I think we all agree that private property rights are an important feature of capitalism. But what is “property”? It increasingly seems like the answer is just about everything:

Taylor Swift Trademarks ‘This Sick Beat’ and Other Catchphrases

Thinking about selling T-shirts with “This Sick Beat” or “Party Like Its 1989” emblazoned on the front? Well, think again, because the only person who can legally do so now is Taylor Swift.

The pop superstar has trademarked the aforementioned phrases, as well as “Cause We Never Go Out of Style,” “Could Show You Incredible Things” and “Nice to Meet You, Where You Been?” – which all pertain to her wildly successful album “1989.” And the trademark isn’t just restricted to T-shirts.

If you had the idea of printing any of these words on key chains, soaps, jewelry, guitar straps, namely, anything that can be embossed or engraved, get those dollar signs out of your eyes and shake it off, because T-Swizzle is reaping all of the benefits from now on.

The media tells us that the Obama administration is trying to get Asian countries to buy into a tighter set of intellectual property rights protections because . . . well I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps because President Obama does not believe that Taylor Swift is rich enough. If every Asian teenager gave just 10 cents to Taylor, it would add up to . . . quite a bit of money I’d imagine.

More seriously, the usual argument is that IP is a way of encouraging new inventions. Yes, Prince had already invented “Party Like its 1999.” And the Smashing Pumpkins have “1979.” But neither made the real conceptual breakthrough to: “Party Like Its 1989.”

A few years ago someone told me I should trademark; “Never reason from a price change.” I thought he was joking. Now I’m not so sure. I guess when I can no longer tell the difference between The Onion and the “real” news media, it’s probably time for me to retire.

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