Protective chant

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - July 7, 2019 - 12:00am

In an unusual story, it is reported that the misbehaving rapper Madame Cardi B has applied to trademark the catchphrase “okurrr”.

Anyone heard of this before? I think I may have, and it’s reported by The Guardian that other celebrities who have used the term include Khloé Kardashian and RuPaul. To the unenlightened, “okurr” just means an affirmation of another one's statement, like we use "uh-huh" or "that's right". Per explanation of the Patent and Trademark Office of the US, it's more commonly used when the affirmation is needed to validate someone else putting in place another person. At least, I think that's what the explanation meant.

Essentially, when a kibitzer listening to a conversation agrees with a speaker who happens to be putting in place (or putting down) another person, that's when the term "okurrr" is uttered. Much like when we say "amen" to Ethel Booba's satisfying tweets.

Fortunately, the US Patent and Trademark Office turned down the trademark application. The office said this term was already widely used by drag queens and celebrities. Hence, okurrr couldn't be appropriated solely by Cardi B.

Another instance of American celebrities overreaching, I guess. (Remember when Kylie Jenner wanted to trademark "Kylie", which Kylie Minogue naturally (and successfully) opposed? Kylie Versoza and Kylie Padilla would have been forced to object as well, if they could suddenly no longer use their names to entertain fans.)

But trademark (and other intellectual property) protection is something we don't naturally think about in our context, as what happened to this young artist in Los Baños, who was taken aback when he saw blow-ups of his paintings used for a mega event by a big energy company in Manila. Pictures were posted by guests against the gorgeous backdrop of his golden rice fields, because naturally, the visuals were Instagram-worthy.

The province-based artist was at a quandary. How to enforce his artistic rights versus an industrial giant? He could have been squashed, if the company saw fit to do so.

A simple, respectful email was able to set things right, as the company immediately responded to the email, and called to account its production/events company for the picturesque mess. The events specialist apologized, paid a small license fee, and donated a bit to charity per the wishes of the artist. Okurrr!

That should have been the end of this story, except that this artist had the unfortunate luck of being really good. He also discovered that some of his vibrant renditions of the Laguna countryside are now being sold in mainland China as, guess what, reproductions of Van Gogh paintings!

What to do? How to enforce his rights in China and run after Chinese thieves and infringers? How to tell innocent buyers they are buying not bucolic interpretations of French vineyards but rather dreamscapes of Tagalog granaries?

Many artists only have their innate talent to rely on, and have no network or safety net available to protect their artistic output. Within this digital world, it's so easy for original works to be copied then widely disseminated. Whoever has access to capital and technology can quickly reproduce and make buckets of money, denying the original artists the fruits of their artistic vision.

Makes one want to become an intellectual property cop. (Cue visions of busting into sweatshop factories churning out cheap repros, and destroying unlicensed artworks). I wonder if that can become my alternative career. I would become the best friends of artists and the enemy of copyright abusers.

After a raid, we would throw confiscated stuff onto a giant bonfire, and then chant that magically satisfying and un-trademarked phrase, "okurrr."


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