People sometimes ask me what was the most difficult bot I’ve ever created. I tell them that the bots are easy–coming up with the name “FOBOTS”, and then trademarking it–THAT was difficult.
If I had it to do over again, I’d probably have hired a lawyer. But when you’re on the US Patent and Trademark Office website, you have no idea how long it’s going to take. So you start filling out forms. And it’s complicated and might as well be written in Klingon, but you persevere and finally you get to the bottom of the page where there’s a button that says “next”, and you think you’re done. But you’re not. “Next” takes you to a whole different set of hoops to jump through. So you jump through THOSE hoops, researching everything along the way so you hope you’re making the right choices. More “Nexts”, more hoops. At some point, you think “Maybe I should just turn this over to an attorney”. But you don’t, because you think “I’ve just spent hours on this, and I MIGHT be just one click away from being finished, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to turn this over to a lawyer who will just push that final “Next” button. And, of course, you’re not even close, but you have no freakin’ way of knowing that.
So finally, I get it all done, and send it off (along with a sizable check) and wait to be able to add that precious little circle with an “r” inside to my business name. Months pass. Finally, a letter from the trademark office, stating that the description of my product as “robot sculptures made primarily from found objects” is not valid, as “found objects” is not a term they recognize, and–incredibly long story short–we’re now “robot sculptures made primarily from non-precious metals”.
I’m telling you this now for two reasons. One, I recently had to go through this all over again to renew my trademark. The guvmint doesn’t tell you it’s up for renewal, but you receive multiple letters from patent and trademark attorneys saying “Hey! You don’t want to go through all THAT again, do you?” But this time was easier, and I did it myself. Buh-bye $300, and we’re good for another six to ten years. I’m not sure. I’ll wait for the lawyer letters to appear again.
The other reason I’m sharing this is that the word I made up eight years ago has become a part of the English language. Which is kinda cool. I go to Pinterest, and there are hundreds of boards labeled “Fobots”–some of the work on them is mine, most is not. And that’s OK. But I’ve had to explain to a few artists lately that they simply can’t use my name for their business. Let me put it this way–you can start a soda company, but you can’t call your beverage “Coke” or “CocaCola”. You can sell facial tissues, but even if “Kleenex” is a standard part of the English language now, you’re gong to have to think of a different name. In conclusion, I encourage you all to go forth and make robots. But please don’t call them Fobots. That name is taken.