Monday, May 14, 2007

Brands and Intellectual Property Rights in Iraq

I had barely gotten off my plane in Istanbul when I saw a sight that cracked me up.

I was on my way between the international and domestic terminals when I saw this motor scooter outside the window:


"Domino's, huh?" I thought. I had never seen Domino's in a non-western context before.

Later that evening, when the group had gathered, we took a break at the first and, as far as I recall, only, indoor mall in Turkey.

The Galleria, about 15 years old, I was told, features an indoor ice skating rink. And around the rink, a cluster of eateries. Including . . .


Yes. Pizza Hut. (Relatively rare in my experience overseas.)


Kentuckey Fried Chicken. (Relatively common.)

And, of course . . .




Now this was another first for me. I don't recall having ever seen Burger King overseas. Anywhere. But there they were, right opposite McDonald's. (Of course!)

Now, this is a slightly different angle on the same subject.

I've been plenty of places around the world where one sees familiar brands. Northern Iraq was the first place I've been where I see direct, public rip-offs of North American brands. . . .


"Golden Arches," anyone? --The restaurant's name is Maiorca. And that familiar yellow-on-red "M" sure looks nice when you have a name like Maiorca!


"MaDonal"? Hey! What's the big deal? We couldn't get a legitimate McDonald's license, so we decided to cozy on in. . . .

Here's one:


Anything strike you as a little odd about this sign?

Can't quite figure it out?

How about if we move in a little closer?


Oh! The Colonel! Colonel Sanders! How nice of you to grace the sign of the Golden Fingers!

Now, I first saw this one on a billboard. And I didn't have my camera with me. So I had to go back to find this place . . .


Subway Computer Services! Why, of course!

The proprietor of this shop saw me shooting pictures and he came out to talk to me. I was a little concerned he might object to my taking pictures.

"You like it?" he asked, implying that maybe I was shooting pictures because I was enamored of his cleverness, perhaps (???).

"I think it is funny," I said. I didn't clarify whether I thought it was funny "haw-haw," or funny "strange/odd/inappropriate.

"Do you see anything different about it?" he asked.

I have to confess, though I do enjoy Subway sandwiches on occasion, I don't frequent the place often enough or pay close enough attention to their logo to be totally sure.

"Did you alter the arrows on the ends of the word?" I asked.

"No!" he said with obvious pride. "I took it straight off the internet!"

"Oh!" I exclaimed, again not clarifying my meaning.

He was a young man, so I asked him if he was a student. (There was a large, modern, and, apparently, well-equipped university nearby.)

"Oh yes," he said. "I am a student at Baghdad University."

"So why are you up here?" I asked. "Aren't classes in session?"

"Yes," he replied. "But it is safer up here."

As we spoke further, he explained that he spent all but one week of every semester "up north," to avoid the fighting.

"So why are you a student at Baghdad University rather than _______ [I mentioned the name of the local institution.]

"The diploma from Baghdad University is worth much more than a diploma from [the local u]niversity," he said.

. . . Too bad he can't see how his use of someone else's brand tends to degrade that brand's value. . . .

As I discussed some of these sights with Bob, he suggested that the Kurds are due for a rude awakening as they attempt to expand their economic capabilities. "They still need to learn the meaning and value of intellectual property," Bob said.

I think he's right.

Oh, yes!

I saw a few of these trucks around . . .


"Are they . . . ?"

Yes, they are. From China.

No one knew if and how much of a rip-off they might be, or whether they might be based on legitimate original designs by Chinese engineers. But there they were: proudly proclaiming their brand name for all to see, yet looking for all the world like Toyota or Nissan products.
blog comments powered by Disqus