Owner of Paws Up, David Lipson out to own ‘The Last Best Place’ through trademark registration- Gov. Schweitzer vows to fight – Campaign planned by "New West Network" to protect the phrase
The owner of Resort at Paws Up has applied to trademark Montana’s famous phrase – angering Missoula author William Kittredge, the man who coined the words
David E. Lipson, a Las Vegas businessman and owner of the Resort at Paws Up, has applied for eight trademarks for exclusive use of a phrase that is close to the heart of many Montanans: "The Last Best Place."
Lipson’s applications, which would cover about 100 commercial uses of the phrase, are in the final phase before registration, according to records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
If the applications become registered trademarks, Lipson could significantly inhibit use of a phrase that Montana Arts Council director Arnie Fishbaugh described as intrinsic to the state’s identity and almost synonymous with "Big Sky Country."
"It means Montana," Fishbaugh said.
The phrase first appeared in 1988 as the title of an anthology of Montana writing, co-edited by Missoula writers William Kittredge and Annick Smith.
Kittredge, who coined the phrase, called the trademark applications offensive.
"I’m vehemently opposed to it," Kittredge said.
By ROBERT STRUCKMAN of the Missoulian
Governor vows to fight ‘Last Best Place’ trademark applications
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Tuesday that he plans to mount a campaign to ensure the phrase "The Last Best Place" remains the property of the people of Montana.
The action comes in response to an effort by David E. Lipson, a Las Vegas businessman and owner of the Resort at Paws Up, to register eight trademarks for exclusive use of a phrase that is close to the heart of many Montanans.
Lipson’s applications, which would cover about 100 commercial uses of "The Last Best Place," are in the final phase before registration, according to records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
"We’re going to look into things. We will take legal action if necessary," said Sarah Elliott, a spokeswoman in the governor’s office.
The specifics of the governor’s countereffort have yet to be worked out, Eliott said.
"The phrase belongs to the people of Montana. We’re going to make sure it stays that way," Elliott said.
By ROBERT STRUCKMAN of the Missoulian
Last Best Place more than words
By The Helena IR
There’s something teeth-clenching about the idea of people living in the last best place not being able to say so unless someone in Las Vegas says it’s OK.
David E. Lipson, a Las Vegas businessman, has applied for eight trademarks to give him the exclusive rights to the phrase The Last Best Place.
He already owns the rights to use the phrase in catalogues, according to a recent story in the Missoulian. Lipson acquired the catalogue rights after a San Diego-based clothing company dropped its Last Best Place catalogue.
The catalogue rights were first purchased in 1992 – just four years after the book came out – by an Ohio apparel company that was subsequently purchased by the California firm.
The rights Lipson has applied for now include numerous uses – real estate, beef, plates, jewelry, blankets, novelty items, paper products and on and on.
There’s no dispute over who actually coined the title of the phrase.
William Kittredge, one of Montana’s best-known writers, came up with it as the title of a 1988 anthology of works by Montana writers.
He says the inspiration for the phrase was the name of a Montana mine called the Last Best Hope and a line – "the last good kiss" – in a poem by the late Richard Hugo, an icon of Montana writing.
Since the book came out, the phrase has become something of an informal Montana motto. We’d be willing to bet that far more people are familiar with it than the real state motto: oro y plata, Spanish for gold and silver.
In fact the Last Best Place has almost begun sounding like a cliché. It has been used in one form or another by businesses and politicians and schools and on and on.
There’s even a cemetery near Clearwater Junction called The Best Last Place.
Its ubiquitous nature is no doubt why Lipson found the phrase attractive for copyrighting.
And from strictly a business standpoint, it’s hard to argue with his right to try for the copyrights in a time when information has become a commodity. Just look at how valuable Web site domain names have become, for example.
But the whole idea of copyrighting The Last Best Place reminds us of the simmering controversy in the state over wealthy folks coming in to buy land.
They have the money, so they have the right. But it still feels like something is being lost.
According to lawyers who know about such things and were quoted in news accounts, someone who can prove prior use of a trademark has a good chance of successfully challenging its registered owner.
Kittredge certainly wouldn’t have much problem proving he’s used The Last Best Place. Such a challenge would cost thousands of dollars, but still . . .
Kittredge told the Missoulian’s reporter that the widespread use of his creation was gratifying.
"I’ve seen it hundreds of times," he said. "That’s fine."
To us, that sounds more like a Montana attitude.
A Campaign to Protect "The Last Best Place"
Robert Struckman of the Missoulian had a great scoop yesterday on the owner of the Paws Up Ranch, David Lipson, attempting to trademark the term "The Last Best Place."
Since that phrase was invented by our friend and Missoula writer Bill Kittredge, and since it’s been widely used for years to describe our great state, we find it more than a little offensive that a Las Vegas businessman would attempt to usurp it for his personal commercial benefit. And we’re going to try and do something about it.
We’re planning to mount a formal opposition to Lipson’s various trademark applications for the phrase, and we’ll need your support to succeed. We’ll have more details shortly, and in the meantime drop us an email at [email protected] or comment below if you’d like to help.
‘Last Best Place’ shouldn’t be trademarked
You’ve got to hand it to wealthy businessman David Lipson: He’s got chutzpah.
The Las Vegas tycoon and owner of a ritzy resort near Missoula applied for eight trademarks to give his businesses exclusive use of the phrase "The Last Best Place."
He’d get legal use of the name for everything from travel and lodging to furniture, clothing and cookware. In a colorful use, he’d even plaster it on lingerie.
We’re all for businesses finding creative ways to market themselves, but assigning to himself a beloved nickname for Montana just isn’t right.
Not that Lipson gives a hoot what Montanans think.
His Paws Up resort made headlines recently when the Missoula County Health Department twice ordered it to shut down for failure to have an approved water supply and for not having the necessary business licenses.
Lipson refused. The county attorney is looking at his options.
Lipson is also in court with a Montana contractor who claims the businessman failed to pay him for extensive work done at the resort.
In the 1990s Lipson was found liable for securities fraud for insider trading at Supercuts, the chain of hair salons he ran.
Paws Up is a luxurious retreat along the Blackfoot River. With rates for many of the accommodations priced more than $400 a night, most Montanans won’t spend a lot of time there.
But it’s the kind of place that can give wealthy visitors a special taste of what the Paws Up Web site calls "truly The Last Best Place."
We doubt any Montanans object to such usage of the popular phrase. But most would object to Lipson and Paws Up getting exclusive use of it.
The phrase was coined in 1988 by writer William Kittredge when he and some literary friends were seeking a title for their anthology of Montana writing.
Since then — much to the delight of Kittredge — the name has been used across the state by businesses, government and individuals.
There’s even a cemetery near Seeley Lake that turns the slogan on its head, calling itself "The Best Last Place."
If the trademarks are approved — and they’re in the final stages now — anyone who used the phrase earlier can mount a challenge to continue doing so. But a copyright lawyer estimates the cost of such action at $50,000 to $70,000.
That effectively shuts off use of the phrase for most Montana businesses.
Kittredge says he’s "vehemently opposed" to the copyright move.
So are we.
One thing that makes Montana The Last Best Place is that people here are respectful of their neighbors.
Once Lipson learns that, he’ll find that most Montanans want him and his resort to succeed.
He can start by withdrawing his claim to a favorite nickname.
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