The Crazy Tale of the Walking Fingers
JOUR 4470 Blog 4
By: Michael Haake
In this version of Michael Haake’s Blog I will discuss the story of the AT&T Walking Fingers trademark and anything else that’s relevant to this story or just funny.
All right, let’s do this.
As I am sure the audience that grew up in the dark ages before Google became a noun and a verb know, a copy of the Yellow Pages was a must have in every household. It provided business owners with customers through advertising and even helped you find the phone numbers to those businesses advertising. The Walking Fingers logo is synonymous with the Yellow Pages. If you care to read more on the history of the logo, click here.
This case intrigues me for many reasons. The biggest reason is because I interned with AT&T in Atlanta, GA this summer. Talking with people who have been with the company since the mid 80’s and reading about the trademark issue while in training really shocked me. In case you didn’t click the link in the last paragraph, or haven’t heard about what I am referring to, the logo depicted above was originally made for the AT&T Yellow Pages. Today a version of this logo can be found on nearly every other company’s version of the Yellow Pages. And if you didn’t know why you receive so many copies of the Yellow Pages on your doorstep, it’s because there are multiple businesses that produce a version of the Yellow Pages.
At the time AT&T (when I refer to AT&T I am talking about South Western Bell and all of the company’s other branches that specialize in local advertising in the Yellow Pages. There have been multiple additions and mergers, but just know that I am referring to the AT&T’s version of the Yellow Pages which is actually now called The AT&T Real Yellow Pages) neglected to trademark this logo. After other businesses caught on, it was too late for AT&T to trademark the logo.
This move is considered one of the worst business decisions/mishaps the company has ever experienced (they literally say that in the training manual, which I can not provide in this blog).
What I can’t get over is the fact that the company had its identity pretty much stolen and put on similar products. It also amazes me that whoever the first non-AT&T company to use this logo had the balls to do it. But, I guess that’s capitalism. Some people might not understand why this whole story is a big deal. To those people I’ll provide you some examples in the next paragraph.
Why is this a big deal? This is pretty much the equivalent to those companies that sell the knock off designer products. Sure the product looks the same as the one that sells for hundreds of dollars more, but it is not the same. What would happen if some small coffee shop started using cups with the same mermaid logo that Starbucks uses? The cups look the same, but what you are paying for inside is completely different (and in this example much cheaper). I’m not saying that what the other businesses have in their Yellow Pages is anything less in quality, but is the information behind the Walking Fingers logo of Company X’s book follow the same guidelines that AT&T’s book does? Whether the information is the exact same or not is besides the point. AT&T’s negligence in not trade marking the logo allowed for imposter businesses to provide the same product.
As you have probably realized by now, I am sort of a homer when it comes to this story. While I completely understand the concept behind getting logos trademarked, it still upsets me that a company can let this happen. If you were not aware of this story, I hope you learned something. Once again, for much more information check out the link at either the top of the story or under my sources.