to me were obviously protected under freedom of speech. But people these days are less sure about how far the parody boundary goes, and I've no doubt people get lawsuits brought against them for parodies all the time (The Wind Done Gone is one recent example that got news). Of course I think it's completely wrong, but I'm sure it happens.

The BPS thing is slightly murkier, because it's not stating an opinion about UPS, but (perhaps) making an insinuation - the difference between protected speech of opinion vs. unprotected speech of slander or libel. Still, I think we've gotten way too caught up in the power of brands and corporations - it doesn't say UPS, it clearly says BPS, and more importantly, it's obviously a joke, not an attempt to take UPS's business by using similar looking uniforms & logos.

okay, looked it up, & that NYer article was about The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig.
posted by mdn at 1:55 PM on January 17, 2002

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