The “Web 2.0″ trademark affair

Posted on May 25, 2006, under general.

So, as tom Raftery has reported, IT@Cork have been sent a cease and desist order in relation to their use of the term “Web 2.0″ in relation to a conference. You can read the actual letter here; page 1, page 2.

I’m very conflicted about this. “Web 2.0″ is already a generic term, in my opinion at least, and despite the strong wording of the letter I don’t think the IT@Cork organisers were genuinely trying to pass off their conference as an O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference. However, on the other hand, trademarks do have to be vigourously and pro-actively defended if they are to be of any use, and O’Reilly (or TCM in this case) and its lawyers have a duty to protect any value they have invested in the reputation of their Web 2.0 conferences.

I don’t see how it would be unfair of them to use a trademark in that, limited, respect. Curiously, the legal letter does not supply much detail. It does not say where the trademark is pending an application. It may be the case that their isn’t even a trademark application pending in Ireland in the first place (either directly or through Madrid protocol or Community Trademark scheme).

Either way, personally I think that IT@Cork really are steering a little close to a passing-off offence, I mean they are saying “Web 2.0 conference”, that does seem potentially confusing. A lot of people are predicting very pad PR for Tim O’Reilly because of this, and that might indeed follow, but it would be a pity, I can see their side to this easily enough.

What makes me most conflicted though, is that both IT@Cork and the O’Reilly Web 2.0 conferences seem more or less equally full of crap in general. These are some of the most buzzword-compliant back-patting timesinks going. The Irish one looks to me like a sales gig for slow-learners, and the O’Reilly one like another mock high-level strategic osmosis pool slash networking event so that some people can feel the excitement of being on the radar, yawn.

Part of me hopes that O’Reilly goes on a total blitz with the Web 2.0 trademark, that we cease to see any use of the term and that in the process those O’Reilly conferences go away too, with maybe the exception of OSCon.

6 Replies to "The “Web 2.0″ trademark affair"

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Bernard Goldbach  on May 26, 2006

FACT. In general usage, CMP is not commonly associated as the sole source of Web 2.0 conferences.

FACT. Neither CMP nor O’Reilly own the adjective “Web 2.0″ when pre-pended to an event.

FACT. If CMP gain TM protection to “Web 2.0 Conference” it will not cover Europe unless they also file for TM and Registered mark status under EU conventions.

IT@Cork should be grateful to CMP for increasing the all-around buzz about their event on 8 June. See you there?

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colmmacc  on May 26, 2006

CMP claim to be the creator and organiser of the O’Reilly Web 2.0 conferences. I don’t have any reason to doubt that, and I can’t see why they wouldn’t be entitled to a trademark in that respect. It makes a lot of sense for them to do so, otherwise they would have less defence against a genuinely confusing competing conference.

The other thing is that with trademarks, you really do have to persue all potential breaches you are made aware of. Otherwise when it comes time for you to use your trade mark in a more serious situation then it will fail to be of much use, because the opposition can claim that the action is arbitrary and that the trade mark is not generally enforced.

A perfectly acceptable solution, for example, would be TCM to license the use of the trademark to IT@Cork for some nominal fee (1 euro would do fine), which might satisfy the requirements of all parties.

That is though, if the trade mark will even be applicable in Ireland. Do you have some source for your information regarding jurisdiction? I can’t find anything about it. Based on guessing, there has to be some likelyhood that it’s a Madrid Protocol (WIPO) application, so the EC CTM procedures may not be neccessary.

IT@Cork should be grateful for the publiclity though, and I’m sure it will create some commaradery and buzz. Definitely won’t be there though, it really does look mind-numbing.

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Bernie Goldbach  on May 26, 2006

From personal experience, I had to file trademarks and designs for protection within the EC with the European Harmonization Office in Alicante, Spain. If an infringement for trademark or registered mark goes to court in the EU, the Alicante filing serves as the means to adjudicate the dispute.

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Michele  on May 26, 2006

It seems that O’Reilly have applied for a trademark twice in the past 3 years and the most recent one is still pending.

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Michele  on May 26, 2006

On a totally unrelated note your captcha breaks the navigation completely…….

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david jones  on May 31, 2006

CMP has *not* tried to enforce this supposed trademark in several other notable cases – for example the Mesh Canada Web 2.0 Conference and the Enterprise Ireland Web 2.0 Conference.

They’ve waited to try enforcement on a small non-profit that could have been expected to comply in the face of potentially large legal costs.

Did you know CMP had applied for a trademark? No? Surely if you’re trying to protect a brand an obvious first step is to make it clear that you are trying to trademark?

CMP themselves get it wrong on the Web Conference 2006 website, http://www.web2con.com/. The TM is clearly next to the word ‘Conference’. The trademark application is for the phrase ‘Web 2.0′ on the context of live events.

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