Negotiation Skills Company, Inc.
Negotiation Skills Company, Inc.

The Negotiation Skills Company -- Newsletter November 2003

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The occasional newsletter of
The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)

Number 27, November 2003


The occasional newsletter of The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)


Several weeks ago the New York Times included an article carrying the headline: "California Chablis? No Such Thing, Europeans Say". The story describes the efforts of many European regions to protect their rights to product names: Roquefort, Chianti, or Parma ham. Rights to names are matters of serious conflict - in fact issues where rights are the source of disagreement are fraught with complications not always easily treated by using Interest-Based Negotiation.

Interest-Based Negotiation is an excellent tool for parties whose complementary interests are best served by mutual cooperation. Even in international disputes, it is often possible to find a sufficient quantity of complementary interests to reduce hostility. Thus, for example, Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David accords because each nation recognized that a continued state of war was against its own interests and that even a 'cold peace' was preferable to a 'hot war'.

Rights-Based conflicts present far greater challenges. When each party says, "This result is the only correct one because it is my right", unless some deity each party takes equally seriously dictates the outcome from on high, agreement is extremely difficult to reach. Unfortunately, most often when the question of how the 'boss' deity is to be defined, the differing parties have contrary opinions, so no single source of absolute truth emerges to bring about resolution.

Conflicts over rights take many forms. In some cases the rights involved are fundamentally commercial. Thus the ownership of the appellations of wines, cheeses, and other products identified with or invented in a particular geographic location is a matter of dealing with commercially valuable names. The same is true with product names. 'Coke' is a name owned by Coca-Cola. Years ago, when Chevrolet was developing a sporty car they tried unsuccessfully to buy the rights to the model name Cougar from the Ford Motor Company.

Because names, logos, and other commercial identifiers are themselves items that can be traded commercially, negotiations over ownership can generally be conducted using an Interest-Based approach. The demise of 'Napster' was brought about by successful legal action to protect the intellectual property rights of music publishers and other elements of the music industry. Intellectual property is a commodity in which parties can have commercial interests; lawsuits may yield resolution, but negotiation is another tool for resolving the ownership of rights.

Intellectual property can be called an intangible commercial right. There are other tangible rights over which much blood has been shed: the right of a group of people to occupy a piece of land (Israel/Palestine); the right of a group of people to have greater power than another (Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda). One can argue that in each of those cases it is possible to find some interest-based approach to resolve many of the conflicts about the relevant rights. Moreover, there was the apparently evanescent hope that a shared belief in a fundamentally common deity (even though the religious divide is the most visible problem) made the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland more likely to succeed.

In my experience, the most troublesome rights conflict relates to the right to a name claimed by people of two different nations. When it comes to naming a nationality or a region, particularly given the American phenomenon of dozens of communities in different states having the same name, it is difficult to comprehend how a 'mere' name can be a matter of enormous emotional significance.

During a classroom discussion of differences between interest- and rights-based issues, I used the example of the conflict between Greece and a portion of what used to be Yugoslavia over the name Macedonia. There is a province of Greece called Macedonia and, by current international usage, there is an entity called the Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM). For all practical purposes, there is no common language or ethnicity - or disputed territory - claimed by the inhabitants of the Greek province and FYROM. All they share is the conflict over the use of a name. As a New Englander, where five of the six adjacent states have cities or towns called Manchester, I was mystified at the emotional significance of ownership of the name Macedonia. A Greek participant in the class was having apoplexy at the mere discussion of the issue. When I suggested perhaps both groups in the conflict should dump the name entirely and use the substitute name 'Coca-Cola', she virtually stormed out of the room. After the conclusion of the seminar she told me that, in spite of her deeply felt anger over the issue, she really appreciated the silliness of my suggested substitute name because it illustrated the absurdity of a fight over a name.

Psychologists tell us our favorite word in our native language is our own name. Good negotiators know that and try to use names as a way to enhance relationships with other parties. But we must never forget that the right to a name, however intangible, however devoid of commercial value is a right that has led to conflicts lasting centuries. Identity theft may be a commercial crime, but it is also an emotionally charged issue that may never go away.


Negotiating Skills for Managers has now appeared in a Russian edition; it will be published in the Peoples Republic of China in January. Another Chinese edition is coming out in Taiwan, and a Korean version is in the works as well.

The Negotiation Skills Company continues welcoming new clients in a broad range of business sectors. We are presenting our first programs in Poland and Russia in early 2004.

The Negotiator's Interest Map(tm), TNSC's new software, will have its first public presentation at a conference in Paris in December. We will let you know when the software is available for sale.

TNSC is also preparing a one-hour video that offers a sampling of some elements of our training programs for sale in 2004.


"Sometimes a question you find it hard to ask is easy for another party to answer."

All the best,
Steve Cohen

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