For those closely following the news, one reality show star continues to dominate headlines. The star's behavior invokes questions of ego and avarice, and decisions made demonstrate a lack of sensitivity, both cultural and interpersonal. Despite these personal failings, the star counts nearly as many ardent fans as avowed detractors, with a family that casts itself as American royalty, despite a discernible lack of skills or scruples.
The star in question is of course Kim Kardashian West, who finds herself in the middle of a tempest in a teapot over a recent attempt to launch a new line of clothing that would have honored herself while potentially offending millions. For those able to avoid the story thus far, Kardashian West garnered what could be considered a fair portion of criticism for her attempt to trademark the phrase "Kimono" as the nom de guerre for her new line of shapewear. For those thinking that the name sounds familiar, that's because the kimono is a traditional Japanese garment dating back centuries, and not in fact a recent creation of House Kardashian.
There may have been a time when Kardashian West might have been able to get away with the trademark and branding, but as we live in a somewhat more enlightened moment, the prospective launch and the subsequent reveal of the trademark filing met with sufficient opprobrium as to convince her to delay the launch and rename the line in light of the charges of cultural appropriation. While it might seem like a small but important matter thus settled, the issue rose so high as to warrant the attention of the Japanese government, who announced through their trade minister that they would send a delegation to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to discuss the matter of the trademark, with a pledge to "keep an eye on the situation in the future."
While no one outside the family can presume to speak for the Kardashians as a collective, our observations of them over their years in the public eye suggest they ascribe to the notion that "all press is good press," and the idea that this misstep might cause some careful contemplation is wishful at best. Hopefully the case can serve as a lesson for others; while we often preach on the importance of avoiding infringing on others' intellectual property through carelessness, there should also be consideration given to broader questions of culture and context. The lesson being, perhaps don't offend wide swaths of the population at first blush.