Saturday, January 31, 2009

IP lesson of the day: Don't mess with Gene Simmons

The NY Times has a hilarious story about a Swiss ski company that had the bright idea of putting images of Kiss frontman Gene Simmons on its skis. Without a license. The company, The Faction Collective S.A., apparently tried to get a license, but got no response from Simmons' people. So it went ahead and slapped a painted image of Simmons, "his red tongue hanging," on the tip of its skis and headed to a big ski trade show in Vegas. Well, imagine the surprise of The Faction Collective's booth-manners when Simmons -- there to promote rival snowboard and ski accessory line MoneyBag -- himself showed up at the Faction booth:
“My friend said, ‘Oh my God, it’s Gene,’ and then he bolted — he just left,” said Ross Janzen, who was manning the booth for the Faction Collective. “I turned around and it was Gene. People were standing three-deep around him. I was completely dumbfounded. He’s an imposing figure.”
Company founder Tony McWilliam knew the risk of proceeding without a license but, hey, in the extreme sports world, you gotta take extreme risks:

We knew there might be a risk, but we wanted to get some impact.

Well, he certainly got that:

“If you’re a bootlegger, and you think you’re going to get by and put something out illegally, it will cost you more to defend that than simply getting a license,” Simmons said in a telephone interview Friday. “They think they can get by being a nuisance, just pests, until they meet Gene Simmons, who kills pests dead.”

Janzen offered to give Simmons the skis. Instead, Simmons gave Janzen his lawyer’s contact information.

And Simmons gets results:
For now, Faction is playing it safe. It is trying to license the image. If that fails, it will not sell the ski with that graphic.

“We’re not selling the ski,” said Billy Miller, Faction’s head of marketing. “We’re a small ski company.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Ben,

    Thank you for picking up the post. I am one of the co-founders of the company.

    It was a funny momement, I will say.

    However, I want to make it clear that Faction is very IP aware and - while it makes for good drama and we are pleased to have gotten Gene's attention - the reason we brought the sample (which we sold none of, nor will we unless we close a deal) was to see if people even liked the topsheet before spending more time, effort, money chasing down Gene and Kiss.

    You can keep up with Faction on


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