Oh no! We've said the censored word!
Originally, we had intended on calling our series of releases devoted to the punk rock love song "Kuschelpunk", and even released the first installment "Kuschelpunk 1" as a CD in July 1997, but within days of the release date, we got threatened with a lawsuit from a huge, multi-national company who themselves release a series of similarly titled samplers devoted to the brainless pop love song. The core of their argument, if you can believe it, was that the models on our sampler, Kuebel and Anita as seen here on the right, could be mistaken for the models on one of their samplers, resulting in a member of the unsuspecting, record buying public being tricked into buying our "product" instead of theirs (this only shows just how stupid they assume their own customers to be!)
Earlier, we had checked and found that the word "Kuschelpunk" had not be protected by the German Patent Office, so we promptly tried to trademark the name. We were soon denied a trademark for this word on the grounds that the world "Kuschel" is too descriptive for music. This means that no one is able to own the name "Kuschel" in relation to music, including the big, bad, music conglomorate threatening us. The letter from the Patent Office even mentions the name of their sampler as not being protectable! To defend ourselves, we sent them copies of this letter from the Patent Office, but that did not stop them one bit. They came with a new tactic, and said that if we did not immediately withdraw our sampler from the market, they would sue us, setting a "Streitwert" in the millions of German Marks. This is an amount claimed by the damaged party as the value of the case in case it would come in front of a judge, and is the basis for the percentage that the lawyers can claim as their wages. What this means is that although we were in the right, every letter we would write defending ourselves would cost us tens of thousands of marks. This is a favourite trick of big business, to claim huge amounts as the "Streitwert", in order to bully small business and get their way, regardless of the fact that they are in the wrong. Big business knows that the risk of financial ruin is simply too great for a small company or label, when even a comromise in front of a judge would mean financial ruin for the small business. What could we do? We withdrew the sampler.
The following August, at the PopKomm, Germany's largest music convention, we passed out flyers explaining the business tactics of this particular company and the fact that they did not own the name "Kuschel", a fact which even surprised their own employees. Maybe this explains why on each copy of every installment of their sampler series, they claim that the world "Kuschelrock" is a protected trademark, even though this is not the case. They are in fact claiming and enjoying the protection of a registered trademark, without actually owning the name. Now, I am no lawyer, but it seems to me that this would be illegal. Analists figure that that roughly one-third to one quarter of the yearly income from recorded music of this particular company in Germany comes from the sale of their series of samplers. Obviously, a lot of money is at stake here, and the last thing they want is for the world to know that the name of their samplers is not only not theirs, but legally anyone can use this name.
By the way, we did manage to get the trademark for the name "Kuschelpunk" in regards to clothing, which means that all those "Kuschelrock" T-shirts out there are being produced and sold against our wishes.
We were not the only ones threatened and bulllied by this particular company. Vicky Vomit, an artist from Berlin that specializes in a mixture of rock, punk and comedy, also put out a CD that he titled "Kuschelpunk", and what do you know, a matter of a week or so later the CD was delivered with a new title: "Zensiert 5". We immediately contacted his record company and sent them copies of our letter from the German Patent office in the hope that they would be willing to fight this bullshit, but they too buckled under the enourmous pressure of big business. Still, do check out the homepage of Vicky Vomit for a bit more info on his problems with this particular company.