Monday, March 30, 2009

Ramblings: KCBS & Small Events

KCBS: Protecting IP’s or Draconian Overkill?

Why quibble? Let’s surmise that both are true.

It seems that the KCBS has been much more active of late in aggressively protecting what they perceive to be their intellectual properties. As a supporter and member of the KCBS, I am in full support of this. As with many things in life, the problem here is not in what they are attempting to do, but how they are going about it.

A number of small, non-sanctioned contests have been receiving official ‘cease and desist’ letters from the KCBS, claiming that the organizers have been utilizing protected material without the consent of the KCBS. Oddly, these claims have extended to grilling contests.

I’m arranging for an interview with a lawyer to be published here next week where we will discuss in broad terms the legal implications of the actions by the KCBS and what is and what isn’t protected material. I fully endorse the KCBS doing whatever is necessary to ensure that their name and protected properties are neither abused nor slip into the public domain. Unfortunately, the sudden and severe measures taken by the KCBS run the risk of alienating the very people that they depend on to grow the hobby and their membership.

As someone involved in the organizational aspects of competition BBQ in my area, I have had conversations with a number of organizers who have received these letters and have expressed serious concern and consternation. These are the people in the trenches, selflessly working to promote the hobby we all care about. Not only was their first contact from the KCBS about their events one that was inherently hostile, it also lacked specificity and an attempt to work with organizer to ameliorate the situation.

What could have the KCBS done better? Glad you asked.

1) An initial letter stating the event in question was utilizing intellectual properties owned by the KCBS and that the event in its current form would need to be sanctioned by the KCBS for the 2010 season. That would allow a one year grace period, which would have been especially appreciated by events that received the cease and desist letter within a month’s time of their event, not allowing them much time to fix whatever problems that exist.

2) Be specific. The letters were general in nature and provided no specificity. What do you perceive to be too close to KCBS’ protected practices? If the KCBS can’t identify the problem areas than it is hard for the organizers to accommodate their requests.

3) Attempt to work with the organizers. Offer a one year reduced fee. Provide a public domain alternate set of rules or guidelines for starting events and allow them to grow into ‘the bigtime’ with full blown sanctioning. Put them in contact with KCBS Reps in their area who can answer questions for them and offer advice.

In addition to running the risk of offending the very people that they need to promote their existence to the general public, the KCBS has also let it be known that their official event representatives are not to assist at non-KCBS sanctioned events. This ban is not limited to BBQ competitions but at the very least extends to Grilling contests. Does it include chili cook-offs? What about cake decorating contests? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out.

So, if there is a dearth of smaller, start up competitions in the near future, we have at least one direction to look when seeking a cause.

We will be looking into this further and providing more detailed information.


~post signature


WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Amen Brother. Amen.

Backyard Chef said...

Nicely written and said, Eric. There are so many things wrong with how KCBS has gone about this that, in many ways, this only scratches the surface. I look forward to the upcoming piece w/ the law knowing guy.

tafty said...

Well said Eric. KCBS could do alot for these (mostly)charity events. The plain truth is that they want to get paid. Or at least that's the way they're making it look. Apearence is everything right? How can they convince organizers to pay them when KCBS doesn't even have rules for anything other than BBQ comps.Then when the contest is over, they won't accept & publish the results. I'm also interested in what the lawer will have to say.

Lakeside Smoker said...

Great post Eric.