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O'Reilly Lawyers Set Up Shop in the Patent Office 190

Posted by Zonk
from the great-uses-of-time dept.
theodp writes "On the same day Netizens fumed over the trademarking of Web 2.0 (R), lawyers for O'Reilly were beating a path to the USPTO to file for a trademark on MAKER FAIRE, lest some Irish scallywag try to co-opt that catchy phrase for a conference. Speaking of NETIZENS, USPTO records show O'Reilly once sought a trademark for that term. And while details are sketchy, USPTO records also indicate that O'Reilly not only sought to trademark the term WEBSITE, it was the plaintiff in a scheduled Trademark Trial involving a defendant who laid claim to the phrase WEB CITE."
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O'Reilly Lawyers Set Up Shop in the Patent Office

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:34PM (#15956815)
    I trademark "First Post" tm!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:35PM (#15956821)
    "On the same day Netizens fumed over the trademarking of Web 2.0 (R), lawyers for O'Reilly were beating a path to the USPTO to file for a trademark on MAKER FAIRE, lest some Irish scallywag try to co-opt that catchy phrase for a conference. Speaking of NETIZENS, USPTO records show O'Reilly once sought a trademark for that term. And while details are sketchy, USPTO records also indicate that O'Reilly not only sought to trademark the term WEBSITE, it was the plaintiff in a scheduled Trademark Trial involving a defendant who laid claim to the phrase WEB CITE."
    Un-fucking-believable (tm)
    • by jo42 (227475) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:56PM (#15957014) Homepage
      No kidding, they've gone from "Good Guys" to "Shite Sucking Weasels" in my book.
    • by CalvinLawson (997097) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:00PM (#15957050)
      OK, unless you're of the "trademarks are evil" school, it seems like there's nothing wrong with this. In "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", Raymond talks about how he and O'Reilly tried to trademark the term "Open Source", and have it defined by the OSD. His reasoning was that there would be legal recourse against people using the term open source when not actually opening their source code. And after seeing shenanigans of this sort (Sun, anyone?), this makes perfect sense.
      • by DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:33PM (#15957257)
        I agree that companies should be allowed to protect the names of their products to make sure they are not used by other companies for their products, be they similar to the Original (in which case we would speak of plagiarism) or completely different (in which case they might still make unfair use of the original companie's product's fame). That's what trademarks are for.

        But I think this is a very limited scope. A trademark should, in my opinion, not allow you to forbid anyone to simply _use_ the name of your product (as opposed to stick it to their own products). Words are symbolic representations of the sounds we make with our tongues while speaking. They are free like the wind. Imagine Microsoft would sue a carpenter because he sold windows. The fine line lies in the difference between using a word as a name and a word as a word. You cannot trademark words. If you could, Shakespeare's heirs would have a nice source of income from about every native English-speaker in the world. How is a "maker fair" or a "web site" a name? They are just words. "Microsoft Windows" is a name. "Windows" is not. "Dodge Ram" is a name. "dodge" and "ram" are words.
        • Goddammit, thank you.

          I simply cannot believe people are trying this crap.. and I can fathom even less that they're getting away with it.

          What next, every word we speak will be trademarked or copyrighted in some fashion so that merely communicating will cost an arm and a leg?

          Where the hell does it end?
        • A trademark should, in my opinion, not allow you to forbid anyone to simply _use_ the name of your product (as opposed to stick it to their own products).

          What does that have to do with anything?

          If the "Maker Faire" trademark goes through, my employer has the exclusive right to put on a fair called "Maker Faire". That's it.

          You can get a tattoo of the phrase anywhere on your body. You can put it on a hot air balloon. You can write a dirty limerick about it and set it to music. You can draw a reall

          • From a lawyer's point of view, you are perfectly right. Unfortunately, it seems that society has, somewhere along the way, diluted the concept of a trademark to "I own this word".

            If everybody would understand the term "trademark" in the way you do it, why is this even on /.? Scroll down the comments: More than half of the readers seem to think O'Reilly has somehow seized the words "website". Sometimes, we need to be remembered of the way laws were meant to be.
        • Trademarks are granted protection only within the field occupied by the originator of the term. The concept of trademarks is to protect consumers against confusion by the unscrupulous. Such protection provides an incentive for originators of the trademark to police the term, and more importantly, to build up a brand. Therefore, Windows has a trademark over "Windows" for "windowing operating systems". Microsoft can't sue me for using "Windows" for my shoe company, for instance.
      • by RomulusNR (29439)
        In "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", Raymond talks about how he and O'Reilly tried to trademark the term "Open Source", and have it defined by the OSD.

        Classic cabalism. "My personal circle of associates are superior to the rest of you, so it is right and just for us to solely dictate." Wasn't James Coburn in a movie or two about the problems of prejudicial wonkocracy? Let's not even get into the anti-openness of such a move (which is especially ironic for the term "open source") -- I'm sure it's been said.

        Rea
      • by syousef (465911)
        Trademarks are evil when used like this. You should have to come up with a name for your product that's hard to mistake for common everyday language before you can apply for a trademark. When you do get a trademark it should simply be there to protect some other loser from making an inferior product and trying to pawn it off as your won.

        Oh, and stop quoting from that essay. The analogy wasn't that good back in the .com boom, and its even less relevant now. The antique shop and the hippy commune would have b
  • by saskboy (600063) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:36PM (#15956834) Homepage Journal
    Bill O'Reilly is always up to crazy stuff. Next he'll want to patent racy phone calls that generate a lawsuit.

    What? Oh, you don't mean that O'Reilly? Yeah, we'll they are crazy too. Al Gore invented the word website.
    • by corbettw (214229)
      Bill O'Reilly is always up to crazy stuff. Next he'll want to patent racy phone calls that generate a lawsuit.

      Prior art. [wikipedia.org]
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:36PM (#15956836) Homepage Journal
    Way back in the mid-1990s, O'Reilly published a web server program for Windows called... wait for it... Website Professional. Generally abbreviated as O'Reilly Website or just Website. It was later sold to Deerfield, which incorporated it into their VisNetic line. Eventually, Deerfield dropped the product entirely.

    So as crazy as it seems, they actually had a product to trademark.
    • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:43PM (#15956907) Homepage Journal
      The question is whether everyday words should be allowed trademarked, and how doing this reflects upon those who grab the trademark. Before long, we'll see unscrupulous people trademarking everyday terms like Windows or top level domains like dot-net.

      Regards,
      --
      *Art
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Otter (3800)
        I think his point is that while "website" may be a common word today, it was not when they filed on December 28, 1994.
      • by oyenstikker (536040) <slashdotNO@SPAMsbyrne.org> on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:56PM (#15957016) Homepage Journal
        Like "xerox", "kleenex", and "thermos"?
        • by soliptic (665417)
          As I read this, you are at +4.

          Your sig: Too many posts hit +4.

          Rather apt in this case I think, considering your examples are obviously words which were not "real" everyday words and then got trademarked, but invented trademarks which BECAME everyday words.

          The only thing more bizarre than you not realising that, is apparently 2-3 other slashdot users not realising it either.
      • by julesh (229690)
        The point is, though, that the fact that some corporations have trademarks on common words doesn't actually prevent the rest of us from using them at all. It prevents other people from setting up businesses that rely on selling products in a similar field with names that are confusingly similar.

        Hell, there's even a glazier in my local area called Windows 2000. And I happen to know that Microsoft's UK trademark agents are based not far away, so they're probably well and truly aware of the existence of this
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by saddino (183491)
        To answer the big question:

        1) There is nothing wrong with using everyday words as trademarks. Many consumer products do (just check out your supermarket aisles).

        2) Trademarks, when applied for, must describe the market for their good and/or service. A trademark simply protects the good/service in that market, and does not stop anyone from using the word in any other context (or even for any other product/service, given some caveats, e.g. famous marks).

        3) Trademarks need to be actively defended, so a C+D l
        • by Eivind (15695)
          Furthermore, the protection you get, and the ease of defending a trademark is somewhat proportional to the term used. This is so because it's much easier to argue that a competitor is likely to, and indeed intending to create confusion with your brand if your brand is an arbitrary invented term and your competitors is very similar.

          If you produced pullovers under the trademarked name "FrobbyZalt(tm)" you're going to have a good case against the competitor that start selling t-shirts under the name "Frobbys

      • by ajs (35943)
        Website (one word) was not an every-day word at the time. In fact, even in the technical lingo, "Web site" (two words) was just a variant of "FTP site" which had been used for years, and not a stand-alone word.

        Slashdot: News for people who were too stoned or too young to remember the mid-90s.

        Sources: Before 1995, the word "website" was used less than 300 times [google.com] on USENET. During the same time, the term "web site" was used over 5000 times [google.com]. If you prowl through those uses of "web site" you will see that almost
    • by eln (21727) * on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:44PM (#15956918) Homepage
      And if you actually look at the trademark application, it states that they were seeking to trademark the term as it relates to "computer software used to create a server on a global computer network and enable management of documents on the server, for use by those who access the electronic global information infrastructure". Also, the trademark application was not rejected, it was abandoned by O'Reilly.

      So, the summary is a little misleading as it seems to suggest that they were trying to blanket trademark an obviously generic (even at the time) word.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And so if I try and trademark "Blog" as the name of some software I have for maintaining blogs, I shouldn't be considered evil?

      Tim O'Reilly and his Web 2.0 trademark are now being seen for what they really are - evil attempts at forcing others out of his industry (technology publishing) by trademarking the jargin related to it. That's evil in a way Microsoft could only dream of being.

      I haven't bough O'Reilly books for a while, and I'm certainly not going to be after learning about this. O'Reilly can burn
      • by tadghin (2229)
        Well, actually, the company that coined the term blog did in fact trademark it. Have you ever heard of blogger.com (now owned by Google)?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:40PM (#15956871)
    Might as well trademark the equivant phrase "overhyped vaporware"!
  • ...and are never heard from again. Maybe they get infected with "virii."

    Hey, I can dream, can't I?
  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:40PM (#15956882)
    When did O'Reilly stop being about making quality books and stuff and start being about creating buzzwords and catchphrases (Web 2.0, bleh.) and trademarking them?

    There was a time when I'd buy an O'Reilly book to learn a new technology; now I mostly just find resources on the web via Google. I half-seriously wonder if lots of other developers made the same transition and eroded O'Reilly's original and sane-seeming business model.
    • by masklinn (823351)
      I think most devs still read books, but O'Reilly's collection is only used for the classics (the camel book for example), there are quite a few other publishers with very good stuff.
    • by neura (675378)
      Yeah, about the time they had their legal team prevent another conference from using "Web 2.0" in the name of the conference, I cancelled my safari subscription and I will never buy another book from them, again.

      Now it's looking more and more like the right choice.

      @O'Reilly: GG NEWBS
    • by nuzak (959558) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:26PM (#15957215) Journal
      > When did O'Reilly stop being about making quality books and stuff and start being about creating buzzwords and catchphrases (

      Around the time the "Hacks" series came out. Those are some seriously crappy books, almost without exception.

      Manning Press has some really nice books out these days with the "In Action" series.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Stringer Bell (989985)

      I was surprised by the general shittiness of Ruby In a Nutshell [oreilly.com]. I found it difficult to use to actually learn ruby. On a co-worker's recommendation, I picked up a copy of Programming Ruby: The Pragmatic Programmer's Guide [pragmaticprogrammer.com], which I've been much more happy with.

      That's the first O'Reilly book I've encountered that's been so thoroughly unsatisfactory. A shame, really. I'd like to believe this is an exception to the rule rather than the harbinger of a general downard trend in the quality of O'Reilly books.

      • by wazzzup (172351)
        To be fair, the Nutshell series is more of a reference rather than an instructional book. The page counts belie that fact - 218 for the O'Rielly book and 864 for the Pragmatic Bookshelf title.

        It's interesting that O'Reilly doesn't publish an instructional book for Ruby.
  • Its good to know that our language is being protected by these companies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Please trademark "GINORMOUS" .. please.. and defend it vigorously.
    • by kinglink (195330)
      I'd give money to the legal defense of that trademark.

      Also "slippery slope" everyone uses it to defend anything they don't like. There's a couple more I could definatly live with out too.
    • by Creedo (548980)
      Everyone knows that it was used by Jazz to describe Unicron: "ginormous weird looking planet."
  • by joshetc (955226)
    Thank god, now finally the damn buzz-word will be gone forever.

    On a related note, does that mean I could trademark something like "Apple 8.7" just for fun?
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:53PM (#15956993) Homepage
    When you apply for a trademark, you are applying for exclusive use of a given mark for a particular business area. If O'Reilly registers the phrase "Maker Faire" as a trademark for the business of trade conferences, what exactly is wrong with that? Most people wouldn't argue that it would probably be wrong for somebody to start up some mom-n-pop copy store and call it "FedEx Kinko's." They can't do that, because the real FedEx Kinko's has registered that mark as a trademark. Similarly, if O'Reilly invests a considerable amount of money to organize, advertise, staff, and otherwise produce a trade show and they have decided on a name for that trade show, why on earth should they not trademark that name?? If some "Irish scallywag" moved to Palo Alto next week and threw together a fly-by-night trade show under the name "Maker Faire," how could it conceivably not damage the equity O'Reilly has invested in that brand? Protecting business investments is the purpose of trademarks.

    NEWS FLASH: The name "Slashdot" is trademarked. Shock! Horror!
    • Wrong purpose. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by raehl (609729)
      Protecting business investments is the purpose of trademarks.

      Protecting the consumer's ability to identify the source of goods and services is the purpose of trademarks.
      • by PCM2 (4486)

        Protecting the consumer's ability to identify the source of goods and services is the purpose of trademarks.

        That's a pleasantly utopian view of the world, but if it's really about some sort of consumer-rights issue then the consumer ought to be the one paying to register the trademarks.

        On the contrary. When I register a trademark for my business, the reason I'm doing it is to establish a unique identifier for my goods and services, true -- but the reason I do that is because I don't want some other compa

        • by Todd Knarr (15451)

          Exactly. You want to protect the consumer's ability to identify the source of goods and services, specifically yours. When that consumer sees something with your trademark on it, you want it to be your item and not somebody else's using your name.

  • These make sense (Score:5, Informative)

    by Plutor (2994) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @01:54PM (#15957005) Homepage
    1) Maker Faire, Netizen, and Web 2.0 are all registered for a single use: Conferences. They named a conference and they should be allowed to protect that name. If someone started running their own thing and couldn't come up with a name so they called it E3 or PCExpo, you'd expect the holders of those trademarks to sue, no?

    2) The "Website" trademark application was also for a single use, in this case "computer software used to create a server on a global computer network..". Apparently, O'Reilly used to make a piece of software called "Website Professional [geotrust.com]", and it was this uninspired name they were trying to protect. Again, color me unsurprised.

    This entire argument has gone back and forth a million times already, so it's kind of pointless. People who are anti-trademarks will argue that this is word-squatting and that "netizen" and "web 2.0" are public domain words. People who aren't will argue that the trademarks only cover their original uses by O'Reilly and thus using the word(s) netizen on a website or a newspaper or even the cover of a best-selling book is not infringement.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bing Tsher E (943915)
      It's an interesting historical note to mention that the company that really, really disliked O'Reilly's 'Website' package (an all-in-one-retail-box method of rolling out a website in the early days) was Microsoft. It was a Web Server package that you could install on any plain old version of Windows NT. Microsoft didn't like this because they wanted to sell server versions of NT, and expensive client access licenses. They didn't WANT people being able to put a cheap NT Workstation online and use somebody
  • It's April 1st again already? ;P
  • On the same day Netizens fumed over the trademarking of Web 2.0 (R), lawyers for O'Reilly were beating a path to the USPTO to file for a trademark on MAKER FAIRE, lest some Irish scallywag try to co-opt that catchy phrase for a conference. Speaking of NETIZENS, USPTO records show O'Reilly once sought a trademark for that term. And while details are sketchy, USPTO records also indicate that O'Reilly not only sought to trademark the term WEBSITE, it was the plaintiff in a scheduled Trademark Trial involving a

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:11PM (#15957112) Journal
    Have you people never heard of the tragedy of the commons? Words and phrases that are owned "collectively" will be mismanaged into meaninglessness. Ideally, every possible combination of characters and punctuation will be owned by someone. Only then will our words be safe from the evil communists seeking to collectivize our precious language.
  • by CheeseburgerBrown (553703) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @02:16PM (#15957146) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot is one of my favourite [REDACTED], because it keeps me informed on all the recent developments in the exciting fields of [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and Doctor Who.

    I use my [REDACTED]-aggregator for quick access to all of the cool articles, and then follow the underlined [REDACTED] to other [REDACTED] with related information! Easy as 1-2-[REDACTED]!

    Of course, paying the IP tax to read certain words like [REDACTED], [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] can be a bit of a pain, but [I HEARTILY ENDORSE ALL ACTIONS OF THE PATENT OFFICE]!

    Your friend,
    [REDACTED]
  • by cl0r0x70 (723611)
    As a small business owner, I know that often you have to file patents and trademarks defensively.

    In other words, it may not be that O'Reilly particularly wants to grab the term and vindictively go after people who use it, but rather that they felt the need to trademark the phrase to protect themselves from someone who may try to do it first and then go after them. My guess is that any name O'Reilly chose would've been trademarked, regardless of how novel it was.

    This is probably more a product of our ridicu
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by squiggleslash (241428)

      You don't have to file trademarks defensively. Well, let me rephrase that. If you're building a product that has an entirely new name, never before used in relation to your market area, then yeah, you need to file a trademark to ensure nobody else starts making things with the same name. Though it's arguable that's "defensive". You're defending your product against knock-offs, but you're not trademarking it for the same reason as someone might defensively file a patent. That is, you're not doing it so that

  • Patents, Trademarks, and Lawyers might all be a form of legal cancer. Worse its a cancer you can only defend against by getting cancer yourself.

    They are all cancerous growths on society.
  • IMHO the only thing O'Reilly is qualified to even attempt to trademark would be "Shitty Books" and/or "Crappy Conferences".
  • BLOGOSPHERE!
  • ...what about WEB SIGHT(sic)(tm)?
  • I guess anyone can trademark Web 2.01 and screw these guys! But seriously, are they so dumb that they don't realize it's too late for Web 2.0? If you want to be ahead of the game, you gotta go Web 3.0. But I guess that'll be outdated too. Hmm... Assigning numerical appendages to cutesy words seems like a bad idea for a trademark/patent. BTW, if you use "Web 42.01" anywhere, you have to reference me.
  • When did we start confusing Patents with Trademarks... They are quite different things. The title is very misleading.
  • I'm never watching The O'Reilly Factor again.
  • This is Tim O'Reilly:

    I'm not surprised that theodp would submit this story, but I'm surprised that slashdot would run it. O'Reilly files trademarks is news? Especially trademarks that we filed over ten years ago?

    A little bit of background on the specific trademark applications cited, either in the story or in the comments:

    The trademark for Website -- which was, incidentally, the first Windows-based web server, back in 1995 -- was for a particular graphic mark -- the name website in red letters in a yellow
    • by Eivind (15695)
      /. is actually *NOT* a common "word" in shell-speak. It makes no sense, since it is simply equivalent to / (which is indeed common)

      You must be thinking of ./ which is used for current directory. Particularily for runnign a executable program from the current directory rather than searching for the program on $PATH. As in "Then run ./install.sh to start the installation-script."

      /. is a joke of sorts. http-colon-slash-slash-slash-dot-dot-org is supposed to sound silly or something.

    • by babbling (952366)
      Thanks for the response. Another thing people don't seem to realise is that the goal of trademarks is to protect consumers. For example, people might refer to your Perl book as "the camel book" when someone is asking for a good book about Perl. If there was another (but crappy) Perl book with the camel on it, someone might be tricked into buying it instead of the other book they actually wanted.

      I blame the use of the term "Intellectual Property" for people thinking of trademarks as bad. People know that cop
  • Just to put the record straight I actually attended Maker Faire (or sunshine festival) two weekends ago here in Plymouth UK. It was an excellent music event with many fine rock bands attended to by three thousand occasionaly sober campers.

    I am applying for trademarks for the words "the" "a" and "and" as I am marketing a range of stylish suicide bombs under these tags.

    Grrrrrr.
  • First we had the trademarking of the smiley emoticon. That got repealed thanks to a dispute that was file. However, I've noticed that both the patent and trademark office have removed their on-line forms for filing disputes. Frankly, I find that to be quite strange since almost every other government and large corporate entity is moving toward on-line forms. If anyone knows where to find these forms, please post a link, either here or on my blog.

    There are a lot of things that were coined "on the 'net" l

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