Saturday, July 1, 2023

What's In A Name - Part the Second: Lawyer Up!

Before going any further, I want to thank Brendan Cunningham for sharing an article from his excellent site - Horolonomics that provides a very well researched bit of background on the latest chapter in what has rapidly evolved into a true Watch Town "Shit Show".

As I had theorized in my post of exactly one week ago, it seemed that the intellectual property dispute that had thrown a bucket of cold cat pee on the Argon kickstarter project was most likely down to similarity of naming conventions between what some of my colleagues in the Fourth and Fifth Estates identify as the Protagonist (Argon) and the Antagonist (Aragon).

For those of you unfamiliar, the Protagonist is meant to be the "good guy" or "white hat" in the story. The Antagonist is, well, the opposite. But as we all have learned by now, life is not exactly black and white. I would propose that the roles in this little mini-drama have been confused by my colleagues (and many of their readers / listeners / viewers) and I will elaborate on that shortly.

But first, I draw your attention to Brendan Cunningham's article on the dispute which has now become a legal one -

And this is where I feel that the roles of Antagonist and Protagonist have been incorrectly assigned. Put yourself in the shoes of the Aragon owner. You own a brand, you've put in time and money, you might not be the sexiest beast out there, but you've had successful Kickstarter campaigns. You may not be a household name in Watch Town, but you've pretty much played by the rules. In my book? You are the Protagonist.

Across the great expanse of the Atlantic, a pair of young men are working on a new watch design. They pick a brand name, and for better or worse (and this is giving them the benefit of the doubt), because there was not an EXACT match in names registered in the US (I'm not going to wade into EU or global registrations), they decide to try to register the name as is. Again, we will assume that either they did not do a deep enough dive when they searched the directory to learn that there was an existing brand known as Aaragon, or they simply assumed that it would not be an issue. Again - this is giving them the benefit of the doubt. And it is also an assumption that maybe, just maybe, the ink had not completely dried on an approval of their name registration here in the lower 48. Per Mr. Cunningham's article, the owner/ operator of Aragon initially filed a complaint with the USPTO back in April. This is the organization that determines eligibility to register a trademark or trade name in the US.  But wait, it goes deeper. In addition to this, Aragon's lawyers sent not one, but two cease and desist letters to Argon's owner/s. According to the suit that was filed (more on that in a moment) Aragon's lawyers got back crickets. And yes, that is a "pun intended" which we will also get to in a moment. With no response to what at that point would be 4 warnings: Complaint to the USPTO, complaint to Kickstarter, and not one, but two cease and desist letters sent from genuine lawyers, the current understanding out there is that Argon opted to not reply. 

And so this past Tuesday - June 27, Aragon filed suit against the (on paper) owner of the nascent Argon - Theo Auffret. Curious to relate, on pretty much all of their promotional material, written communication, interviews, Kickstarter and even their website, Mr. Auffret and Mr. Laidet have shared equal billing. Mr. Laidet is by many accounts one of the owners of Nivada Grenchen, as well as Excelsior Park, as well as the owner of a white label assembler / contractor. Also worth noting is that Mr. Laidet has gone on record as referring to himself as the CEO of Vulcain during an interview with Wei Koh of Revolution - 
Needless to say, it's all a bit confusing. 

Courtesy of NBC

But back to the matter at hand. Despite two communications going to Argon HQ in Paris, no response came. Nor, as far as anyone knows, did Argon make any effort at mediating a solution with Aragon. And owing to this, I would place their role as the Antagonist.

And then this most recent twist in the tail - communication went out to some of their Kickstarter backers that Argon would now be known as SpaceOne. Long story too late to make short, Kickstarter completely shut down the initial project and refunded all of the backers. I was forwarded what I assume as an official "Brand formerly known as Argon" communication sent out to some of their backers which was forwarded on to me by a few different readers. Apparently Argon will now try to fund their launch via direct backing (i.e. pre-order through their website). And the brand will now be known as SpaceOne. Let's just hope that name hasn't already been registered somewhere else...

And this raises even more questions, and reinforces my feelings that if there is a bad actor here, it is Argon: 

1. Did they wait for final confirmation that they had indeed secured the name before launching their Kickstarter campaign.

2. If they did, why are they changing the name now?

3. Did they make any real or sincere effort to reach out to the owner of Aragon and try to resolve the dispute?

As I said the first go round, the real victims here are the Kickstarter backers. Whether or not Aragon is willing to accept a sincere apology and settle the dispute is up to them. And lastly? Let's hope the guys at Argon have, or at least will learn from the experience. The final (as of now) outcome could have been avoided at several points along the way.

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