Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Don't Tell UPS That I Own Brown Loafers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Don't Tell UPS That I Own Brown Loafers

Article excerpt

I'm here to turn myself in. My life as an outlaw began with a pair of brown shoes.

Brown shoes had gotten me in trouble once before, at my high school prom. My borrowed tux looked OK, but those snobs sniggered at my brown penny loafers. Still, I think I was right about the socks - they matched my tux shirt.

Anyway, the other day I was in a bookstore, flipping through a magazine, when I saw an ad for United Parcel Service. My eyes wandered to the miniscule print at the bottom of the page.

There I learned that UPS, the UPS brandmark, and the color brown are registered trademarks of United Parcel Service of America Inc. All rights reserved.

UPS owns the color brown?

My eyes fell to my feet, and I gasped at the sight of my brown wingtips.

I tried to look calm as I crept toward the door to make my getaway. I fervently hoped nobody would notice my shoes and turn me in for violating a trademark.

Hurrying to the car, I flexed my knees until the hems of my pant legs slid down and partially covered my shoes. I wondered if this was how Groucho Marx learned his famous walk.

I shut my car door and collapsed in relief. No one could see my brown shoes. But now I was a fugitive.

How could I know that United Parcel Service owned the color brown? How could I know that they owned those three words and that combination of the three letters that begin them?

Had I broken a law enforced by whatever federal agency handles trademarks, logos, slogans, and corporate colors?

Worse than that, I had challenged a multinational corporation with uniformed operatives around the world.

You've seen the men and women in brown uniforms speeding around town in those massive brown trucks that make Hummers look like Matchbox cars.

They patrol every neighborhood in the United States, stopping their trucks to leap down with a package and walk fast to your door. …

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