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As is well known, all of Santa's presents are manufactured by elves at the North Pole. However, a lot of presents are protected by various IP rights. Be it Adidas clothing, a DVD of the newest Blockbuster or the newest iPhone, Santa obviously constantly violates trademarks, copyright and patents.

Surely the big rights holders corporations are all but happy about this. Yet no lawsuit against Santa has been brought forward till now.

So how does Santa manage not to get constantly sued?

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    $\begingroup$ Hard to serve a summons to the North Pole. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 22 '15 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ There have been real historical accounts of people suing God, Satan, natural catastrophes etc, and all these cases were thrown out on the basis of the defendants being outside the jurisdiction of the court. $\endgroup$ – vsz Dec 22 '15 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ He has a list... $\endgroup$ – user19474 Dec 22 '15 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you assume companies don't already pay Mr. Claus to give children their toys instead of other brands so they advertise by word of mouth? $\endgroup$ – Captain Man Dec 22 '15 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ "The greatest trick Santa ever pulled was convincing the corporations that he didn't exist." — some movie with Kevin Spacey and Tim Allen $\endgroup$ – Tim Pederick Dec 24 '15 at 0:37

16 Answers 16

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There are several options to resolve this paradox:

  • He is getting sued all the time, it's just that nobody wants to make a big PR deal about this. Imagine the damage to your brand if it became known that you are suing Santa, of all people.

  • He is getting sued all the time, he just doesn't care. He can continue his shady business unabashed year after year because really, how would anyone stop him, what with his army of elves and magical sled, all located on the North Pole, among the least hospitable places on the surface of Earth?

  • He's not actually getting sued because he has dutifully acquired, where necessary, a license for each and every article he manufactures.

  • His workshop full of "elves" is actually a typical Chinese/SE-Asian sweatshop employing child labour, so no license is required. Since his workers toil away under precarious conditions (housing, milk, and cookies), and Santa takes care of all the logistics with his magical sled, his price per unit of merchandise is unbeatably low, practically free.

  • Blackmail: He counters every subpoena and legal charge by threatening to put everyone involved and their children on the Naughty List. Who in their right mind wants to risk getting on Santa's bad side?

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    $\begingroup$ Or Santa actually designs everything and owns the IP, and secretly sub-licenses it to other manufacturers, film-makers, and so on. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Dec 22 '15 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeScott: But then he'd surely not allow them to sue others over "their" IP. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Dec 22 '15 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ Santa Claus lives outside the jurisdiction of any nation, and simply does not recognize the IP laws of any nation. There is no controlling legal court available in which to file suit. $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Dec 22 '15 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman - Santa is in violation of numerous tariff and import laws regardless of whether the imports are IP restricted. But he is doubtless guilty of additional laws when importing IP restricted items. Anyone saying, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.", is not someone that should be trusted. $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Dec 22 '15 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ Child slave labour is unrelated to licensing. $\endgroup$ – immibis Dec 22 '15 at 23:12
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It's fairly simple really, patent and copyright only apply within the borders of a country in which the product is registered. There are various international systems but no universal treaty.

Since Santa is manufacturing outside an area where these treaties apply, he's not bound by copy protection laws. Since he's not selling the items, they can't be taken off the shelves. He's clear and free.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, no, he is personally smuggling the counterfeit goods into many different countries. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Dec 22 '15 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ You'll have to catch him to prove it, all you have is hearsay and that's not acceptable in court. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Dec 22 '15 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ He comes in through the chimney to avoid touching the ground and incurring customs and import duties. He's flying a sleigh to exploit a loophole between air rights and haulage rights. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mark Miller Dec 23 '15 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ It he cannot adhere to our laws for behaving decently, and we cannot resolved this civilly through courts, then we'll just have to take matters in our own hands by declaring this an act of war. In retaliation, the world's current economic superpower is honor-bound to destroy his manufacturing facilities, destroying the North Pole. Oh, what's that you say? We've already started doing that years ago, through global warming? So we needn't spend any further efforts on a task like starting a war? Ah, excellent news. Serves him right. Excuse me while I go do more of my civic duty of polluting. $\endgroup$ – TOOGAM Dec 24 '15 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @derobert Your objection is overruled for the very reason that you started it with the word, "Almost". ;) $\endgroup$ – Perkins Dec 28 '15 at 19:42
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I'm not supposed to reveal any of this due to NDA, so don't tell anywhere where you heard this:

Santa has no IP problems due to secret compulsory license treaties that date back centuries -- manufacturers have to grant a free license to Santa to manufacture toys, in return, Santa contributes to the media blitz that causes the marketing frenzy every holiday season (for example, Santa and his elves spend weeks every December making unpaid promotional appearances at malls, plus he has a huge staff of elves reading letters from children). Most gifts are bought by people to give to their loved ones, so Santa's manufacturing center doesn't eat too much into corporate profits, so it really is a win-win.

If it seems that Christmas spirit has been lacking in recent years, Santa has been busy trying to hammer out a global climate change accord to keep his North Pole headquarters from sinking into the ocean when the polar ice cap melts. He's not hopeful that will happen, so he's been working on a relocation plan to move his headquarters to the south pole. A migration of this scale will take him years, so there will be a gap in Santa's gift giving while he relocates his toy factory. During the interim period, he'll be delivering coal in lieu of toys. Santa has been buying up stocks of coal to prepare for this, and ironically, even as he fights to stop global warming, Santa owns the world's largest stockpile of coal.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a great little radio play which involves an elf who uncovers Santa's dealings with coal lobbyists. :P $\endgroup$ – Wingman4l7 Dec 22 '15 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, giving coal really seems self-defeating if he's trying to stop climate change. $\endgroup$ – reirab Dec 22 '15 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab Actually, giving coal is a brilliant sequestration plan. After all, each child gets only one lump of coal, and how many people have the means or use to burn such a small amount of coal? Sure, a few people might, but overall there is now a lot of carbon that isn't going into the atmosphere. $\endgroup$ – Michael Dec 25 '15 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael - this is very short-sighted planning on the part of St. Nicholas, Inc. The reality is that this will do nothing to reduce global warming - it's excess demand above-and-beyond current coal production, and thus additional coal will have to be mined in order for Santa to have coal to give away. While this new coal will not be burned in large quantities, all the ancillary environmental issues (such as fuel for mining machines, transport, etc) will be exacerbated by this policy. St. Nicholas, Inc is now the target of a massive environmental lawsuit - stay tuned for further developments... $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Dec 28 '15 at 18:13
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Santa has a very dark side that people don't like to think / talk about. He has an army of elves that most people think of as cute little warehouse workers that manufacture and pack presents - which they do.

During the year, however, they don't have much present-related work to do: how do you think they utilize all that free time? They travel around the globe and defuse all kinds of legal threats that Santa receives for his shady practices.

Just look what happened to Volkswagen after they foolishly tried to hit Santa with legal action: all their own shady practices came to light. All it took was a few little elves with hacking tools (which they manufacture for gifting purposes).

When a company doesn't learn from hints like that, the elves start to play hard - they do make guns and ammunition, after all.

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    $\begingroup$ Death by a thousand Nerf guns? $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Dec 23 '15 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ Being buried under a mound of Nerf balls will kill you - it just takes A LOT of Nerf balls. And Santa has an endless supply... BU-WA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA...harrumph!! I mean, HO-HO-HO-HO-HO... :-) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Dec 28 '15 at 18:15
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I'm sure someone has tried, but they would run into multiple problems in short order.

1) How do you prove he's making them? They're exact duplicates, after all. Even if you trace serial numbers, you'll find that they're in your system as authentic.

2) Where do you serve him? He's not a resident of your country, and if there's a government at the North Pole, they don't have treaties with anyone (and if there's a boss, it's probably the Big Man himself)

3) Better yet, how do you serve him? Not like anyone's gonna catch him during his yearly trip (heaven knows NORAD has been after him for years with no success), and your GPS ain't gonna get you to the Workshop.

4) I suppose you could try him in absentia, but what country wants to admit that a foreign national does millions of home invasions every year and the government is powerless to stop it?

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    $\begingroup$ I suspect this is why Russia hasn't taken over the north pole. Sure, there might be juicy mineral profits to be made but having Santa within your jurisdiction would be a total nightmare. Suddenly, they'd become legally responsible for all that stuff and either have to shut Santa down or face trade embargoes from everybody. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Dec 24 '15 at 20:25
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Companies routinely build corporate relationships with overseas manufacturers to create product and lower manufacturing costs. It could be postulated that out of all of the products created, North Pole manufacturing actually takes up a LARGER than expected percentage of overall production, done almost completely in secret. All involved parties have signed the appropriate NDAs, which is why you hear almost nothing of this until the Holiday season when North Pole shipping lanes become extremely active, moving product to various distributors throughout the world. This information is almost completely obliterated in obscurity, as any individual who might see a legitimate "sleigh run" would be sure to attribute such a sighting to decorations or an over-active imagination.

Of course, Santa's cheap labor, uncontested natural resources, and leveraging of advanced technology (a sleigh with the speed to travel to millions of homes in one night without turning the passenger into a pancake?) gives vendors unrivaled access to fast, cheap manufacturing. And Santa's payment? He gets a fat cut of his choice of merchandise, based on letters coming into the North Pole. (Obviously, there are more requests for Xbox game systems for Christmas than hydraulic pump filters.)

Lastly, Santa knows the incredible value of "playing nice". Santa knows that companies need to sell product to survive, thrive, and benefit the world economies. It's not his intent to give every child everything they could possibly want, because to make their Christmas that amazing, the loss of income (where parents normally go out and BUY those gifts) might make someone else's Christmas not so nice.

If I had to guess (and I am obviously guessing), I would say the big guy in the red suit is more concerned with everyone getting along (as much as possible) than the accumulation of stuff. As long as enough people in leadership of the corporate world remember that, Santa and the big C's will have many years of peaceful, lawsuit-free cooperation to come.

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    $\begingroup$ Really funny. :) $\endgroup$ – xxbbcc Dec 22 '15 at 16:31
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No one here understands. Santa is serving his time at the north pole for burglary. Christmas is his once a year parole.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is almost Terry Pratchet levels of humour. $\endgroup$ – SSight3 Dec 26 '18 at 1:23
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A lot of kids might think that they are on the nice list, but in reality very few actually make the list. If so, corporations might not even notice the few extra copies of their stuff floating around out there. Even if they did notice, companies might just write it off as advertising or other promotional expense. And simply invoking Santa's image helps them sell their goods to the parents of the other 99% kids not on the "nice" list.

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It's like Netflix, BMG, and Columbia House -- they license the right to manufacture nearly indistinguishable copies of the retail version.

(Things that you ask for that Santa doesn't provide are obviously the result of licensing-negotiation breakdowns. Consider also the time you asked for a Transformer and got a Go-Bot...)

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Luckily, the answer to this, while ostensibly very secret, showed up recently in WikiLeaks. As you know, Santa is the benevolent and immortal ruler/god of an isolated nation of elves. They flout the received wisdom of globalization - they have achieved high industrial output despite complete isolation from the world economy. Noteworthy is the complete lack of forex trading in Donders (or even this), along with an absence of North Pole investments in emerging market funds.

When you add this to the nimbleness and robustness of elves, and the extraordinary ability to monitor the entire world population (under the rational of determining whether the observed is denoted 'naughty' or 'nice') with either sophisticated surveillance devices or even clairvoyance, the conclusion is inescapable: Santa could easily crush any nation state he wished. Heck, with all the surveillance, can you imagine what dirt he has on all national and corporate leaders? And what do you think elvish engineers and factory workers do once the Christmas stockpile is finished? They build weapon systems. For instance, the Intercontinental Ballistic Mistletoe alone surpasses anything in our arsenal.

Yes, there have been a few clandestine attempts at 'regime change' by the usual suspects, but all have failed and, until the WiliLeak, been covered up. Now the nations of the world and the leaders of multinational corporations have the tacit agreement that Santa must be deferred to. Hence, the fact that no IP suits have been brought against Santa is not a surprise at all. Frankly, we should fear the day that Santa croaks (perhaps due to a freak sleigh/jet collision)- he may be replaced with an elf with a less benevolent disposition. World domination would follow swiftly. Yule be sorry then.

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No-one ever sends him a threatening letter because they are worried he might remove their children from his Christmas list.

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    $\begingroup$ What about non-Christian executives from non-Christian countries whose children wouldn't get gifts from Santa anyway? For example, I imagine the majority of Sony's executives couldn't care less about Santa's Christmas list. Also, what about the executives without children? $\endgroup$ – celtschk Dec 22 '15 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ @celtschk He has reciprocal arrangements with the equivalent characters of other countries/religions e.g. this list $\endgroup$ – TripeHound Dec 22 '15 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, more interesting, what about people with no children? $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Dec 23 '15 at 16:24
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You're working under the misapprehension that Santa actually manufactures gifts every year -- apart from the occasional handmade toys (usually gifted to the children of woodworkers and metalworkers, weirdly enough), most of Santa's goods are purchased from their original manufacturers and then gifted for free to children around the world. In fact, he purchases so many goods that winter holiday spending can be 6-10 times larger than spending at any other time of the year.

Some people have even suggested that Santa has hung up the sleigh, purchasing gifts through a complex series of intermediaries and shell companies and then shipping them through modern logistic channels (in which local toy stores play a crucial but unclear role), but others have correctly pointed out that such an approach would require a ludicrously massive conspiracy in which as many as one-third of the population would need to work secretly with Santa for decades without a single whistleblower ever revealing the scheme to the press, government or general populace. Even the Stasi only managed to recruit around 2.5% of the population, so a global conspiracy of this scale seems to simply be unmanageable and should not be taken seriously.

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    $\begingroup$ The reality is that Santa's principal production partner was always the former Soviet Union. This is the source of Kruschev's boast, "We will bury you!!!" - he knew he had the full support, backing, and production capabilities of Santa and his elves. The deal was simple - the Soviets kept quiet about the whole Xmas thing (even going so far as to outlaw religion!), and he'd keep the leadership in toys and goodies galore. Sadly, after the Soviet Union broke up the Russian leadership wouldn't go along, and now Santa and the elves are operating out of the shrinking Brazilian rain forest. HO-HO-HO! $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Dec 28 '15 at 18:22
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The corporations don't know (or cannot prove) that their licenses are being violated. They know how many units of each product were manufactured, and they know how many were sold. But there is no way to measure how many products are actually in the hands of customers and/or children. Also, since all of the unlicensed products were received as gifts, the corporations cannot even ask each product-owner to show a valid sales receipt.

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There are few options

  1. Nobody knows exactly where he lives, hence it is hard to deliver lawsuit.
  2. Santa knows everything what every person did wrong, and can blackmail company owners and lawyers to not pursuing lawsuit.
  3. Santa's actually have only R&D department in North Pole, and manufacturers are his subsidiary companies. So iPhone was actually designed by elves, and then was passed to Apple to made marketing. It is obvious Steve Jobs was an elf, how you could explain fact he was earning only one dollar for running company?
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I firmly believe that "North Pole" is just an euphemism, we as human went over and over there and we just cannot found a single evidence that someone was ever there, not even a elf's scarf that could a elf drop during a strong storm. And even if you think further, someone who can travel the world in a day should not be limited to this world. Is mathematically possibly that in many other planets in the Universe or Multiverse that have their own Christmas and Santa is also in charge of the gift delivery. I also have a theory that Santa is helping evolve races in the universe through gifts helping children raise their imagination but is not related to the question. What I'm trying to say is that Santa is not in the Earth so that's why cannot be located or sued.

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  • $\begingroup$ Looking forward to your ton of coal again this year, are you..? $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Dec 28 '15 at 18:24
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Has anyone done the research to see who exactly wants to sue Santa? The idea occurred to me quite possibly it was the coal company's what do you get when your bad?? And well, as the the saying goes,if life gives you lemons... Perhaps if Santa give you coal make a million bucks? Just a thought

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protected by Vincent Dec 23 '15 at 3:39

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