All for One, and One for All

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” — Benjamin Franklin, upon signing the Declaration of Independence

Joining clubs, organizations, or movements has never been a priority for me. And given the entrepreneurial nature of so many catalogers, I’d guess that a lot of you out there are “lone wolves” too. But the cover stories in this month’s issue have me appreciating the importance of at least occasionally taking part in a group.

First, there’s Mark Del Franco’s article about Divine, a software and services provider that is aggressively protecting its suite of e-commerce patents by charging numerous online marketers with patent infringement. Nothing wrong with that — except that the patents in question appear to be so broad that, as one cataloger says, “Essentially these guys are trying to patent e-commerce.”

Being neither a patent attorney or an e-commerce expert, I can’t say whether the catalogers who are receiving cease-and-desist letters from Divine should pony up a licensing fee or try to contest the validity of the patents. But given the huge ramifications of Divine’s actions, it seems that catalogers should unite to fight the patent infringement charges. And in fact, several are considering doing just that.

Then there’s Paul Miller’s article about the Postal Service’s lucky discovery that it has been overpaying into a retirement fund and therefore may not need to raise postage rates until 2006. If Congress doesn’t pass a specific piece of legislation by the end of September, however, the USPS will likely have to increase rates next year as originally expected.

Several trade associations are urging members to petition legislators in Washington to introduce and pass the needed legislation. And some catalogers are using this opportunity to create or expand ad hoc groups dedicated to seeking postal reform legislation.

It’s all too easy for legislators, corporations, and other powers on high to tune out a lone voice. But ignoring a thundering crowd — that’s tough.

P.S. — Just a reminder that the deadline for entering the Annual Catalog Awards and I.Merchant Awards is Jan. 17. As usual, the winners will be announced at the Annual Catalog Conference, which this year takes place June 1-3 in San Francisco, and will be profiled in Catalog Age. Last year a number of first-timers and smaller companies walked off with Gold and Silver Awards — perhaps your company will do the same this year.

For details about the awards, visit or contact special projects manager Shayn Ferriolo at or 203-358-4233.

For the latest industry news, updated daily, visit the Catalog Age Website at!

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