Burning Man founders in trademark dispute

According to an SF Weekly article, John Law, co-founder of Burning Man, is suing co-founder and “leader” Larry Harvey, either for the payment of lost revenue on use of trademarks held by Burning Man, LLC, or for the opening of the trademarks to the public domain.

Trademarks? LLCs? Lawsuits? This is the counterculture?

I first heard of Burning Man sometime around the time of Mosaic 2.0, when I was working for some friends who had started an ISP. One of them would make an annual trek to a performance art event in the Nevada desert, where he would take food and other services in exchange for giving the barterer the opportunity to fire stuffed animals out of a full-sized 1-inch cannon. And people got naked and danced. It sounded pretty cool to me.

Now Burning Man is huge. Said friend stopped going years ago because the event lost whatever magic it held for him. But more people attend each year. And, at least in theory, no spectators. Is there an upper bound? Is Burning Man still subversive? Was it ever? What does it mean that its founders are falling back on mainstream institutions (civil court) to resolve a dispute about their counter-cultural utopian experiment?

What would happen, as the above article postulates, if a mainstream company were to use a public-domained Burning Man trademark? A Burning Man iPod? Would that be a pollution? Or would it be a subversion of an institution worthy of Burning Man’s cacophonous roots?

2 Comments so far

  1. cd (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 11:44 am

    How can anything that charges – according to an article I read – just under $300 a ticket be counterculture at all?

    BMan is counterculture the way all of SF is – I loved living there, no mistake, but the perfect emblem of the city is the Gap at the corner of Haight/Ashbury. (And no, that it was started in the City doesn’t make it less modern-day Gap-ish). Bless this city of contradictions and irony.


  2. dln (unregistered) on January 28th, 2007 @ 4:23 am

    @cd: A perfect example, since that very Gap is now closed.



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