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Aimster Loses Domain to AOL 169

mduell writes "The National Arbitration Forum (NAF) decided that the "AIM" in Aimster violates America Online's trademark and that Aimster must relinquish several Internet domain names with "AIM" in them to AOL." Just another in a long series of cases that prove that if you have a trademark, you have the right to any domain name that contains those letters in that order. I don't like it any more then you do.
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Aimster Loses Domain to AOL

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    What about Aim toothpast?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And I was so close to releasing the first beta of my new instant messenger... imAIMsmallanimals.

    Guess I'll have to continue with my AI-based program which automatically defends you against bogus lawsuits... notgoingtogAOL.

    Aw crap...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Your analogies are worse.

    Client-Server Instant Messenging is to P2P Instant Messenging as Chicken Buckets are to Watches and Clocks? Good luck on the GRE.
  • True, they cannot trademark "AIM" in any context, but they do have rights over the use of AIM as an acronym for AOL "Instant Messenger." Since AIMster was clearly using it as such an acronym, their use is infringing.
  • Obviously not. AOL is not claiming that they own the word "AIM," only that they own the use of the acronym AIM as an acronym for "AOL Instant Messenger." As the NRA would presumably not be using it in that context, they would be uninfringing. However, as AIMster is clearly using it as an acronym for AOL's trademarked system, it is indeed infringing.
  • Those sites exist essentially because Microsoft lets them. As soon as they start saying bad things about Windows (maybe XP will suck donkey balls) I can see MS stopping them. Now you tell me, if you were running and MS served you cease and desist papers or threatened to sue, would you fight it? I doubt it.

  • > Microsoft owns the trademark on "Windows".

    no, they don't. In fact, they made a very big deal about that several years ago.

    however, if someone tried to market "Microsoftster Windows," they'd have exactly the same problems that aimsterhas . . .


  • See, I love the product but trademark law is pretty clear on this sort of thing. If they had a named a toaster or a car or a haircut "Aimster" they would still have that domain. The trick to trademarks are that you can't pick a confusing name and then play in the same sandbox. Their product worked through and with AIM and they named it AIMster which does in-fact make it look like it was a related product, (which it is, of course) but in trademark terms it also makes it look like it is "blessed" by the holders of the original name. We'll all be on the other side of this when M$ decides to sell their own version of Linux and starts calling it =)

    $you = new YOU;

  • CmdrTaco....While I agree that in several cases trademark holders are being given special and upfair treatmeat regarding domains that may or may not refer to a trademark. However, in the case of aimster it doesn't take a genious to figure out that the AIM portion of those domain names referes directly to AOL Instant Messenger. I'm all for protecting the rightfull owners of domain names but really, AIM being random characters? Hardly. Paul.
  • Yes, it's quite clear that you do not understand patents and trademarks. Why did you feel the need to post to slashdot to tell us, though? Nobody here cares that you don't understand this stuff. If it bothers you that much, go learn how patents and trademarks work.
  • by Genom ( 3868 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:41AM (#211447)
    So the solution for them is to just drop the A.

    Then they make it work with ANY IM client - AIM, ICQ, Jabber, Yahoo, MSN, etc... (Jabber would probably be a good start here - port the existing infrastructure to a jabber-based model, then plug in other IMs at will =)

    Of course, I'm sleep-deprived and running solely on caffeine, so this probably is a really, really stupid idea, since it sounds cool to me ;)

  • They'll just have to rename... how about:

  • Why would I need to resort to straw man arguments when dealing with everyone in this thread's simple tactic of denial of the law?
    I don't know.
    I really hope you don't actually do jury duty, being so ready to make up new laws yourself as opposed to nullifing them as a jury is actually still allowed to do.
    I have made no decision as to the right or wrong of this case, and neither did you, you simply put up your own set of opposing arguements to counter. This happens far too often with the issues raised on /., people just vent their spleens in entirely nonproductive and often counterproductive ways.
  • Now that AOL owns the word AIM, can I not have a domain name like,,,
    Straw man
    Hey does AOL also own the simpler IM so i cant register the domain name ,
    Straw man
    What's next, are idots like this panel going to shutdown an autosalvage operation like Are they going to give all domain names like and over to apple computer?
    Straw man

    Argue against the original issue, not your own exaggerations of it.

  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <> on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:15AM (#211451) Homepage Journal
    What is Aimster? Is it anything to do with AOL Instant Messenger? If so, then they *are* using the "aim" part to play on AOL Instant Messenger, and diluting the market value of the brand. Or is the name a coincidence?
  • Sheep? Here? No fucking way!
  • Does this mean they will also go after and other related domains?
  • That sounds pretty scary. It might even mean that if I created a domain called "" to sell a multiple-desktop tool for Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft could legally take the domain away.

    No, because your product would not compete with Windows XP itself, in fact, it would require one to use it in order for your product to be successful.

    AIMster is a product similar to AIM. If it were an add-on to integrate your Buddies in a LDAP enviromnent or whatever, I doubt AOL would've cared much.

  • I would take it to court...To hell with NAF
  • I work for a non-profit organization called the AIM Institute. We have a web site at []. Should I be worried that AOL can apropriate my company's domain name?
  • Whoa - hang on there. 2600 is being sued by Ford, not by GM, and the suit is on the grounds of trademark tarnishment of the Ford name, not on the basis of trademark infringement of "general motors". They are two very different issues.

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • That would be great - if you could just drive off everyone who thinks that ".com" == "Internet", then the rest of us could have it back for what we originally used it for. Oops, except now you have to get ".biz" too...

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • You know, I don't use Aimster or anything, but up to this point, I had thought that the reason they had that name was that they were a subsidiary of the division of AOL that did the instant messaging thing. It took me completely by surprise to find that they weren't, and I would think AOL would have sued them already for the confusing nature of the use of "AIM" in that context.
  • Does the institute have anything to with AOL Instant Messenger? If yes, then you should be worried. Somehow I doubt it, though.

    Look, it's one thing that Taco made the dumb comment that this "prove[s] that if you have a trademark, you have the right to any domain name that contains those letters in that order." Yeah, how does it prove this? Where in this case do you see AOL going after all the domains which contain the string "aim" that aren't related to AOL's AIM product?

    Like I said, it's one thing for Taco to make that dumb comment. What's really sad is to see all the sheep here who believe it.


  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:52AM (#211462) Homepage
    Kind of a double-standard here? It's okay if the site in question just bitches about a company, but not if they make money?

    No double-standard, its called free speech.

    Trademarks can't be infringed upon for commercial use (which is what AIMster is doing) -- that's the whole pointof a trademark -- to keep your MARK in TRADE distinct from others' use of marks in trade. To prevent commercial confusion.

    Using a trademark to offer criticism (as in Burger King saying "McDonald's hamburgers have 50% less beef") is perfectly legit.

    Saying "fuck General Motors" is a grayer area, because by itself it isn't offering much criticism (although it could be equally argued that it doesn't run much risk of confusing consumers, either -- who would think GM would sell products under that slogan?)

  • Wow. If that's true then this is really really upsetting. However, several news stories have indicated otherwise. These could have easily been misinformed reporters. Someone else in this thread said that he used to work for aimster, and that it was named Aimster because you could target who you shared with.

    Truth is, we'll never know. All meanings were probably intentional. It's just not as scary as it would be if AOL went after, and we shouldn't suggest that it is.
  • Aimster was named after AIM because it incorporates your AOL Instant Messenger buddy list. This is a pretty clear use of a trademarked term, and it *is* trying to indicate that they're related.

    AOL is completely whithin their rights, and if they didn't defend themselves than they could easily lose the ability to defend themselves in the future.

    The real news story is that the otherwise legally on-top-of-it Aimster team let this slip.
  • The company claims that its named after Aimee, the founders daughter. A lot of people here think thats bs, she used to go by Madeline and just changed her name so AOL would have a harder time suing them.

    But what if her middle name is Aimee?
  • by Wntrmute ( 18056 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @01:37PM (#211466)
    Here's a "what if?" :

    What if everyone out there who thinks large corporations stealing others' domain names is crap, and who runs a nameserver, decides to tell AOL to piss off, and put in DNS pointers to aimster's site for anyway? There's no law that says I *have* to listen to the root nameservers.

    Then, anyone who wanted to see the uncorporatized Internet could just stick on of these namservers in their /etc/resolv.conf.

    Couldn't we use OpenNIC [] to do something like this?

    Yeah, I know, it's far to idealistic to think enough people would do this for it to actually work, but I find it a neat idea in theory anyway. :-)


  • WOOT!

    __________________________________________________ ___

  • YEAH BITCH !!!

    while(true) { karma--; }

    __________________________________________________ ___

  • Reading all the CdrTaco backflap about AIMster being related to AIM and therefore vulnerable, it's amusing to me that while I and others here can see, and reluctantly agree with, the decision that AIMster does infringe on the trademark, we all think that should remain under independent control.

    Kind of a double-standard here? It's okay if the site in question just bitches about a company, but not if they make money?

    Kevin Fox
  • This is also how we have Apple Computers' mark side by side with Apple Records.

    Actually, Apple Records sued Apple Computer around 1982 and they reached a settlement that involved an undisclosed sum paid to Apple Records and an agreement that Apple Computer wouldn't venture into the music industry. This is why they had to license Roland's MIDI samples instead of making their own, and were later drawn back into court when they started advocating quicktime and other music-related products.

    As I understand it they did reach another settlement, but this was certainly a pair with a history of litigation.

    Kevin Fox
  • Haven't we had enough of these sorts of stories fer chrissakes. If I went into biz selling a cola drink in red cans named Cokester how long do you think I'd be around? At least Etoy had some justification to it. This one is pathetic.

    It reminds me of the old MASH series where Hawkeye goes beserk when served liver and fish for the n100th time in a row, and incites a riot with the refrain "We want something else!"

    Well Taco Leader, "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!" "We want something else!"

  • by Merk ( 25521 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @11:05AM (#211472) Homepage

    Well "AIM" is the full acronym of their software, so you'd probably have to have a full Windows title, like "windows95" or "windowsxp". However this does mean that if I were to create a domain called "" that had a list of tweaks or fixes to Windows XP (assuming of course it doesn't run perfectly out of the box) that MS could snatch my domain.

    That sounds pretty scary. It might even mean that if I created a domain called "" to sell a multiple-desktop tool for Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft could legally take the domain away.

    Note that nothing here says that Aimster claimed to be made by the same people who made AOL Instant Messenger. The mere fact that the name incoporated the name of related software was enough.

    This ruling could have huge ranging implications. Think of how many computer fan websites there are out there that use the name of the product in them. [], [], [], []... Since these are normally fan sites it's in the best interest of the companies with the related trademarks to ket the fans express themselves, but what if company XXX comes out with a crappy product and trashes it in a review?

    This is pretty scary stuff. In the past it seems to me that most of the domain names taken from someone were non-commercial ones that often were squatting on the name. But now what can you do? If you have a domain name that insults a company, they can take it. If you make a product designed for use with another product they can take your name. If you don't make a product at all and you're careless they can take it. Who is safe? I can see it in the news tomorrow:

    Popular Linux enthusiast website "" will be forced to find a new domain name. A lawyer for Megacorp explained: "The syntax for using commands in our environment is well known to require a command keyset of a slash followed by a dot. Our customers were being confused by the "slashdot" website, assuming it was a reference for our command syntax. These people, who admit to being hackers, appropriated the domain name with no regard for our users' confusion. Thanks to the American Justice System we have been able to restore the rightful use of our domain. We just want to reassure our users that despite the misuse of our domain name by these Linux hackers, our software has not been infected with the GPL virus."
  • What happens when one company holds a trademark on a name which is a substring of another company's trademark?

  • wow, isn't that a handy coincidence. And isn't it a coincidence that she wasn't called Aimee until she became "The Aimster Girl". Aimee was only her second name.
  • ...IIRC Sun already trademarked '.'. Therefore, all you renegade website will have to pony up to Sun for your unauthorised use of their clearly valid trademark.

    Why is it clearly valid? Because they got to it first, that's why.
    Scott Jones
    Newscast Director / ABC19 WKPT
  • I think the AIM in AIMster is rather related to AIM.
  • i think they have waited too long and dropped the ball on that one. i believe if you dont act to enforce your trademark then you have effictively given it up. perhaps they are trying to preserve whatever they have left with aim.

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • ... Apple, IBM, and Motorola (the AIM alliance) kicked AOL's ass for using their acronym. Film at 11.

  • There's a toothpaste called Aim. I recommend that they sue AOL for control of the domains. Their trademark predates AOL's.

    This is what happens when you let the rabid banshees, er, lawyers get into the works.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • Yeah right. If that is so, how come at the O'Reilly P2P conference back in February the "Aimster" representative wasted 20 minutes of all the attendees time explaning that "Aimster" was the nickname of a little girl called "Amy" that he wanted the product to please. His explanation for this was so long and weird that he came across as some sort of pervert, and managed to piss off everybody expecting something interesting from the discussion.

    If you are going to lie, then at least stick to your story...
  • I suggest someone register and publicize the domain "bad-aim" and see if AOL wants that one too :)

  • Ah, but, given the trademark issues, he would come up with a story like that, wouldn't he?

  • Ooops, "reclaims" has those 3 letters in sequence... I take my comment back.
  • AIM is notorious for being proprietary, controlling, and locking competitors out. It may be a fun statement to trade music over TimeWarner/AOL's network, but they can and will lock your software out. It's a medium that AIMster doesn't control, and only AOL does. That's why smart elitist cyberpunks boycott AIM.

    Besides, AIM is so stupid in the first place that it's a mediocre way of trading MP3's. It's centralized, which creates the above issues. Also, what happens when someone "warns" you for trading MP3's? Or AOL deletes your account for it. This is not a true peer-to-peer network.
  • Does anybody else see the RIAA and MPAA pulling the strings behind this decision?

  • Look at it this way, smart guy.

    read any /. article on the MPAA and RIAA, every geek out there moans and complains how they have waaay too much power over the consumer and so much clout that they influence laws. Now clearly both groups have friends in very high places, and more connections than the mafia.

    Picture for a moment that these groups might DISLIKE Aimster for some reason, I don't know. Using all the resources at their disposal, they could use their clout to have other groups go after them.

    Could they force the IRS to audit them? I doubt it, but it's not unthinkable that some large groups have some control behind the scenes here.

  • No, because the NRA would be promoting firearm safety, which, rather obviously, has nothing to do with instant messaging.

    Of course, a bullet delivered to the brain does send a message - almost instantaneously - but I certainly don't want to be the recipient, and the connection is nebulous at best, don't you think?
  • by Chasuk ( 62477 ) <> on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:30AM (#211488)

    If I opened a business and merely appended "ster" to the end of an established corporate name marketing similar or identical product(s), would that be okay?

    "KFCster," selling chicken?
    "BKster," selling burgers?
    "Jifster," selling peanut butter?

    I didn't think so.

  • I've tried one of those renegade nameservers before. It was crap. It slowed down DNS tremendously and then went down a while later, and it took me a while to figure out why my DNS queries took so long - it was timing out for the server I had at the top of the list.

    For something like this to work, you'd have to convince an ISP to switch their root servers, so the users could use such a nameserver without having to deal with some shaky server out in God knows where.
  • Wrong.. You would not have a case because they have the money, and you don't.
  • heh.. mslinux would be allowed to exist. If someone does hold a trademark over linux, have they signed RedHat, Debian, etc. etc. etc. the ability to use that trademark? Otherwise it's already publically available as it's not been fought for. Redhat in particular is quite well known, and *may* be infringing. Of course, I don't know the particulars behind the trademark. I do know that the FreeBSD group has been forced to stand up for their trademark 'FreeBSD'. So... If MSFreeBSD came around they'd have some trouble. They can use the source, but not the name.
  • Your analogy is incorrect. Aimster is not a competitor to AOL Instant Messenger.

    "KFCster," selling watches and clocks
    "BKster," selling computers
    "Jifster," chatting software
    (for example)

    None of these are competition and are not in the same industry as the products whose names they are similar to. In addition, none of these acronyms or product names are also english words. "Aim" is a word. Look it up.

    The only way that Aimster is in competition with AOL is the fact that AOL is now AOL/Time Warner, one of the "record companies" being sued by Aimster.

    All things considered, this is a really poor decision, and I think the NAF is not as neutral as is believed.
  • AOL and AAA both have the letter "A" in , after all. People might get confused.
  • the url for gaim is so I don't think this would apply
  • Obviously not. Microsoft has no claim over the "win" in WinZip because they are not CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR products.

    One is an operating system, the other is a file utility.

    The whole "big-bad-companies-taking-domains" occurs where there is intent to dilute the company's trademark by offering a confusingly similar product or service.

    If I wrote an operating system and called it WinBest or WinAwesome then Microsoft *might* have a case to come after me.
  • Does this mean the X can claim the domain name XBOX??? That has it's name in it twice...
  • That sounds pretty scary. It might even mean that if I created a domain called "" to sell a multiple-desktop tool for Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft could legally take the domain away.

    Absolutely. I have a friend who works for one of the very popular MS certification emulator program, companies. And a few years ago they had a product called "NT-Cert" or osmething like that, and they were served cease and desist papers to remove NT from their product name or else they'd be sued.

    They chose to remove the NT from their product name and rename their two products something like "Workstation-Cert" and "Server-Cert."

    Does this mean that MS would have won a long an drawn out legal battle? Who knows.

    But in essence they did win since they could afford such a battle, and my friend's company could not.

  • You guys and gals don't seem to get it. You guys are all "Well, how about or or" -- I don't like it, but AOL isn't simply attacking anyone with AIM in their name. That's not the case.The A-I-M in AIMster REALLY DOES stand for "AOL Instant Messanger," and I think you all know it. That name belongs to AOL. It isn't a matter of having the same three letters in the same order -- that's not the issue. Using someone else's product name is. Is it cool to go after some harmless band of programmers? No, but thinking AOL is goin' after them just because they happen to have some letters in their name is just ignorant. It works with AIM and the name was chosen to communicate that.
  • Use OpenNIC [], Bob. It works.

    Claim your namespace.

  • In related news in a raid similar to the one that occupied Alcatraz Island, the American Indian Movement (AIM) siezed control of the building at American Online controlling the AIM instant messaging service on the grounds that the service violated the trademark intellectual property of the American Indian Movement and was also indirectly biggoted against American Indians everywhere.....
  • I worked at aimster for a few months before deciding they weren't going anywhere (read: yes, i know why it's named what it's named). The reason for "AIM"ster is that you were "AIM"ing for only your buddies. Any semblance to AOL's product offering is entirely coincidental.

    Of course! It all makes sense now.

    In related news, Linus Torvalds -- creator of the UNIX-look-alike LINUX operating system -- surprised the computer industry today by announcing that "LINUX" is not a clever play of his name and UNIX. In fact, LINUX is XUNIL written backwards, which actually stands for "eXtensible Ultra-cool Network-ready Infrastructure for Lofties".

    He then went on to file suit against Microsoft, for their use of the abbreviation XP in their yet-to-be-released new operating system Windows XP. Torwalds was quoted saying: "In today's cut-throat computer market, you have to lure your potential customers by using a kewl name for your software. However, by calling their new OS 'Windows XP', they have clearly violated my intellectual property rights on abbreviating words that start with the letters 'ex' using a capital 'X'. Intellectual property rights are the basis of all civilazation and I will not tolerate this blatant barbary."

    As trustworthy sources say, "Windows XP" does, in fact, stay for "Windows Experience".

    Microsoft could not be reached for comment, but an anonymous Redmont Drone cried: "This is sooo Un-American. I mean, this guy isn't even from here, he's from Finland. Finland, of all places! I want my Solitaire."

    Microsoft stock were down on the news.

  • Next up, the Air Force, for their "Aim High" slogon.

    This should be target for AOL, because 1) the word AIM is in there, and 2) they are apparently high if they think they own the English word aim.
  • By their logic, if I trademark ".com", I own the internet, right? I think I'd better start getting those nastygrams out to MS, Network Solutions and Oracle. That should be a good start...
  • So what does a firing squad commander say?

    Or are Ready and Fire (and maybe Point) already claimed?

    He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom

  • by jark ( 115136 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @01:40PM (#211505) Homepage
    the application name is "Aimster" not "AIMster" therefore making it blatantly obvious that it is a play on words not a play on the AIM acronym. remember that AIM is an acronym for AOL Instant Messenger whereas Aim is an actual english language word.

    [aim] (v. i.) To point or direct a missile weapon, or a weapon which propels as missile, towards an object or spot with the intent of hitting it; as, to aim at a fox, or at a target. (v. i.) To direct the indention or purpose; to attempt the accomplishment of a purpose; to try to gain; to endeavor; -- followed by at, or by an infinitive; as, to aim at distinction; to aim to do well. (v. i.) To guess or conjecture.

  • by rjamestaylor ( 117847 ) <> on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:35AM (#211506) Journal
    AOL's hit list [].
  • Advanced Idea Mechanics. If I spent 20 years reading comics, I at least can pontificate.

  • So I guess the archery website is next to go, no? They are shamelessly infringing on AOL, obviously.
  • If there were a program or web site called "Aim High", say for the Army or Marines, that had registered the domain, AOL would instantly have rights to that domain? I am not quite sure that this is the case, although that is what this article implies. Com'on, I don't like this copyright crap either, but let's not tell more than the facts.
  • Also, the toothpaste manufacturer wants its domain back "we make holes in teeth-- take AIM against cavities..."
  • I own the trademark on "ASHD", and have substantive proof that I have written those letters in that order at least once between 1980 and 1990. Therefore, has been infringing on my prior art. You will be hearing from my lawyer shortly.

  • obviously, AOL is trying to confuse consumers
    who want to find aimster into reaching them
    instead. this is what trademark law is intended
    to prevent.
  • Aimster is sort of an add-on to the AIM client. What does the "Aim" in "Aimster" refer to? Isn't "Aimster" directly dirived from "AIM"? It's clear to me that they were infringing the trademark.

    My mom is not a Karma whore!
  • It's okay if the site in question just bitches about a company, but not if they make money?

    In a way, you're right. Under fair use you can often violate IP for critical purposes but generally not for profit. The fair use doctrine does not apply to trademarks (only to copyrights) but are you surprised many of us like the fair use doctrine?

    Plus, the domain is being fought by Ford, not General Motors, so that is sort of a different issue.

    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • by e_n_d_o ( 150968 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:23AM (#211515)
    Microsoft owns the trademark on "Windows".

    So basically what were saying here is that any product name of the form Win* can have its domain taken by Microsoft.

    This is not good.

    Note to WinTrolls: (For once, I am simply using Microsoft as an example, and not deriding them.)
  • there is a significant possibility for confusion

    My ass.

    Anybody who would bother reading anything related to Aimster beyond reading its name (read: 99% of the people who know about it) would know that Aimster != AOL != AIM. To me, this is just another classic example of a large corporation bullying around the little guy.

    Check in...(OK!) Check out...(OK!)
  • Didn't at one point, the author come out and say that Aimster was named after his daughter Aimee? And that she was going to be doing a photo shoot? I swear I saw an article on /. about that...
  • John Deep named it after his daughter (or a long used nickname for her). Something about the french word for love. Or something like that.

  • To the amour guy... nya nya nya :)

  • I guess all girls named Aimee should fear for their lives ... they're infringing on AOL's ownage of the word 'AIM'
  • it would be more like:

    "KFCster," selling bbq sauce "BKster," selling ketchup "Jifster," selling jams (for example)

    as I understand it, Aimster is a program that allows for trading of mp3's over the aim network, hence the name. There could probably even be reasonable grounds for napster to sue. (now that would be hilarious to see. They might actually *win* a lawsuit)


  • can you really trademark 3 arbitrary letters which make up a common generic English word?

    Yes, that is the essence of a trademark. You can enforce that trademark when it is used with regard to a particular service or business. And it develops that Aimster is a service very similar in some respects (even compatible with) AOL's AIM. It's not just about "confusion," but about implied endorsement and the value of the brand.

    I am thinking A1 steak sauce should now sue AOL.

    Why? AOL doesn't make steak sauce.

  • We need a new law. One which does not permit sophist parasites such as the legal profession to live off its back.

    And how exactly would this work? I would agree that we have too many lawyers in America today, and the law is too byzantine and obscure so that they are more necessary, but do you really think it is possible for human beings to implement a legal system of any kind with nobody at all performing such a function?

    No matter how clear and simple the law is, if there is a procedure for administering it (such as our network of hearings and trials) then someone will have to advise plaintiffs and defendants on how to adhere to that procedure, since most of us won't know all the ins and outs.

    And even the clearest law may not be understood by everybody. Lots of people seem inclined to interpret the law one way when they are the aggrieved party but another way when they are being sued. It's the job of a lawyer to explain these folks' true position to them, so they can avoid going to trial and getting whacked because they didn't understand the situation (or, alternately, so they can sue for just compensation which they might not have realized could be theirs).

    This doesn't mean we need a system like we have, but try to be realistic. When Shakespeare wrote "first, we kill all the lawyers" those characters were planning a revolution; this was recognition that lawyers are a linchpin in the rule of law, and the first step in subverting that rule of law would have to be to get rid of them.

    Of course, I suppose we could try anarchy, but I don't think that would work too well with our population and our level of technology. One day all those wunnerful feedback mechanisms that drive the invisible hand of the market would overshoot and we'd end up living in caves again. So, have you some other idea? Just wondering...

  • by localroger ( 258128 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @01:11PM (#211557) Homepage
    From this [] essay at []:

    Whether the owner of a trademark can stop others from using it depends on such factors as:

    • whether the trademark is being used on competing goods or services (goods or services compete if the sale of one is likely to affect the sale of the other)
    • whether consumers would likely be confused by the dual use of the trademark, and
    • whether the trademark is being used in the same part of the country or is being used on related goods (goods that will likely be noticed by the same customers, even if they don't compete with each other).

    Any more questions?

  • by localroger ( 258128 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:35AM (#211558) Homepage
    There is an article in Wired about Aimster and much to my surprise the name ccomes from the author's daughter Aimee.

    And of course we all know that (as they actually argued in court) the chain restaurant Hooters refers to the sound made by their owl mascot.

  • So would this happen if the entity using the domain name was in another country? Do United States companies own the internet (or at least the most popular TLDs)?
  • by __aaahtg7394 ( 307602 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:27AM (#211568)
    I worked at aimster for a few months before deciding they weren't going anywhere (read: yes, i know why it's named what it's named). The reason for "AIM"ster is that you were "AIM"ing for only your buddies. Any semblance to AOL's product offering is entirely coincidental. The fact that aimster (supposedly) integrates with IM products is a happy side note as well.

    In the case that you weren't aware, aimster is a p2p app that was supposedly designed to integrate well with IM infrastructure (i say supposedly because, well, i know how the previous version worked =), and allow you to only share files with your buddies. The versions i worked on were rather lackluster, and the file sharing didn't work for most people most of the time. I can't speak for the new version, as it was released after i left the company.

    Much as i dislike aimster, i think johnny had a good idea, and he was willing to support me to do the reverse engineering of AIM's OFT (AIM File Transfer) in an open manner. We have a partial implementation of it in libfaim, but nobody really cares enough to finish it up.
  • Aimster is an instant messenger service, complete with Buddies, and clicking on "What is Aimster" just says you can Find New Buddies and Share with Buddies... It's totally designed to confuse your typical AOL user. As the article said...

    In the NAF decision, Peter Michaelson wrote: "These domain names were intentionally selected ... by the respondent due to their high degree of similarity to the complainant's marks and hence for their potential to mislead the complainant's users."

    Similarity? Instant Messenging products with Buddies called AIM and AIMster? I don't see any similarity at all... ;)

    Of course the typical AOL user would be confused between Aimster and AIM. AOL has every right to go after them. (Inasmuch as corporations have rights, which is a whole other issue...)

    Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
  • by mech9t8 ( 310197 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:47AM (#211571)
    It's okay if the site in question just bitches about a company, but not if they make money?

    Hit the nail on the head with that one. The fuckgeneralmotors case is free speech. The aimster case is someone taking advantage of someone else's name to help their own product.

    Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
  • by Spy Hunter ( 317220 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:21AM (#211577) Journal
    "Just another in a long series of cases that prove that if you have a trademark, you have the right to any domain name that contains those letters in that order."

    You know, you guys don't have any right to complain about the spreading of FUD when you do it so often yourselves. AOL wouldn't have any right to the domain as long as nobody was offering instant-messenger stuff there. You know that.

    I agree that this is stupid, as long as Aimster has notices in reasonably conspicuous places to the effect that they are not affiliated with AOL, they should get to keep the domains. The name Aimster is not meant to confuse people into thinking its an officially AOL-endorsed product but its a clever (well, maybe not that clever) play on words that both lets people know its a file-sharing service and that it works with AIM.

    However, just because this case is stupid doesn't give you the right to spread FUD, so keep quiet!

  • by UltraBot2K1 ( 320256 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:53AM (#211583) Homepage Journal
    "It's totally designed to confuse your typical AOL user. As the article said... "

    Yeah, like THAT'S hard to do.

  • by janpod66 ( 323734 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @11:03AM (#211585)
    Just another in a long series of cases that prove that if you have a trademark, you have the right to any domain name that contains those letters in that order.

    There is more involved here than just similarity of names. In this case, you have a product that is closely related to the trademark holder's product, and there is a significant possibility for confusion. That's probably why they lost.

    If "Aimster" was a device for hunters or a water pistol, AOL would have much less of a claim and probably would have lost this one.

  • The trademark issue doesn't hinge on commercial vs non-commercial use, but rather on context. I could go into business as General Motors brand toilet plungers and all GM could do was bury me with legal fees in hopes that I couldn't go the distance to win the case.
    This is why AoL needn't fear Aim toothpaste coming after them, as they don't make internet software. This is also how we have Apple Computers' mark [] side by side with Apple Records. []
  • by cuyler ( 444961 ) <slashdot@theedge ... i v i o n . com> on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:30AM (#211590)

    Yes, Aimster does say that he (the creator) did get the idea from his daughter while she was using her AOL Instant Messanger and the fact that YES the name is derived from that but come on! The reason behind having such laws is so that other people won't infringe upon the value of your company's name or product.

    This would involve name like calling your software "Microsoft Perl 2000". That would imply that the company (in this case Microsoft) either supports the use of the name (and endorses it) or has created it itself. When this is not true the law is needed.

    Aimster and AIM are not competing products nor are the two companies involved competing at any level. People will not invest in Aimster because it has a name similar to AOL, in fact the web site (last time I was there) even mentioned that there was absolutly no relation between the two businesses.

    This is sad, it really is. How much does a large company need to push? Hell, Archie Comics thinks that they own the rights to the name Veronica. I'm just glad my name hasn't been in a comic book or closely resembling any corporation.

    - Cuyler

  • Of course the burden of proof would be upon your shoulders. It would be interesting to see AOL/Time Warner forced to turn over those names because you were the first to print the term AOL, which I believe would make you the original copyright owner.

    Then again since you have not done anything about it for such a long time. As well as the fact that AOL has more than likely approached you many times to sell you their service. I would have to suppose that you would not have much of a case.

  • by jeffy124 ( 453342 ) on Saturday May 19, 2001 @10:57AM (#211601) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean the next time I go for target practice I owe AOL $$$ so I can work on my AIM?

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell