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Opinion Editorial

The legal row between Innovation Brewing in Sylva and Bell's Brewing from Michigan serves as an example of the murky waters of “intellectual property.” The “property” the two craft brewers are haggling over is the word “innovation” and its subsequent trademark usage. Bell's has been applying legal pressure for Innovation to rescind their federal trademark application because the word innovation is also used on a Bell's bumper sticker. There are also, to date, 2,172 other trademark filings that use the word “innovation.” One would think that there is plenty of “innovation” to go around for everyone.

This custody battle over a word has taken on the David vs. Goliath metaphor since Bell's brews about 600 times the amount of beer that Innovation does with no-doubt, the legal resources to match. The classic excuse made by those yielding the legal sledgehammer is that they only want to protect the public by avoiding brand confusion. You know, the kind of brand confusion you have between Paris, France and Paris, Tennessee. One is home to the Eiffel Tower and the other the home of the World's Biggest Fish Fry. Which is which? So much confusion!


Should one be intolerant toward intolerance? This question comes into play concerning the recent controversy at the University of Oklahoma. Making the rounds in the latest edition of America's racial divide is a 10- second impromptu video of a group of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) frat boys on a chartered bus chanting a racially-charged diatribe, that referenced lynching. This episode of America's Got NO Talent would have been of little consequence, if not for someone's phone camera and subsequent posting on the Internet.

To date, SAE has had its fraternity status suspended at the college and two students have been expelled. Of course college athletes can commit actual crimes without the teams they “represent” being barred from the school, so it appears that guilt by association may have monetary-based limitations.

OU has disregarded the issue of freedom of speech and seems to be dabbling in thought control. The event in question did not involve official college business, a university workplace, class time or even in what would be considered a public area. Unfortunately, neither is it a one-of-a-kind incident and the school's condemnation may have more to do with public relations than ethics. It wouldn't be the first time a (possibly) drunk college student said something incredibly stupid. However, it may be the first time such an incredibly stupid and counterproductive response has come from a college administration.


The question usually comes toward the end of a public meeting. Some knotty problem is being discussed, and someone in the audience will raise his or her hand and ask, “Okay, so what can I do about it?”

I love that question. Not because I’ve ever answered it to my satisfaction, but because it bespeaks such a constructive outlook. Democracy is no spectator sport and citizens are not passive consumers. I’m always invigorated by running into people who understand this. But that doesn’t make answering the question any easier.

The usual advice that politicians give is to vote, work for a candidate, let your elected officials know what you think, join an organization of like-minded citizens, and participate in community life. This is good counsel — but only as far as it goes. With a little more time now to answer the question, I’d add a few points.


In the last six months we've seen the passing of two prominent extraterrestrials – Mork and Spock from the planets Ork and Vulcan, respectively. Their earth names, of course, are Robin Williams and Leonard Nimoy. While both men had successful acting careers that encompassed many roles, their iconic alien persona’s in particular, will shine for many light years to come.

Back in August, I learned that Robin Williams had taken his life when a stranger in a shopping mall told me of the news. The young man said that he had a strong and a strange urge to tell someone of what he had learned. We chatted briefly, shook hands and I thanked him for sharing the news that was heavy on his heart. When Williams died I also felt a need to say something but was at a loss as to what to write, other than restating the obvious tragic nature of it all. I knew that the comedian's life and subsequent death had importance to me, but in what way, I wasn't sure.

Last week, my friend Sallee told me about the passing of Leonard Nimoy. She initially said that Dr. Spock instead of Mr. Spock had died, which is technically correct since the famous pediatrician Benjamin Spock died 17 years ago. All teasing aside, there's something comforting about directly being told of someone's passing. For this reason I have given my friends standing instructions not to text or Facebook my demise.


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