chaz-mcgregor-9Vx-QeC0-9Q-unsplashIn cases of infringement, intent is irrelevant to the substantive facts of a case. Either something infringes upon a copyright or trademark or patent, or it doesn't; whether the accused meant to do it or not changes nothing. Still, it probably matters to our ideas about justice and recompense as to whether intent existed or not. We're far more likely to be forgiving of a careless mistake made without malice than instances of deliberate theft, and perhaps more likely to be considerate of others' IP if we've had our own misappropriated.

Such may be the case with Taylor Swift, as her latest album caused a brief trademark dust-up. As reported in Techdirt, Swift found herself the subject of appropriation and infringement charges related to the logo used for merchandise tied to her new album, Folklore. Amira Rasool of The Folklore, and online retail store, took to social media to highlight the similarity between her own logo and the logo on sweaters and cardigans made for sale on Swift's website. (Who knew albums came with heavy outerwear?)

The logos are similar enough that a court case may have been warranted, but fortunately Swift and her team took the step of changing their logo and making restitution to Rasool of an undisclosed amount, both of which served to satisfy any grievance. And while that likely represents an ideal outcome for both sides, particularly if the infringement was unintentional, Swift was offered far more grace from Rasool than she has afforded those she has charged with infringement.

As Geigner notes, Swift has gone to great lengths to go after fan-made products that ran afoul of her trademarks, as is her right. But isn't it possible that those fans were just as unaware of the offense, perhaps due to an unfamiliarity with trademark law? And does it really make sense to go after your most ardent fans? Once again we arrive at the question of intent, and its place in such issues. While you can contend that Swift had no ill intent, she also has a team of people that should be handling the trademark aspects of her business to ensure things like this don't happen; was the cavalier approach simply due to the act that she is Taylor Swift, with her legion of fans and her many millions of dollars, and that anyone she might infringe upon isn't?

It's all well and good to not intend harm, but it's better still to not do harm in the first place.

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