“How matters.” The new Chobani marketing campaign is centered on this concept, but the essential question is does “how” really matter. Harvard Law graduate, Dov Siedman, entitled his book, “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything”. Dov Siedman has created his entire business on three little letters, “how”. Mr. Siedman claims that he has intellectual property rights vis-à-vis the word “how” and has thus sued Chobani for stealing his entire business conception.
Both sides undoubtedly have valid points. Chobani’s strongest claim, however is that trademarks are there to ensure that businesses’ identities are made material. They claim they have two entirely different products and consequently there is no way that either business will be mistaken for the other. Perhaps Chobani is stretching.
Part of the problem with this case is that the word “how” is too wide-ranging. Should Mr. Siedman win this case, his victory would result in a snowball effect. Many other individuals would start to make ridiculous and outlandish claims that generalized concepts or even other elementary words such as “I” or “the” also belong to them. At a certain point, however, it should be noted that general language cannot be hijacked from the public for one’s personal and/or business purposes. To the contrary, it inherently belongs in the public domain.
Compare “how” to “Apple.” Apple is also a common term in the English language. In fact, “Apple” has been sued many times for trademark infringement but the giant conglomerate has always come out on top. The difference between Apple’s case and this one is that “Apple” refers to a specific, tangible object. “How”, on the other hand, is not even a concept. It functions as a cornerstone part of the English language. One has to ask, how on earth could “how” belong to one person. Mr. Siedman has a business to run and that is understandable, but he should not do so at the expense of taking it away from the public domain.