On Monday, June 22, 2020, we have been contacted through email by a representative of PMI Media Group and being informed that the word TILT™ is a USA Registered Trademark owned by AMH Sales, Inc. DBA PMI Audio Group Corp. in Class IC 009 registration #3971079.
According to its website, PMI Media Group manufactures professional audio products under several brands: Joemeek, Trident Audio Developments, Toft Audio Designs, Studio Projects, Tonelux, and Valley People.
/tɪlt/verb: move or cause to move into a sloping position. "the floor tilted slightly"noun: a sloping position or movement. "the tilt of her head"
Indeed, we used the word “tilt” for labeling the equalization control on the CompIQ Stella compressor pedal. The noun is the mere description of the functionality of an electronic components arrangement widely utilized in audio products all over the world, including products manufactured by PMI Audio Group. The circuit is generally referred to as “tilt eq filter” by virtually any internet publication. It is simple, elegant, and effective. We like to name the controls for what they are, and hence our choice of wording. In the CompIQ Stella, we also use nouns like “ratio”, “threshold”, “gain” to depict the functionality of the controls.
Naively, we didn’t think that a noun could be registered as a trademark to secure the usage of the word to describe something that is part of technical knowledge. It simply didn’t occur to us.
We’ve been warned that we are not allowed to use the “tilt” word to describe the functionality of the tone control and if we want to, we need to discuss royalties; otherwise, we would have a 90 days timeframe to remove any references to the TILT™ name.
We exchanged a couple of more emails informing PMI Audio Group that the circuit topology is not proprietary to any entity nor protected by patents. We have been advised that they cannot trademark or register the circuit but they can and did register the name of it. We were told that if we continue to use it it would be a violation.
In our brief research, we found that the circuit and the “tilt” label was first used in 1970 by QUAD HI-FI from the UK in one of their products – the QUAD 34 Preamplifier. A comprehensive and very technical review of this product including its tone control was written by Mr. Ken Rockwell and can be found on his website. We also contacted the QUAD HI-FI company to ask about the history of the circuit and we are waiting for their response.
In the end, we have been proposed to license the usage of the noun “tilt” to label the tone control on the CompIQ Stella for a percentage of the product’s price. We have also been offered the chance to have the product listed on the PMI Media Group website as a licensee for the “tilt” label.
At first, we were inclined to license the usage of the “tilt” word and we were seeking legal advice. We’ve then been pointed to the fact that in doing so we could incorrectly contribute to validate an inherent public perception that the circuit itself is proprietary to PMI Media Group, which is not.
We have been legally advised to use other words as a label for the equalization control.
In good faith, from this moment forward, we rename the CompIQ Stella’s tone control as “X-EQ” and in the following period, we will proceed with changing the label on the product, update the manual, it’s packaging, the product description on the website, and the imaging on materials belonging to us.
Disclaimer: The brand names and trademarks used in this post are the property of their owners.