TODAY'S DILBERT MOMENT. Former Texas Railroad Commissioner Jim Hightower is not impressed with the Union Pacific Railroad's licensing requirements ("Applicants are reviewed carefully to ensure they will positively represent Union Pacific brand values") which the company is now attempting to require of all manufacturers of model railroad equipment.

Commissioner Hightower: "Over the years, railroad corporations, including Union Pacific, have been delighted to be the subjects of model trains, seeing it as a form of flattery, free promotion, and goodwill. For it now to threaten and demand loot from these small modeling companies is an act of PR suicide." Indeed. Not only that, the company is setting itself up for all sorts of teasing by the manufacturers. It has, for example, announced its continued ownership of the Chicago and North Western ball and bar (I'll let the lawyers make the case that if the ball and bar is no longer in use as a trade mark, the claim to ownership of the shape is no longer valid) but its site does not similarly claim ownership of Chicago Great Western, Minneapolis and St. Louis, Litchfield and Madison, or Galena and Chicago Union, and as those have not been in commercial use for years, those claims might similarly not be valid.

Trademark law aside, it's pretty stupid for a company to antagonize potential supporters in this way. How many heavy industries have legions of enthusiasts who are neither consumers nor workers? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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