Monday, March 31, 2008

Fear and loathing in trademark city

I have been perplexed by the outrage expressed about the recent Second Life Brand Center announcement. To me, it's a sign that Linden Labs is growing up. When it comes to trademark protection, if you snooze you lose. And if they lose we lose.
Trademarks must be aggressively protected by the owner to keep them from falling into the public domain and the owner losing the protection of the mark. reference

If Linden Labs doesn't protect their brand they risk losing ownership of trademark rights that might equate to millions of lost dollars down the road. On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be much real harm to anyone else.

So tell me, please. Why all the fuss?


  1. My impression is that communication was just handled badly; we Residents are *very* demanding about LL talking nice to us. Most of the mark-related material seemed to be aimed at large companies with legal staffs. Nowhere was there an acknowledgement that, taken literally, saying "second life" in open chat is now a TOS violation. Nowhere was there any words about what if anything a weblog called "My Second Life", or an inworld store called "Second Life Bananaworld" really ought to do.

    Most likely their lawyers advised them against directly addressing that kind of thing, 'cause that's what lawyers do. But it would have been nice if they'd been able to find a way around their lawyers' fears, or at least humorously acknowledged that the stuff was confusing, and not all sunny and straightforward...

    My two Lindens, anyway. :)

  2. while i understand and respect the strong opinions of people i respect on this topic, my reaction was similar to yours botgirl.

  3. I totally agree, Botgirl, and was actually thinking about a similar post, only didn't have the time yet ;-)

  4. Very often I am seeing people dismissing or minimizing others misfortunes. Seems that if you don't have a dog in the fight you could care less. Human nature I guess. Depending on how they clarify the rules I may have to change the URL of my blog. No big deal, just start a new one and inform everyone who links to me what my new URL is.

    However, if you have invested hundreds or thousands of hours into a brand incorporating the aformentioned Trademarks and copyrights it will cost you big time. It may even cripple your business. For the longest time LL and these entrepenuers benefited from each other. Suddenly one side that has the muscle and power lays down the law. Bam,you are screwed. The "big guy" is stomped on by the "Bigger Guy".

    It sucks when people turn away and ignore the plight of others because they fail to see how they may ultimately be affected. Any arbitrary diminishing of our fellow residents diminishes us all.


  5. My intent was not to turn away or ignore the plight of others. I am trying to understand the actual harm it will do anyone else. You mentioned changing a url. I don't want to minimize that, but for Linden, risking their trademark rights could cost millions US$ over time.

    Do you have any suggestions for how Linden could protect their rights, but better support community members who have some investment related to the use of the brand?

  6. Ironically, your post in support of the trademark policy actually commits at least 2. The company name is misrepresented - it is "Linden Lab" not "Linden Labs" and of course it is a registered trademark.

    While I fully agree with the need for a policy, the approach to implementation has been amateurish (not good if you want to look big and grown-up) and at odds with previous, declared policy. Gwyneth Llewelyn has LOTS about this.

  7. Aleister, thanks for catching my Lab(s) error! Although Linden has a corporate obligation to post a legally sufficient trademark policy, I didn't mean to imply that personal bloggers had to follow it to the letter. :)

  8. Perhaps the most significant beef is that the new policy, as written, is not consistent with U.S. trademark law. It purports to impose restrictions that go far beyond what a trademark owner is entitled to under the law. To sustain this gross over-reaching, which no court would ever enforce, LL has incorporated its policy into the TOS, thus further asserting the right unilaterally to eject any resident who does not comply with the legally unenforceable terms of the policy.

    LL are not alone in this sort of abuse. It has become all too common among a great many trademark owners, who have sought to leverage their limited rights under trademark law to assert non-existent proprietary claims over the English language. This growing practice ought to be of serious concern to everyone -- including businesses seeking to protect their legitimate trademark rights.



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