Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Book by Any Other Name Is Still a … Oh, Never Mind

In 2001, Gateway Computers sued a company over the use of the distinctive black on white pattern of holstein cattle. They maintained that they were the only ones who could use that “cow” pattern on a computer-related item.

The buzz was thick and deep. Was it not the height of hubris, people asked, to trademark an organization of colors and shapes that had originally occurred in nature?

Of course, so much has happened since that time, hasn’t it? We’ve seen a lot of crazy in the last 10 years. Not all of it has been in high tech, sure. But whole whacks of it have concerned nature, and sometimes even the most basic foods that we eat. So a cow pattern? Looking back on it, maybe that was an innocent time. Because what do we have now? Social media giant Facebook trying -- and kinda succeeding -- on a grab for the word “book.” From WIRED:
Facebook is trying to expand its trademark rights over the word “book” by adding the claim to a newly revised version of its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” the agreement all users implicitly consent to by using or accessing Facebook.

You may recall that Facebook has launched multiple lawsuits against websites incorporating the word “book” into their names. Facebook, as far as we can tell, doesn’t have a registered trademark on “book.” But trademark rights can be asserted based on use of a term, even if the trademark isn’t registered, and adding the claim to Facebook’s user agreement could boost the company’s standing in future lawsuits filed against sites that use the word.
While it’s fine -- and maybe even somewhat healthy -- to laugh at a company that takes itself so seriously they’d actually try to trademark and control something which, clearly, should not be under anyone’s control, it should also be cause for concern. Especially when they have about 845 million active users and seem to have discovered a way to use them. Read the WIRED story here for all details. Meanwhile, be careful what you laugh at. The oddest things just might be true.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Trish Saunders said...

Here is yet another mega corporation reminding us that greed has no limits. I have other mind-blowing examples of attempted copyrights to share with you:
The International Olympic Committee is vigorously defending its right to the name "Olympic" or "Olympics" and any other variation. (And here you thought the name referred to a mountain range in North America, the capital of Washington State, or the mythical dwelling place of Greek Gods, or the name of a certain cheap beer.) Neutrogena has attempted to copyright the tag line, "There's no such thing as a safe tan." And on and on. Linda's right that corporate shenanigans are more than cause for merriment, they are cause for concern.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 9:43:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Sue Bursztynski said...

So, what would we call a book? A paper reading object? Someone in Melbourne had fun patenting the wheel, as a circular transportation facilitation device. He succeeded! Someone wasn't paying attention. A US company sent cease and desist letters to manufacturers of ugg boots in Australia, claiming the right to the name, even though they were invented here. And of course, we can no longer refer to champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region. It's a bit late, IMO. :-)

Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 12:56:00 AM PDT  

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