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Last sync:2022-12-25 20:30
In which John Green digs into the strange case of Kylie Jenner, Rise and Shine, and the trademark application that unleashed a torrent of fake news.
More background on trademarks and why Hank and I have chosen not to trademark DFTBA:

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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday.  I've been thinking a lot about Kylie Jenner.  By the way, this is a story in which no one is telling the entire truth, including me, but right, I've been thinking a lot about Kylie Jenner.  I don't want to be, exactly, but I went on Reddit and I saw this post with 129,000 upvotes titled "Kylie Jenner thinks she owns the phrase "rise and shine"."  Highly upvoted comments included 'can we fundraise to counter-sue?' and hundreds of other angry take downs and literally no one pointing out that this entire story was fictional.  

Then again, Jenner's response to the story was a little misleading.  Okay, so I guess at some point, Kylie Jenner said 'rise and shine' in a funny way that got extensively memeified and then Jenner quickly released some merch, which, by the way, is exactly what I would do if something I said were viewed a billion times on TikTok, but anyway, then TMZ reported that Jenner's company had filed to trademark the phrase 'rise and shine' in the context of cosmetics and clothing and people got rather upset.  

But the thing to remember is that trademarking a phrase is not the same thing as owning the phrase.  Like, Nike did not invent the idea of 'just doing it' and indeed, Shia LaBeouf is not infringing on Nike's trademark when he says, "Just do it!"  He would only be infringing on Nike's trademark if he said 'Just do it' in certain contexts, like the marketing of sportswear context.  

Similarly, if Kylie Jenner trademarked the phrase 'rise and shine', I could still annoy my children by saying 'rise and shine' every morning, I just couldn't start a cosmetics line called 'Rise and Shine'.  That is, of course, assuming the trademark applications are approved, which they might not be, because several other companies already have 'rise and shine' related trademarks which presumably Jenner's lawyers knew about because they are also seeking to trademark the somewhat less common phrase "riiise and shiiinnee" (rise with 3 I's and shine with 5 total vowels).  And then, just as outrage about these trademark applications is growing, The Gold Coast Bulletin in Australia publishes a story claiming that a small t-shirt company that sells 'Rise and Shine' t-shirts has received a cease and desist letter from Kylie Jenner.  This is the story that became a Tweet that got screenshotted and became a reddit post that got 129,000 upvotes and it is entirely false.  It has been denied not just by Jenner, but also by the Australian t-shirt company.

How did this story get published?  I don't know.  Maybe a source exaggerated, maybe there was a miscommunication.  The real question is how come I only read one story in The Gold Coast Bulletin this year and it was that one?  Right, like, the problem is that I am much more likely to click on their inaccurate news than on their accurate news, assuming they have any.  I know nothing about the outlet.  

So then Jenner says on Twitter, "I have not sent any Rise and Shine cease and desist letters.  Rise and Shine was an unexpected moment.  I had a lot of fun with it and I have laughed so hard seeing everyone's memes."  Which is an amazing statement and was definitely vetted by a lawyer.  That statement does an amazing job of avoiding the fact that should those trademark applications be granted, Jenner's company will be required by law to send lots of cease and desist letters, including potentially to small companies selling Rise and Shine t-shirts.  

If you have a trademark, you are not legally allowed to selectively enforce it and you have to enforce it.  Otherwise, you lose the trademark.  This is why, as explained elsewhere, Hank and I have never trademarked the phrase 'Don't Forget to be Awesome' or the initialism DFTBA.  In short, trademark law is complicated  I said at the beginning I wasn't gonna tell the whole truth, and I haven't.  Even this video has radically oversimplified it, but I hope it hasn't been too oversimplified because at a certain point, distillation becomes a form of deception.

That's true when it comes to the life and times of Kylie Jenner but also when it comes to much larger news stories, and this isn't only a problem on reddit.  I mean, all over the place, headlines mis-represented the truth.  I get that nuance isn't as likely to generate 129,000 upvotes as outrage, but until it is, we're gonna be swimming in a lot of misinformation.  Hank, I'll see you on Friday.