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The Almighty Buck

IDG and 'Trademark Dilution' For Dummies 635

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-gotta-be-kidding dept.
Patrick Mochel writes " I'm on a local Linux Users' Group mailing list here in Portland, OR. Sometime in the recent past, someone sent a message to the list proposing that there be published a "For Dummies" book detailing how to use the infinitely complicated sendmail. One way or another, the people at IDG caught wind that this person had used "SMART_HOST for dummies" in the subject line of an email and sent the following message back to him. The list has been in an uproar since." I've attached a few messages from a mailing list below. IDG is the mega corporation that runs LinuxWorld (the website and the expo) as well as publishing many books including the 'For Dummies' series that this is talking about.

Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 10:26:37 -0700 (PDT)
From: Michael Plump
X-Sender: plumpy@magic.hurrah.com
To: plug@Northwest.com
Subject: [PLUG] PLUG: Cease and Desist (this means you David Welton)
Message-ID:
MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=X-UNKNOWN
Content-Transfer-Encoding: QUOTED-PRINTABLE
Sender: owner-plug@Northwest.com
Precedence: bulk
Reply-To: plug@Northwest.com

Heh. On 10/23/1998 David Welton made a post with the subject "SMART_HOST for dummies". Apparently IDG Books didn't like that so much. They found the post in the PLUG archives and emailed the owner of skylab.org (a fictional character named Joe Dietz) telling him to remove the page.
Anyone got advice about what I should do? Ignore it? Reply asserting that I'm not responsible for the content (am I?). Or...?

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Michael Allen Plump | Snorks + Kr0n =3D yip yip yip! |

plumpy@skylab.org
"Salsa jazz music reminds me of the time my grandpa ate his left ear."
--Joe Dietz

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 12:26:11 -0500
From: Isabelle Drewelow
To: dietz@SKYLAB.ORG
Subject: your web site
October 28, 1999
Joe Dietz dietz@SKYLAB.ORG
BY E-MAIL
Re: Smart_Host for Dummies
Dear Mr. Dietz,

IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. ("IDG Books") is the publisher of the well-known and well-regarded "...FOR DUMMIES" series of reference books and products.

It has come to my attention that you are using the subtitle "Smart_Host for Dummies" in a chat room on your Web site at: [link ] While we wish you every success in your work, we must raise certain issues with respect to your use of IDG Books' federally registered trademark.

As you probably know, IDG Books publishes and distributes globally a line of reference books known as the "...FOR DUMMIES" series. This series has been in existence since 1991 and has been translated into 38 languages. In addition, there are many other successful FOR DUMMIES products including calendars, audio books, musical compact discs, toys, games, and clothing.

IDG Books has made a substantial investment in promoting the identification of this trademark to its distributors and customers, and currently has registrations in many countries.

Because of the significant efforts that IDG Books has undertaken to promote and protect its trademarks, and because of the potential for confusion and/or dilution, we trust that you can appreciate our concerns. For your information, dilution is a relatively new area of law which requires the owner of a trademark to protect it against "erosion" and/or dilution. Some famous examples of trademark dilution are Kleenex tissues, Scotch Tape, Xeroxing and Aspirin, as these marks were not protected by their respective owners and, today have become almost generic terms. At IDG Books, our goal is to prevent such "generalization" from happening to our trademarks.

Therefore, we hope that this matter can be resolved quickly and amicably. Accordingly, we request that you change "Smart_Host for Dummies" to a non-infringing title and provide IDG Books with written assurances that you will refrain from using its trademarks in the future. We look forward to hearing from you by November 10th , 1999.

Very truly yours,

Isabelle Drewelow
Trademark Coordinator
IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.

(Note: It is really a mailing list, and not a chat room, but the fact that they think it is a chat room scares me even more)

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IDG and 'Trademark Dilution' For Dummies

Comments Filter:
  • This is the type of stupidity that gets me to "just say no" to someone. I will watch, but if this true, IDG will get a package from me containing the books of theirs that I already own.
  • That was the most polite and kind trademark letter I have ever seen on Slashdot or anywhere else. I wish more lawyers were that nice with their 'cease and desist' letters.
  • "(Note: It is really a mailing list, and not a chat room, but the fact that they think it is a chat room scares me even more)"

    Maybe they need to read "Internet for Dummies"?
  • I can't help thinking that these guys trying to publish books for dummies is sort of like the blind leading the blind.
  • Read http://slashdot.org/com ments.pl?sid=99/10/26/1918204&cid=49 [slashdot.org].

    Seems to me that the same arguements apply here. If he were to modify the archive, he would give up content nuetrality. Seems like a good reason not to. Worst case would seem to be that he might eventually be ordered by a court to change the archive, but then he could still claim content nuetrality, and a court would seem to be hard pressed to apply any fines when he points out the bind and claims good will.

  • There was a programme on BBC radio's "Material World" science strand this afternoon, apparently 90% of cells in the body are in fact bacteria.

    So they called it "Bacteria R Us".

    Ooops... better call the duty lawyer

  • Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 12:26:11 -0500
    From: Isabelle Drewelow
    To: anonymous_coward@slashdot.org
    Subject: Your Slashdot Posting
    October 28, 1999
    anonymous_coward@slashdot.org
    BY E-MAIL
    Re: OpenGL for Dummies

    Dear Mr. Coward,

    IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. ("IDG Books") is the publisher of the
    well-known and well-regarded "...FOR DUMMIES" series of reference
    books and products.

    It has come to my attention that you are using the subtitle "OpenGL
    for Dummies" in a chat room on your Web site at: http://www.slashdot.org While we wish
    you every success in your work, we must raise certain issues with
    respect to your use of IDG Books' federally registered trademark.

    As you probably know, IDG Books publishes and distributes globally a
    line of reference books known as the "...FOR DUMMIES" series. This
    series has been in existence since 1991 and has been translated into
    38 languages. In addition, there are many other successful FOR
    DUMMIES products including calendars, audio books, musical
    compact discs, toys, games, and clothing.

    IDG Books has made a substantial investment in promoting the
    identification of this trademark to its distributors and customers, and
    currently has registrations in many countries.

    Because of the significant efforts that IDG Books has undertaken to
    promote and protect its trademarks, and because of the potential for
    confusion and/or dilution, we trust that you can appreciate our
    concerns. For your information, dilution is a relatively new area of law
    which requires the owner of a trademark to protect it against "erosion"
    and/or dilution. Some famous examples of trademark dilution are
    Kleenex tissues, Scotch Tape, Xeroxing and Aspirin, as these marks
    were not protected by their respective owners and, today have
    become almost generic terms. At IDG Books, our goal is to prevent
    such "generalization" from happening to our trademarks.

    Therefore, we hope that this matter can be resolved quickly and
    amicably. Accordingly, we request that you change "OpenGL for
    Dummies" to a non-infringing title and provide IDG Books with written
    assurances that you will refrain from using its trademarks in the future.
    We look forward to hearing from you by November 10th , 1999.

    Very truly yours,

    Isabelle Drewlalot
    Trademark Coordinator
    IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.
  • Is it just me, or does anyone else find the concept of a product called "... for dummies" a slight on the customer?

    I've refused to buy any "For Dummies" or "For Idiots" or "For Microcephalics" or whatever for a long time. My theory is that you either need a much weaker or a much stronger self image than I have to purchase one, though I imagine they make excellent gifts for that hard-to-please in-law.

  • Who cares if IDG is polite? They are completely incorrect and very far out of place.

    He is not using the "Dummies" name in any way for a handle, username, website or anything else. It was simply a proposal for a "Smart_Host for Dummies" book in reply to an earlier message. Both of the messages (the original and the 'offending' messages were on the Portland Linux Users Group *mailing list*. It appears on the website as do all messages to the list beucase they are archived.

    Apparently, companies are now suing over the rights to use their names as thread-subjects? You know, I'd like to propose that someone publish "Dummies Guide To Being An Uptight Corporate Fascist Asshole", but I wouldn't want IDG to sue me

    Patents and copyrights have been no more infringed than if I were to post a message to a mailing list about how I wish Pepsi would come out with their own brand of coffee.

    Anyone who still isn't clear on this, do yourself a favor and visit the proposed response from Michael himself:

    http://www.sklab.org/~plumpy/idgreply.txt [sklab.org]
    ---
    icq:2057699
    seumas.com

  • Yes. This is very good, and along the lines of what I was thinking, but I would expand on this statement:

    -------snip--------
    That message is really nothing more than a suggestion that someone publish a book entitled "Sendmail for Dummies".
    -------snip--------

    Here's my version:

    -------snip--------
    That message is really nothing more than a suggestion that someone, either IDG or another publisher, publish a "...for Dummies" style book. As you know, your name recognition is exceptional, thanks to the great series of books that you have published.
    -------snip--------

    RP

  • I am a speaker of the english language, as are many of you. I wish you all success with your speech and other forms of communication. However it has come to my attention that many (if not all) of you are infringing upon my trademarks.

    Early in my first year I gained the rights to such phonetical noises as ma-ma and "P-I-E pie". Later in my development I began to use such parts of speech as verbs and nouns. Recognizing these as keys to profit, I trademarked those as well as any pattern matching [a-zA-Z0-9]* . Fear not, I am not attempting to trademark the entire English language and character set, that would mean hampering my communications with you.

    I cheerfully relinquish the trademark rights to

    • Pronouns
    • The Articles
    • The verbs is, as, are, were, been, and does
    • Conjunctions
    • The prepositions of and for
    • Individuals may use their birthnames without penalty
    I believe that the vocabulary that I have listed is sufficient for most daily communication.

    Me is and are of and with I but for you,
    John F. Hurst

    I'm glad that maddog's book/pamphlet was free, I don't think I'll be using cash with these guys.

  • Who didn't get the Aha of recognition the first time they saw a XXXX For Dummies book. This is because they played on the already existing use of such an english language expression as 'Hey, that's for dummies!'.


    Ok, then it seems fine to trademark that for a book on computers or IT but can they really appropriate the use of it in language? Did I just violate their trademark just then?


    I would suggest searching (perhaps in newspaper archives) for examples that predate their trademark. Perhaps use in headline would be a very strong argument.

  • Ok, so there's a trademark problem, and so they have to change the archive. What about the original e-mails, which could be sitting on people's computers still? OK, the lawyers probably don't know of their existance, but is it legally different?
    (or, if the lawyers did know about the e-mails, would their response be to e-mail the users and ask them to change the subject lines of the stored e-mails?)

    One wonders what would have happened if this had happened in Usenet, and they had, say, come across it in Dejanews. Could Dejanews be required to change their archives? Could the original poster be required to send out a cancel (bearing in mind that not all newsservers honour cancels)?

    Could get tricky...

    (nb: IAdefinatelyNAL)

    --
    Repton.

  • Just a note, but people will take you more seriously if you can keep "trademark" and "copyright" seperated :)

    But seriously, you are right in the other aspects. The real way to "fix" this is to get the laws change, which likely won't happen because lawyers are predominantly the ones who are making the laws.

    Unfortunately, joining the US congress is akin to the Kiss of Death to somebodies career. This is why almost every congress-person, indeed almost everyone in government, is generally retired and independantly wealthy, or a career politician. This is why doctors and other professionals generally don't run for office. As soon as the legislature is in session, they have to leave and most of their clients will leave for other pastures.

    So what's the solution? I have no frickin idea. I just think the root problem has to be fixed before attempting to get anything done, or else the "solutions" will be corrupted and things will always remain the same.


  • Methinks that the misunderstanding here involves confusing publishing with merely posting, as it applies on the web. If someone sent a letter to the editor of a print publication using the phrase "..For Dummies", the editor would probably insert the necessary '(tm)' or whatnot. Clearly, a mailing list moderator or a webmaster of a site like slashdot can't easily do this....

    ... Unless(tm) You(tm) Write(tm) A(tm) Simple(tm) Perl(tm) Script(tm) That(tm) Adds(tm) These(tm) Marks(tm) Everywhere(tm).

    (on your end, you'd want to do the reverse translation)
  • Actually I was upset that "Linux for dummies" came out. I always made the statement about, "Windows for dummies", "Windows for idiots", "The Non-Geeks Guide to Windows" and then I would say "Do you see a trend here?" Noting that *nix was for the advanced intellectual, and better than the rest. But than IDG had to go out and publish "Linux for dummies" and ruin it for me :-(


    Steven Rostedt
  • by JoeBuck (7947) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:30PM (#1579792) Homepage

    I suggest a response along the following lines:

    Dear Ms. Drewelow,

    Thank you for your letter of October 28. While we understand that it is your job to defend your trademark, we feel that you are asserting an overly broad right to a common phrase in the English language that was in wide use before IDG ever existed as a corporate entity. We do not choose to use the phrase "XXX for dummies" because IDG made it popular; it was a popular phrase before IDG existed as a corporate entity. For this reason, your task of preventing the dilution of the term is probably hopeless; the term is quite diluted already since so many people use it without thinking of IDG books in any way.

    While the courts have limited commercial speech, we are not engaging in for-profit activity here and freedom of speech is an important value to us. As private individuals we do not believe that you, or the Congress, has the power to stop us from using the phrase "for dummies" however we choose. We therefore respectfully decline your request.

    We assure you that we will not compete with IDG by publishing a book with "... For Dummies" in the title, and we will not in any way imitate the "look and feel" of your "For Dummies" book series.

  • You must spend a lot of time wondering about the irrelevent. Yes, Ive read it. Feel better.
    btw. What the hell is a D00d?

    Tea
  • by rjh (40933) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:31PM (#1579795)
    If you're going to send that, then I suggest reading "Civil Actions for Dummies"... several times... all six thousand volumes.

    In case you haven't noticed, these people are attorneys. They are paid hundreds of dollars an hour by corporations like IDG just to stomp on people like you. Just writing that letter probably cost IDG a cool $300. If you get pissy with them, then they will drop the hammer on you.

    They honestly don't give a shit if you're polite to them or not. What they care about is protecting and preserving the intellectual-property rights of their client, IDG. Snippiness is completely irrelevant to them.

    If you want to avoid a long, prolonged flamewar with a lawyer -- and when lawyers flame, they do it in ways that your pocketbook will feel -- then I suggest writing back a polite, professional letter.

    This is not Usenet, and you do not get style points for creative flamage.
  • by shaum (32770) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:31PM (#1579796) Homepage
    This isn't the first time IDG's lawyers have gotten too big for their britches. See the parody site Ulysses for Dummies [bway.net].

    (The page linked to here is a description of an e-mail exchange with IDG's lawyers; at the bottom of that page is a link to the "offending" site.)

  • looks like you forgot to read the "First Post for Dummies" book...geez...

  • I would have thought that having a term become a generic part of the language would be more flattering, than protecting your rights to it.

    Just think, I need to go buy some Kleenex (Kleenexes?) I walk into a store, and voila, there's a whole shelf of them. Nevermind that I just needed tissues.
  • "They're all saying the word ..."
    "Stop saying it. AAAArghh! ... I've said it..."
    "You've said it! Aaaaarghhh! ... We've said it ... We're all saying it."

    -beme
  • by JoeBuck (7947) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:34PM (#1579800) Homepage

    They are demanding that a comment with the title "SmartHost for dummies" be stripped from the archives of a mailing list. Do you think that the 1st Amendment has been repealed?

    Now, if someone produced a book with a yellow cover called "SmartHost for Dummies", yes, that would be a trademark violation.

  • Folks, let's not forget that these are the LinuxWorld folks. In other words, we are their customers. I reccommend we all just write some nice polite (I'm serious) letters of protest.

    Visit:
    IDG Expos [idgexpos.com], the people who bring you the LinuxWorld Conference.
    LinuxWorld [linuxworld.com], IDG Expos' sister company.

    Be sure to mention that you heard about it on Slashdot. That'll grab their attention.

    Marlboro
  • I'd agree with you if this were posted on a serious discussion, but an article like this deserves to be dealt with appropriate humor. While the post in question was trite and vulgar, it made me laugh out loud and was on topic at least, so it deserves a few points up IMHO.

    I'd personally prefer being able to weight scores (or at least sorting) by which aspect was moderated up. Some days (or topics) I'd like to see only funny posts, some days only interesting/informative ones.

    Oh well, all in all moderation is good. I tried reading without sorting by score or showing moderation points the other day. It was much worse.
    --
  • I guess the Spanish Inquisition began by asking politely, before they got around to the red hot pokers and thumbscrews. So if, instead of replying:

    "Maybe.."

    to the polite enquiry:

    "Do you renounce Satan and all his many demons..?"

    The hapless enquired-of had responded:

    "Now see here, you regressive and pathetic excuse for a clergyman, seeking to trick us poor peasants into falsely confessing to all manner of trumped-up demonic practises - you can take your red hot poker and stick it where the sun shineth not"

    Whilst at the same time, swiftly clouting the inquisitor in the testicles with a spiked mace, then the middle ages could have been a way more pleasant time to live. (And there must be a lot of sub-12 year old juveniles hereabouts judging by the reaction on the list.)

    WSP+++

    batlev@hotmail.com

  • I've delt with large coorporations before. And I personally know how tough they can be. I will say that IDG may just be looking out for themselves and don't want to bother with this, but if there is a large up roar, then they may get defensive.

    Its not your neck on the line, it's "Plumpy"'s. And posting as a AC doesn't show that you are willing to stick your neck out.

    Yes, I thought it was a witty letter, but I also believe that you should fight for your rights, and not cross the line to being on the offensive.

    I'm just sticking out for plumpy.
    Steven Rostedt
  • These stupid fuckers don't have a case (as pointed out by others). They probably have some idiot typing "for Dummies" into a search engine each day, trying to ferret out legitimate misuses of their trademark. That idiot is probably named "Isabelle Drewelow." In all likelihood, she found your archive page and shot off a form letter.

    If you respond to them at all, just say "There is no misuse of your trademark on my site," and nothing else. If you carefully explain why they are wrong, you give them something to attack, which will put you in a weaker legal position if it comes to that (which it shouldn't anyway).

    My personal rule is to ignore all threatening correspondance that does not come from actual lawyers ("Trademark Coordinator" bitches don't count).

  • Slashdot Polls for Dummies
  • >Reason: Lawyers don't like to be insulted.
    >Although others feel they would not be nearly
    >as polite, I caution you to be even more so.
    >Both security and lawyers DO NOT have a sense
    >of humor.

    "Do not trifle with wizards for they are subtle and quick to anger"?

    (all trademarks, copyrights, etc are the property of their respective owners, yada yada yada...)

    Jon Frisby, Senior Internet Software Engineer,
    Personal Site (MrJoy.com) [mrjoy.com]
  • I'm guessing it's something that comes straight out of one's @$$.
    --
  • The question seems to be whether use of a "trademarked phrase" in conversation can be considered trademark infringement. I can't see how it can be (for one thing because it seems utterly stupid). Maybe they're trying to consider chat room messages as "published media" (and yes I know it's not a chat room, but that's what they think).
  • what strikes me as interesting is the fact that IDG really feels that threatened by an internet mailing list. The last time I checked, knowledge could not be patented. I suppose that they have also patented the word "dummy" too... -cabr1to

  • Plenty of comapnies rue the day when they lose such important brand identification.



    Yeah, but they should be happy, too. It gives them incredible brand recognition. I think that every company's dream should be losing their trademark from dilution.




    --
  • I wrote a bunch of books for the old M&T Press. When IDG purshed M&T a few years back, I immediately pulled all of my books (to which I had retained copyright), regaining the publication rights.

    I know other authors who've worked with IDG; the company is domineering, ignorant, and downright cheap and greedy...

    This, BTW, is a good example of why intellectual property is important: By owning the copyrights to my works, I was able to prevent them from being reprinted by an objectionable publisher.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies for dummies
  • or "How we learned to stop doing constructive work and sue everyone we can"

    Ya think IDG will go for this as their next big title?

  • He needs to be polite. Not to kiss their heinies.

    Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be: "That message is really nothing more than a suggestion that IDG publish a '...for Dummies' book on the topic of Sendmail. This was not meant to dilute your trademark, rather it was a specific request for a book in your series."


    Jon Frisby, Senior Internet Software Engineer,
    Personal Site (MrJoy.com) [mrjoy.com]
  • (4) The following shall not be actionable under this section:
    ...(C) All forms of news reporting and news commentary.

    (From "Here's the law in question" thread below)

  • I suggest you ignore all those replies that think your letter sounded "kewl". If you send them this letter you will only sound unprofessional and childlike. Though they may not sue you this is not pushing the balance in your favor. Your letter should be intellegent, professional and firm. You can come across as if you are looking down on them for being stupid if you just point out their errors in an intellegent non-insulting way.

    anywho, good luck
  • Hi, mostly a good reply, but remember you are talking to lawyers here and to paraphrase MIB "No m'am the legal profession do not have a sense of humor that we are aware of"

    For the most part their initial letter seems to be a polite relatively non-threatening (aside from the fact that it came from a legal firm) request that you correct an apparent potential dilution of their highly valuable copyright.

    They have notably failed to mention any proposed legal action they may take against you and their closing paragraph does indicate a wish to resolve the matter amicably "Therefore, we hope that this matter can be resolved quickly and amicably."

    I would suggest that you alter the paragraph:

    That message is really nothing more than a suggestion that someone publish a book entitled "Sendmail for Dummies". (Presumably, IDG Books would publish this volume, since anyone else who published that title would get a rather nasty letter from IDG's trigger-happy lawyers.)
    to read as follows:
    That message is really nothing more than a suggestion that someone publish a book entitled "Sendmail for Dummies". Presumably, IDG Books would publish this volume, being the holders of the "For Dummies" copyright mark.
    This has the double effect of acknowleging IDG as the holders of the TM and removing a potentially offensive reference to their lawyers.

    It would probably also be worthwhile to include an explanation of the nature of the archives and pointing out A) That you have no control of the contents of the archive and B) that the controversial material is part of a publicly archived message (and as such is protected under the 1st amendment) and is not listed in any way as a subject of the site itself.

    Stating in closing that you are happy to enter into discussions with them regarding this problem would not only be polite but also demonstrate that you are also willing to find an amicable solution to the problem.

    Keep up the good work! You're a pro!
    This strikes me as somewhat condescending, but that's just me

    PS: any and all attempts to sue Joe Dietz or The Skylab Group would be a considerable waste of effort. Both are fictional entities.
    The fact that they are fictional entities does not protect the real person behind them from legal action.
  • Now there's a great new signature. I'm gonna put that in my .plan, *and* on my home page *and* on every post I ever make ever ever again.

    Ok, maybe not.

    R
  • Okay, so what if I post frequently on all the Perl newsgroups and constantly refer to "Learning Perl" as "Perl for Dummies"? This is legitimate trademark dilution. IDG would have every right to ask me to stop, and if I didn't they would certainly sue me.

    Furthermore, they SHOULD sue me. If I get everyone referring to "Learning Perl" as "Perl for Dummies", brand recognition is damaged and IDG has wasted quite a few marketing dollars. There's a reason why companies spend huge sums of money on advertising just to get us to remember things like names and logos.

    The first amendment has nothing to do with it. Plenty of kinds of speech are not protected by the first amendment. If you don't believe me, go into an airport and yell "I'VE GOT A BOMB!" Then, when they arrest you, argue that you were just exercising your first amendment rights and see if they let you go.

    By the way, in case you think otherwise companies care deeply about what is said on newsgroups, as well they should.
  • Well, a few months back http://www.spamcop.net recieved a "polite" letter from Hormel telling them to remove a picture of a Spam container from their page, and the guy who runs the page got rid of it and posted the letter on the website.
  • If it's "pre-diluted", that would make it an indefensible trademark, would it not?

    Trademarks are only allowed to be terms not in general usage -- thus I cannot trademark "car" and make demands upon everyone who uses the term...

    -JF

    Jon Frisby, Senior Internet Software Engineer,
    Personal Site (MrJoy.com) [mrjoy.com]
  • I agree, although I doubt many will agree. It would go against the mob mentality that seems to be slashdot these days.

    I wonder what slashdot would be like if we were talking and interacting in a virtual world instead of posting messages? Would we be lynching all of "them"? Them being your choice of lawyers, businessmen, or stupid people.
  • If you are under any *REAL* threat, then Andover will have the same problem as there likely now >100 posts containing the word "For Dummies"
  • by Zico (14255) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:42PM (#1579833)

    Why do you feel the need to respond to them so immaturely? What they sent to you seemed polite in every way. Honest mistakes happen all the time; most mature adults have learned to repond to them graciously rather than in a childishly antagonistic way. I'd suggest politely pointing out that they were mistaken in that it was just a message title (as well as a request for such a book to be published) and not a chat room. Do you really expect to gain sympathy from anyone above the age of 12 by displaying such juvenility?

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • Let's say that I'm filming a documentary on the streets of New York City. It's a "real life" type of thing, following around crack dealers or something. One of them, in a conversation about his wares, says something along the lines of, "Good to the last drop".

    Sure, it's a Maxwell House [kraftfoods.com] ad, but I didn't use it in the the context of an advertisement for something. It was an incidental comment made by someone, and it happened to get captured as a very small part of a larger work.

    Now, let's continue and suppose that the documentary is aired by PBS [pbs.org], and some lawyer from Kraft Foods [kraftfoods.com] saw it and considered taking action against PBS [pbs.org], or perhaps myself, as the producer of the work.

    Now one might argue that this is very different, because it was aired on PBS [pbs.org] one time and now it's over. OK, let's take it one step further and suppose that PBS [pbs.org] liked this documentary so much that they decided to sell the video. There they go, blatantly using Maxwell House's [kraftfoods.com] slogan to sell their video, erroding the brand recognition that in which they have invested so much.

    Is this the stupidest thing you've ever heard? Me too, and I see no difference between the two.

    Along the same lines, if somebody out there is looking for a delicious and nutricious project, I'm sure you could find a slogan or something in CNN's transcript archives [cnn.com], which would be pretty much the EXACT same thing as we're talking about in this story.

    BTW, I suppose my using the actual slogan in this posting is just as serious an infraction, so I'm sure Kraft will be jumping on Rob and the Boys real soon.

    That's my take,
    RP

  • >They are demanding that a comment with the title >"SmartHost for dummies"
    >be stripped from the archives of a mailing list.

    Not only that, but their little trademark phrase,
    "...for dummies", is so darn popular, that people
    use it without realizing it. We're not infringing, because we're not selling it, instead, we're popularizing and accepting their little trademark!
  • >copyright

    It's a trademark, not a copyright but you are exactly right. :)

    A trademark can go bye-bye if it is abused. A copyright can not.

    A copyright can only become void if the owner places something in the public domain, or the copyright expires. (which happens after 75 years IIRC)

    -JF
    Jon Frisby, Senior Internet Software Engineer,
    Personal Site (MrJoy.com) [mrjoy.com]
  • Comments? Sure.

    I'm on the same mailing list. (Look for ``llywrch" in the records, & you'll find my real name. FWIW.) I just read about this episode at lunch. A few hours later, it's a hot topic on Slashdot.

    Observation one: the wheels of justice may move slow, but the Internet's are turbocharged. All the more reason to think before acting.

    Observation two: IDG has a weakness or two of their own. If a couple of people are exchanging email on a mail list about needing a book like ``Sendmail for Dummies" or ``SNMP for Dummies", & IDG goes after them for perceived Copyright Infringement, how likely are they going to get support for their next title from the Internet community?

    (Have you heard about the abusive interview with Pete Rose? Did you also hear how the entire NY Yankee's team decided they would refuse all interviews with the journalist responsible?)

    Observation three: Joe Dietz does not exist? Shoot. I had always thought he was one of the Usenet Freedom Knights on n.a.n.[eu]. Or maybe he *is*, & is the most respected one of that ilk.


    Geoff
  • Actually, Toys "R" Us (tm) does vigorously and successfully, yet at the same time sanely, defend their trademark of the 'x R Us' name - a formula which I believe they have a great deal more right to than the 'x for Dummies' formula. TRU, however, only goes after people selling product under names falling under that formula. That is to say - people who are honestly infringing on their trademark. Weird, huh?
  • Yes, but they are attempting to USE the government to suppress someone's freedom of speech.
  • by JPMH (100614) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:53PM (#1579857)
    Looks like the key sections are 1125 [cornell.edu] and 1114 [cornell.edu].

    • 1125(c) Remedies for dilution of famous marks
      • (1) The owner of a famous mark shall be entitled, subject to the principles of equity and upon such terms as the court deems reasonable, to an injunction against another person's commercial use in commerce of a mark or trade name, if such use begins after the mark has become famous and causes dilution of the distinctive quality of the mark, and to obtain such other relief as is provided in this subsection. In determining whether a mark is distinctive and famous, a court may consider factors such as, but not limited to ...etc
      • (4) The following shall not be actionable under this section:
      • (A) Fair use of a famous mark by another person in comparative
        commercial advertising or promotion to identify the competing
        goods or services of the owner of the famous mark.
      • (B) Noncommercial use of a mark.
      • (C) All forms of news reporting and news commentary.

    1125(c)4(B)... They haven't got a leg to stand on.

  • by Mawbid (3993) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:54PM (#1579873)
    Perhaps I'm giving the US legislature too much credit, but I won't believe that "failing" to take action agains this kind of use of a trademark (it's a conversation, not a publication -- that it was logged on the web doesn't change that) could possibly loosen the trademark holder's grip on the mark.

    I think what happened must be that this Isabelle Drewelow, who sent the cease and desist order, didn't understand the nature and intent of the web page she had found by typing "for dummies" in the AltaVista search field. She must have though there was genuine trademark infringement going on.

    The best course of action would be to respond calmly, politely and informatively (even dropping the sarcasm). Not everyone who doesn't grok the 'net deserves our ridicule. (Whether such people should be cruising it in search of trademark violations is another matter.)
    --

  • #include

    For the most part I agree with your statement. However, while, as previously stated I'm not a lawyer, I'd have to say that common carrier status is really, really tough here because we are talking about a mailing list. AOL lost this battle at least once already.

    Although there is recourse. He could simply claim fair use, which is protected to some extent under trademark laws. For example, I could write a review in magazine about a Corvette, or even compare, say a Dodge Viper to a Corvette, and neither DaimlerChrysler nor General Motors could sue me for trademark infringement because I was reviewing their respective products. Even if I stated that I thought that GM should produce say a "Corvette Lite" which would be low-end version of the Corvette to combat the Mustang, for instance would not be infringement for the same reason. This line of reasoning could be easily extended into saying that the author of the message thought that IDG should produce a "Sendmail for Dummies (R)" is the same thing.

    You do have to see it from their point of view, though. Xerox (R) has had the same problem for years because people say "why don't you xerox a copy of that for me." When things become common usage, the company can lose their trademark rights. The message from IDG mentions Aspirin. Aspirin used to be a trademark of (I think) Bristol-Meyers but they lost that because people began referring to any headache pills as aspirin. Now anyone and their mother can all their product aspirin.

    AOL is a trademark of America Online, Inc. Dodge, Viper and DaimlerChrysler are trademarks or registered trademarks of DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Corvette, GM and General Motors are trademarks or registered trademarks of General Motors Corp. Mustang is a trademark for Ford Motor Company. IDG and ...For Dummies registered trademarks of IDG Books. Bristol-Meyers is a trademark of Bristol-Meyers-Squibb. Xerox is registered trademark of Xerox Corporation. Sendmail is a trademark of Sendmail, Inc. and/or Eric Allman. Surak is a trademark of Paramount Pictures. Please don't sue me, I'm very poor. :)
  • Who the hell moderated this up? Did anyone of you actually read the article/letter? It may well be that if IDG creates a pattern of failure to defend their trademark that they may loose the right to, HOWEVER, as there is no concievable way that this example constitues infringement this post is just wrong. Unfortunatly I've already posted to this thread so I cant moderate it down, but you can bet if I ever see it in my meta-moderation menu it's getting an UNFAIR.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:58PM (#1579884)
    15 U.S.C. s 1125(c) governing dilution provides at subsection (4)(B): "The following shall not be actionable under this section: . . . Noncommercial use of a mark." End of discussion.
  • by jms (11418) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @01:02PM (#1579890)
    First off, I just want to say that this is the most reasonable lawyer-letter I have ever seen. No threats. No references to "treble damages."

    They explained the issue in non-threatening, plain english, and requested -- not demanded -- that the site be changed.

    Such civil behavior should be commended! Especially in this day and age.

    What is at issue here is the 1996 Federal Trademark Anti-Dilution Law -- the sort of law that makes lawyers' eyes dance with visions of long trials and big paychecks. It's a very vague law.

    This law provides special protection to "famous" trademarks -- and the definition of "famous" is left to be battled over in court.

    In summary, you are perfectly free to start a company to manufacture "Apple Golf Balls" without infringing on Apple Computer's trademark, because, basically, Apple's holds the trademark for the word "apple" in computer products/services, but they never manufactured golf balls. That's why "Clue Computing" can coexist with Hasbro's "Clue" game. Clue Computing trades in computer products/services, while Hasbro trades in board games. Trademark ordinarily refers to the combination of a mark, and a specific trade.

    Under the new law, this does not apply to "famous" trademarks. So, you could not start marketing "Kodak Golf Balls", because the court would rule that since the trademark "Kodak" is so deeply associated with the Kodak film company, the word "Kodak" on other products, such as golf balls, would create market confusion. If you saw "Kodak Golf Balls" in a store, you would probably think, "When did Kodak start manufacturing golf balls?"

    What IDG is claiming is that their "... for dummies" trademark is now so famous that anything in the world with "... for dummies" will cause market confusion with their line of books, etc.

    Whether this is true or not would be a matter for the courts to decide. However ...

    One provision of the 1996 law states that in order for use of a famous trademark to be dilutive, the defendant must make commercial use of the mark. I don't think that IDG would be able to prove this, because I don't think that it happened.

    They were under the mistaken impression that the "... for dummies" title was the name of a chat room. If this was the case, then they MIGHT have a case, if they could show that the person who created the chat room was attempting to draw in readers, by using the public association between the "... for dummies" trademark with the idea of a tutorial book aimed at beginners, and was providing a tutorial work on Sendmail.

    However, this was a simple message in a message thread, where the author idly wishes for a "Sendmail for dummies" book, that does not exist. There's no commercial use of the mark. The author of the article wasn't using the mark to draw in readers, or to sell products.

    So I think that IDG isn't justified in pursuing the matter.

    Reference:

    http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/matters/mat ters-9904.html

  • See the post "Here's the law in question", below:

    Section 1125(c)4:

    The following shall not be actionable under this section:
    ...(B) Noncommercial use of a mark.

  • by drix (4602) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @01:53PM (#1579898) Homepage
    I guess now is as good a time as any to mention my ironically titled manuscript, hitting the shelves at a store near you next week:


    "The complete idiot's guide to copywright law for dummies in a nutshell in 21 days and 24 hours."


    Let the cease & desist orders begin :)
  • Here's a reply that kept the IDG lawyers away [bway.net] from a similar "infringement". And to everyone squirming to tone the letter down - I strongly suggest you read this.


    Daniel.

  • by Eccles (932) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @04:34PM (#1579943) Journal
    I am against IP laws, but not trademark laws.

    I am *completely* against mis-use of the trademark laws, and a lawyer who so blatantly misrepresents them should be disbarred. Trademark law is available on-line, so even non-lawyers like us can discover relevant sections at this site. [cornell.edu]

    Check out Sect 1125, in particular the very end:

    (4) The following shall not be actionable under this section:
    (A) Fair use of a famous mark by another person in comparative
    commercial advertising or promotion to identify the competing
    goods or services of the owner of the famous mark.
    (B) Noncommercial use of a mark.
    (C) All forms of news reporting and news commentary.

    This qualifies under both (B) and (C) as *non*-actionable.
  • by Bjorn Christianson (2269) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @11:59AM (#1579965) Homepage
    Much as I dislike this sort of "picking on the underdog", as I understand dilution, IDG doesn't have much choice. According to the law (again, as I understand, and IANAL) IDG has two options: they can defend their copyright against any and all comers, or they can lose their right to stop anyone from using the copyright -- even blatant abuses (someone else writing and publishing a For Dummies book, for example).

    This is exactly the sort of zero-discretion legislation that's making things so much fun in the workplace and school. "Hi, we're human, we can think, but would prefer not!"

    And, besides, you have to admit that this is a very polite message. "We understand why you're doing this, but we can't let you do this, and here's the reasons why. Can we be amicable about this?" (Well, amicable for lawyers, anyways.)

  • by stump (21577) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @11:59AM (#1579974)
    I'm waiting for their upcoming "...for Fucking Morons" series.

    Moderate me down. I'm off-topic and using foul-language.
  • Excuse me.... But wouldn't it be smart to ENCOURAGE people to talk about your product / line of books?

    Perha[ps they haven't read 'Public Relations for Dummies' ?

  • Not really. Have you noticed that lots of frisbees don't say "Frisbee" on them? This is because Frisbee is a registered trademark. Yet people call all flying discs frisbees (you'll notice that the phrase "flying discs" sounds stupid, which just proves my point), and the name Frisbee is no longer capable of causing brand association.

    Any effort Wham-O [wham-o.com] put into marketing the Frisbee is lost. Now they probably don't sell many, since so many other companies sell competing products and nobody differentiates them based on brand.
  • You'll get sued!

    Do you know how many times each of you have infringed this trademark?

    Resist the urge, don't say it! They'll take your house, your car, and your pigs!

    This is a discussion forum! Aaaahhhhhhh!

    :) Silly lawyers...
    ---
    pb Reply rather than vaguely moderate me.
  • You're right, mistakes happen. But threat letters are a serious matter. They should not be sent lightly. When a large company starts sending people letters that basically say "I'm a big company, you must do what I say," to every person that mentions their name, that is a very appropriate time to attempt to exert social pressure on the specific biological units within the corporate entity which were responsible for the attacks.
  • by Awel (28821) on Friday October 29, 1999 @01:50AM (#1580024)
    The point being that the author of the post was referring to IDG`s `..for dummies` series when he wrote it. So IDG don`t really have anything to complain about, as they would have realised if they`d actually read the article. This is probably some generic mail that gets spewed out every time their search engine gets a hit on "for dummies".
  • This is true -- they risk the dilution and loss of their trademark. This says more about their decision to trademark WORDS IN THE DICTIONARY than about anyone's alleged legal misdeeds. 15 U.S.C. s 1125(c) governing dilution provides at subsection (4)(B): "The following shall not be actionable under this section: . . . Noncommercial use of a mark."
  • by plumpy (277) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:03PM (#1580037) Homepage
    Hi. It was me who got The Letter.

    Here is what I am probably going to reply with. [skylab.org]

    Any comments on that?

  • That's what we need!

    jf
  • Someone over at IDG needs to tighten up the reigns on its legal team a bit.

    When pinheaded lawyers simply cruise the web for trademarks looking for people to sue its a good bet the president of the company needs to buy "Managing for Dummies".

    When there aren't checks and bounds on emails such as this sent out of a company the size of IDG its a good bet that someone in the company needs to read "Setting Standard Operating Procedures for Dummies".

    When IDG fails to appologize for the obvious faux pax its a good bet thier public relations department needs to read "Eating crow for Dummies".

    And in case my spelling is at its usual worst, you can bet our bottom dollar that I haven't read "Spelling for Dummies".
  • by Ctl-Alt-Del (93957) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:03PM (#1580059)

    I do see their point... but what they're trying to do is restrict the use of '...for dummies' in conversation, i.e. in common speech. The use of '...for dummies' in the mailing list does not smack of deliberate infringement - simply of using the phrase to indicate the level at which the content is aimed.

    In other words, '...for dummies' has become incorporated into our language to some extent. It's pointless to try to combat that by preventing people using it as a generic term in their everyday lives.

    I could suggest that general use of the term amounts to free advertising, but I'm sure IDG regards trademark erosion as too great a threat to consider that an advantage.

    SA.
  • by seeken (10107) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:03PM (#1580062) Journal
    Fair Use and Parody both apply to copyrights, not trademarks.

    Surfing the net and other cliches...
  • by casret (64258) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:04PM (#1580070)
    Take a look at the subject of this news story.
    'IDG and 'Trademark Dilution' For Dummies'. And this is alot more like a chat room than the mailing list.
  • Let's see if I get a similar letter from IDG now. I wonder if IDG knows the difference between a web discussion forum and a 'chat room'. While one can understand legitimate defense of trademarks, no rational person who saw a message on a mailing list like that would think that the author was intending to infringe upon IDG's trademark in this case. Unfortunately this type of taking things too far seems to happen too often. The logical conclusion is either that there are a lot of irrational people out there or that people just plain don't get it.

  • I say we all post a BUNCH of news to a bunch of newsgroups with "for dummies" in the title and see what they do to Deja.com ... they do the exact same thing as this mailing list archive.
  • Pretty good. Better than what I would reply, which would be:

    1) Blow me.
    2) OK, I'll make sure I never say "...for Dummies" again.
  • Actually, the story of aspirin is oh so much more interesting. Aspirin was invented (discovered? synthesized?) by a German gentleman by the name of Felix Hoffman who was working as a chemist in the chemical sciences laboratory of Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co. (now Bayer AG) in 1897. The Aspirin trademark was registered in Germany in 1899 and is still recognized in more than 80 countries. However, rather than falling victim to common use, like Kleenex or Xerox, the Aspirin trademark was the victim of its homeland's Imperial ambitions. You may be aware that Germany has twice in this century been the instigator of somewhat significant conflicts with its European neighbors. When the USA became involved in these conflicts Congress and the courts became significantly less concerned with the patent and trademark rights of companies based in Germany (and Austria and Italy and Japan and...). When US companies started to use the Bayer trademark name Aspirin for their products, nobody who mattered cared. So in a way aspirin did fall into common use, but not in the common way. Aspirin wasn't just used by people to refer to similar products (as we do with Kleenex and Xerox, and in the deep South Coke "What kind of coke would you like? Dr. Pepper? Pepsi? Seven-Up?"). Aspirin fell into common use as the actual product name on the label of many brands of acetylsalicylic acid.
  • This is the type of stupidity that gets me to "just say no" to someone. I will watch, but if this true, IDG will get a package from me containing the books of theirs that I already own.


    I think organizing an action like this would be very effective, but it would probably be sufficient just to let them know they've got a lot of people pissed at them.

    The calculation behind this kind of behavior is this. My trademark is probably not (actually almost certainly is not) being infringed, but if it is infringed later, the defense could slip this into to a pile of evidence that my trademark is invalid. If I lose my trademark, it will cost me a lot, so its worth while to have my lawyer send these folks a threatening letter to save me aggravation later.

    This is bad high school debate club tactics. Don't let any point go ever.

    What's missing in this calculation is the force of public reproach. Let's allow that the alleged infringment weakens the value of the trademark in some kind of vague and indirect legal way. On the other hand, indiscriminate use of legal threats should damage the trademark in a direct commercial way, to wit: making the public think the trademark's holder is a shmuck.

    To that end, polite (so you don't get branded as a red or a member of the lunatic fringe) letters are the most effective tool to fight this.

    This is how the Amnesty International model works. Bad behavior, be it tyranny, infringement of free speech, or garden variety alcholism thrives in secrecy, and depends on people not noticing.
  • by kzinti (9651) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:13PM (#1580169) Homepage Journal
    ...change the name of the forum to "Hitchhiker's Guide to Sendmail". (With the words "Don't Panic" in the subject line in large friendly letters.)

    Maybe Douglas Adams isn't such an asshole.

    --JT
  • Here is my response,send to IDG PR person.

    From:
    Matthew Leo
    11:33

    Subject:
    Legal harrasment of skylab.org by IDG trademark department
    To:
    heidi_creighton@idg.com





    Dear Ms. Creighton

    It has come to my attention that Ms. Isabelle Drewelow of your trademark
    department has issued a cease and desist letter against the maintainer
    of an e-mail list archive at "skylab.org". The substance of the
    complaint is that somebody on a Linux user group mailing list posted a
    message, titled "SMART_HOST for Dummies", in which he opined that
    somebody, presumably IDG, should publish a "Sendmail for Dummies" book.
    This was subsequently archived, along with all the other messages posted
    to that e-mail list at skylab.org, as part of a routine ongoing public
    service rendered by that organization to the Linux community.

    While I fully appreciate the need and right of trademark holders to
    defend their trademark against infringement or dilution, this action by
    any reasonable standard is overzealous to the point of absurdity.
    First, the original poster was merely making a comment that IDG should
    in fact include this title in their "Dummies" product line. Second, it
    was made in a non-commercial context, and thus is protected speech under
    the first amendment. Finally to go after the maintainer of an archive
    is unreasonable in the the extreme. Should he undertake to edit his
    archive, he would in fact increase his exposure to legal action by
    overzealous holders of intellectual property.

    It is incumbent on me to mention that I learned of the imbroglio by
    reading the web site "www.slashdot.org", which is also read by literaly
    tens of thousands of influential technical professionals every single
    day. Should IDG obstinately maintain this unreasonably aggresive
    stance, I feel certain that many of them, as I, would no longer
    recommend and purchase IDG product, services or meetings.

    Very truly yours,


    Matthew F. Leo

  • by Sebbo (28048) <sebbo.sebbo@org> on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:14PM (#1580191) Homepage Journal
    A rather less politely-worded letter was sent to the maintainer of Ulysses for Dummies [bway.net], a spoof of Joyce's novel, early last year. The hilarious and thorough reply [bway.net] concluded, 'Frankly, we're going to keep the site just as it is, and the successful IDG Books " ... for Dummies" series will just have to learn to live with it.'
  • My copy of "Auto Repair for Dummies" has Copyright dates of 1988, 1983, 1976, and the publisher is Ten Speed Press. Of course, there's a note that says:

    Title by permission of Phillip R. Martin, author of
    Auto Mechanics for the Complete Dummy, (c)1974.

    Anyway, it's Auto Repair for Dummies, by Deanna Sclar, and it's a classic. Too bad Deanna didn't get on IDG's butt about the title...

    On the other side, a friend of mine is one of the authors of the Windows 98 Bible [amazon.com]. Then IDG decides to call their book by the same name, even though they were asked to change the name of their later book.

    Personally, I would tell IDG to go to hell.

  • I don't think trademarks work quite this way. The domain of the For Dummies trademark certainly protects its use in the titles of books (ex. somebody probably could not write a book called OpenGL for Dummies as another poster suggested). However, the use of the phrase For Dummies in conversation, i.e. bulletin board or chat, in the discussion of or suggestion of anything, in commentary on the book, etc. are all covered under parts of trademark law equivalent to Fair Use (I don't know the specifics here, but you can for example compare your product to somebody else's trademarked product by name). The problem here is that this is simply an archive of a public mailing list. You can't apply your trademark to stop discussion of your product, or of products similar to your product (requesting a For Dummies type book on a particular subject). Nobody published a book and used the name For Dummies in the title. Nobody even electronically published a piece of documentation and said it was a "For Dummies" documentation (this is one case where their trademark concerns might hold some water, if somebody actually had written such a thing). I will not stomach corporations trying to restrict people's right to discuss products or anything they want to discuss using their trademarked names. I will mirror the damned email if I want to. I am archiving a public discussion, and if IDG wants to sue me to attempt to control the evolution of the English language, they are welcome to try (IANAL, but I certainly know some).
  • Kind of makes you feel stupid just reading this, doesn't it?

    I hope no one goes through all my old mailing list posts and sends me threatening letters for every (TM) and (R) I forgot to put next to every product I ever mentioned... sigh.
  • by nyet (19118) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:17PM (#1580238) Homepage
    Point idg to

    this [fuckingsucks.net] or maybe this [fuckingsucks.net] or quite possibly this [fuckingsucks.net].

    You get the picture.

    Fill in ad-infinitum with the trademark of your choice and send the resulting url to any lawyer who is giving you a hard time, and tell them to shut down that site first.
  • Sure. and next we'll get cease and desist letters if we use the tradmark in a conversation without explicitly adding the disclaimer "'For Dummies' is a tradmark of the IDG Corp."
    Like this; "I just read 'Cornholing Sheep For Dummies.' Best book on the subject I've seen. 'For Dummies' is a tradmark of the IDG Corp. You should check it out!
  • From what I've gathered, the original questionable "for Dummies" use wasn't a "chat room subtitle" at all, but the subject line on an archived mailing list. How stupid does a lawyer have to be not to tell the difference? Or is the phrase "for Dummies" really illegal to use in private email?

    What exactly does IDG expect people to do? Not use the phrase "for dummies" without footnoting it in private email? Hunt down every recipient of that email to make sure none are making a public archive of it? Or since they're going after the archiver, do they expect him to run every mail message through a million-entry trademark pattern search before converting it to HTML?

    Ironically, though the title of this Slashdot article could be considered an infringement, and isn't an automatic archive of a random email, but was a deliberate word choice by an employee of Andover, a for-profit corporation. If IDG's lawyers don't drop out of hypersensitive mode soon, I know whom they're writing to next...
  • by taniwha (70410) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:19PM (#1580255) Homepage Journal
    oh .... but you have to include a URL to this slashddot thread ....... just so they can see what PR-dummies they are ....
  • by kvigor (66615) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:21PM (#1580292)
    First, I'm not a lawyer. So please ignore anything I have to say.

    That aside, I really doubt these folks want a fight. They are legally obligated to protect their trademark. What are they going to get out of suing you? Bad publicity and lawyers fees?

    So give then an excuse to back off. That way, they can say they did their bit to defend their trademark, and they leave you alone.

    The obvious excuse is to invoke common carrier status. Point out that you do not create this content, you are simply providing a medium to disseminate it. If you start editing/deleting messages, you just lost that status. Which would be very bad from a liability point of view, because it would open you to lawsuits just like this one.

    You might also want to remove the reference to "trigger-happy lawyers". No need to antagonize 'em. Don't assume they're the enemy until they prove it.
  • by TheKodiak (79167) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:21PM (#1580296) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but "...for Dummies" was in the vernacular before 1991 - that's what made it popular. It's a pre-diluted trademark.

    This doesn't make the need for them to defend it less pressing, naturally. It does make their defense of it more reprehensible, in my eyes:

    "That phrase you used to use? Stop using it. It's ours, now. Thank you."
  • by penguinicide (73759) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:22PM (#1580327)
    Ignore them. Many of the other comments seem like good advice. They will look closer before they want to take it to the next level then realize their mistake.

    If you remove it you are essentially agreeing that you did something wrong.

    No matter what you do, DO NOT send that written assurance. Once you send them that they will actually gain legal grounding to prosecute you in a court of law. (If you happen to slip up in the future)

    Besides, after all the backlash they get from this article they may think twice about it.

    Too bad the "...for Idiots" books are doing a good enough job of diluting their trademark. (For a while I thought they were published by the same group)

  • by nevets (39138) on Thursday October 28, 1999 @12:23PM (#1580334) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I would even be more polite.

    Reason: Lawyers don't like to be insulted. Although others feel they would not be nearly as polite, I caution you to be even more so. Both security and lawyers DO NOT have a sense of humor.

    First: change the subject.
    IDG has too many lawyers will probably be offensive. Maybe "Trade mark problem" or something that is just a topic and not a statement.

    Second: It's good up to the point of since anyone else who published that title would get a rather nasty letter from IDG's trigger-happy lawyers)
    Again, this is insulting. Yes I'm being paranoid, but if you don't want to go to court, you should be paranoid.

    The rest looks good. But again, others will probably disagree with me and say "tell them to blow me" but if you just want to be left alone, I would be as serious as possible. Politely tell them the mistake, and see if you can work things out. If you want to make a scene, then you better becareful or they will sue you.

    Steven Rostedt
  • Ah, but for every Wham-O Frisbee there's a Kleenex tissue and a Xerox copy machine. True, the trademarks have been diluted through common use, but Kleenex and Xerox have probably the strongest brand-name association for tissues and photocopiers.

    Wham-O's mistake was probably in stealing the name of it from the Frisby pie company to begin with; the origin of the Frisbee was that people would eat a Frisby pie and then throw the tin around rather than returning it for a deposit. So they were using an already-common term but slightly misspelled.
    ---
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

  • You write: If we recognise any form of Intellectual property you have to respect this.

    For consistency, yes. But I'm glad you phrased it that way, because there is a huge school of thought that says that the very concept of intellectual property is bogus. I find the arguments presented very persuasive, so IDG's claim does not look all that convincing to me.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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