One defining feature of the commercialized gemstone industry is the trademark. The naming, branding, and registration of specific names, styles, and even cuts as intellectual property is nothing new and yet it seems so much more common. Why, how, and who is doing this? A quick investigation may not give us all the answers we need, but may get us closer to the truth.
To get why gemstones and crystals are increasingly branded, we have to understand intellectual property law but don’t worry I will try as hard as possible to not make it boring.
Although you are probably familiar with the terms like “trademark” and “copyright” you may not know what they actually mean. Intellectual property law is notoriously complex. Unless you know the language of lawyers, legalese, you may never know. Fortunately, we have a legalese Rosetta Stone and I will give a quick rundown.
Trademarks notify consumers the source of your good or service, provide legal protection for it, and make it illegal to counterfeit it. They aren’t shields against all types of use, however.
So how do they differ from copyright and patents? Patents are inventions, like a pharmaceutical company’s specific of drug. Copyright is artistic in nature, like a movie or book. Some copyright is even considered "automatic" and just comes with whatever a person creates. Patents and trademarks are different.
Trademarks prevent someone from taking Coca-Cola’s logo and plastering it on their own soft drink brand. Patents prevent someone from copying, using, selling, or producing a company’s own invention. Copyright protects the creator(s) from reproducing, distributing, or displaying something like a movie (which is why movie piracy is illegal). Of course, with consent this can be fine.
Brands, trademarks, and intellectual property rights are all integral to major enterprises these days. It’s just about impossible to find a company that doesn’t have some form of intellectual property. But how do you claim the rights to a stone? Isn’t that like trying to trademark grass, fish, and the sky? After all, it’s nature, you can’t copyright nature!
Correct, you cannot claim the intellectual property rights to nature since it isn’t your intellectual property. However, you can trademark names and symbols (like logos) and attach it to your stone. This creates a sort of gemstone brand.
Such a case of this happening involved Atlantis Gems and Zultanite Gems. Zultanite brought Atlantis to court over Atlantis’s use of Zultanite’s brand name, not the stone, for advertisements, distribution, and marketing.
The “brandification” of gemstones is rather normal as far as business goes. Trademarks are essentially the identity of the business. McDonalds simply wouldn’t be McDonalds without the signature golden arches; Nike wouldn’t be Nike without its Swoosh. Likewise, some gemstone traders, like Zultanite, wouldn’t be them without their trademark.
The list could go on! Some key ones are angelite, tanzanite, and heliodor. A list can be found in the references below.
“Atlantis Gems Sued for Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment and Tortious Interference with a Business Relationship - Company Belongs to Former Faberge Executive Brian Dolan.” AccessWire, 24 Sept. 2020, www.accesswire.com/607670/Atlantis-Gems-Sued-for-Trademark-Infringement-Unfair-Competition-Unjust-Enrichment-and-Tortious-Interference-with-a-Business-Relationship--Company-Belongs-to-Former-Faberge-Executive-Brian-Dolan.
“Trademark Basics.” USPTO, www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics. Accessed 18 Nov. 2021.