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VirtualDub Author Stymied by Trademark Troll 102

trifish writes "The author of VirtualDub wrote on his blog that 'someone has registered "VirtualDub" as a "word mark" in Germany as of June 6, 2006 and is now sending out notices to people in that country demanding money for so much as mentioning the program and linking to the SourceForge download from their website.' Well, I confess that only now I fully understand why Linux, Mozilla, TrueCrypt, and other open source projects register their names as trademarks."
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VirtualDub Author Stymied by Trademark Troll

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  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @11:58AM (#15927192) Journal
    It'll never be too soon to apply the slashdot moderation system to the patent system and everything else.
    • by Snarfangel ( 203258 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:38PM (#15927495) Homepage
      Normal -- Average invention, will sit and gather dust somewhere
      Offtopic -- Invention won't do what it claims
      Flamebait -- Violates known laws of physics
      Troll -- Attempt to steal another person's invention
      Redundant -- Has been "invented" before. Multiple times.
      Insightful -- What a cool invention! Also known as troll attractant.
      Interesting -- Not sure what it's used for, but fun to watch
      Informative -- Will be referred to in future inventions
      Funny -- It blows up when someone uses it
      Overrated -- Does something redundant, but with just one click!
      Underrated -- No one knows what it does, but it will form a completely new industry

      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:48PM (#15927602)
        ...MS Products are usually somewhere between Offtopic and Funny?

        Hmm... kinda correct, if you think about it...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Flamebait -- Violates known laws of physics

        Hey, when inventions can actually do that, then we have a good deal to talk about. You're confusing it with inventions that claim to violate these laws.

        //Lisa, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
        • At the same time we frequently see comments modded as flamebait when they're actually insightful, interesting, or informative but differ from the popular opinion.
          • by aywwts4 ( 610966 )
            This is why I think we need a "I don't necessarily agree with a what you said, but your points were well made" moderation... I don't know how well that would fit in the little box though ;)
            • Re:mod him down! (Score:4, Insightful)

              by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @09:06AM (#15943794) Homepage
              I regularly positively moderate people even when I don't agree with what they've said. I'm operating on the meaning of the moderation words themselves rather than whether or not I philosophically agree. Most mods, however, seem to see the moderation system as a way to promote personal agendas which is IMHO an abuse of the moderation system. So I think what you're saying is a good idea, because it might cause more people to be modded up even if their view differs from the community.

              The unfortunate side effect of me using the moderation system as I believe it was intended to be used (rather than the way it's actually used by most of the mods) is that I get periodic unfair moderation metamoderations, which comes with a karma hit =(. This actually disencourages me from moderating, which is unfortunate since I try very hard to be an impartial mod and consider whether their post has validity, not whether I agree with it. I'm not willing to karma whore to make up for lost moderation karma, so in this sense the system favors the abusers.
              • The unfortunate side effect of me using the moderation system as I believe it was intended to be used (rather than the way it's actually used by most of the mods) is that I get periodic unfair moderation metamoderations, which comes with a karma hit =(. This actually disencourages me from moderating
                It's good that you moderate that way, but why do you care so much about the karma? If you're still getting asked to moderate it's not that bad...
                • Enough bad karma and my comments drop off most people's threshold, I lose mod privileges, I lose metamod privileges, and I'm guessing I lose access to the various beta features that have been enabled for me. Basically I care about karma for the various reasons that karma exists (and not for the more popular reason of bragging rights). There are definitely moderations that I elect not to perform because even though I feel its a fair moderation, moderating in good faith can be punnished. Also, I believe yo
                  • Also, I believe you can lose moderation privileges even with relatively good karma, if your moderations exceed a certain percentage of unfair meta-moderation.

                    Right. You'll stop being asked to moderate well before you lose enough karma to affect your posting bonus, so why should negative karma from m2 reduce your desire to moderate? Wouldn't it be better to continue to moderate normally until you stop getting mod points?

                    like all community based moderation systems, both meta moderation and regular mod

                    • You're right, I guess Karma isn't what I really care about, what I care about is losing the privileges that I currently have. So I try to walk the line of moderating as fairly as I can without going to the point where some metamod will think I moderated unfairly, just because they disagreed with the perspective of the poster that I positively moderated.

                      You're right, group think isn't as bad here as elsewhere on the net, but it's not nearly as good as you'd find in some other communities. It's a fundamenta
                    • At the moment, I'm 86% unfair meta-moderated, so I am feeling like I need to be a bit more cautious, I'm not sure at what threshold I'll lose mod rights.
                      Ah, that's a slightly higher percentage than I had anticipated. According to the FAQ, you only need "positive" karma so I think you'll be ok, but you're probably right about being cautious.
                    • by Jartan ( 219704 )
                      "For example, look at some of the people who try to defend a religious or non-evolutionary perspective. Or try to defend laws restricting minor (as in children) access to anything, no matter how psychologically, emotionally, or sometimes even physically damaging."

                      That's an example of group think/moderation working. It doesn't really matter how good the comment is. If it's defending religion or promoting some stupid study where corelation has been mistaken for causation it's supposed to get modded down. I
                    • Moderation should wholly be determined by how good a comment is, not whether the moderator agrees with the comment. If it's a discussion about religion, then a comment that defends religion in a fashion that the moderator hadn't heard before is insightful or informative, and should be moderated as such.

                      Moderation isn't selective idea voting, its comment quality voting. Moderation should bring forth and hilight the opposing viewpoints rather than crushing the less popular viewpoint. This is why the catego
        • Ahh... but you see, this is for moderating 'patents', not actual working inventions. So a patent can actually violate a law of physics without much discussion being in order.
        • by aywwts4 ( 610966 )
 t ahtml%2Fsrchnum.htm&Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&r= 1&l=50&f=G&d=PALL&s1=6960975.PN.&OS=PN/6960975&RS= PN/6960975 []

          Personaly I think the patent office can be completely circumvented if you just make your application long enough and with enough sufficiently technical terms, sort of like a high school teacher that gives the dry 12 page report an A after glossing over the first page and deeming it of sufficiently impress
  • Who? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:02PM (#15927220) Journal
    So who is it that has registered this "word mark" anyhow? The blog itself is pretty short on details, as it appears those that link to or use virtualdub have been getting the letters, and not the author himself.

    Also, one wonders if there is some legal way to charge and/or get money back from somebody who is illegally using the name of your product to extort money.
    • Re:Who? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:41PM (#15927524)
      According to german internet news site "" [], it is "Internet Dienstleistungen Kliemen" []. The page is offline now (it was hosted by and had redirect ads in a frame, so I guess it was free hosting). The redirect page listed Michael Kliemen ( as the author. The onsite contact information was: Internet Dienstleistungen Raimar Kliemen, Hauptstr. 99, 67126 Hochdorf, mail:, phone: 0151/10372291 (that's +49-151-10372291 internationally).
    • It's time to unleash AFRAID! (Anti-Fraudster Raider Agents, International Division).

      They'll descend from helicopters, hook up to fire hydrants with reservoir-equipped hoses, then blast powerful streams of water and detergent to wash out the mouths, indeed the whole bodies, of these scuttling roaches.

  • ...but I say break out the torches and pitchforks.
  • I'm going to start using the word "VirtualDub" as often as I can, on German websites and non-German. Let's see if this con artist is as good at suing a foreign national as s/he is at stealing from one.
    • Re:Jawohl! (Score:5, Informative)

      by DoktorTomoe ( 643004 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:27PM (#15927421)
      You are free to do so. With the twisted German jurisdiction, not you are to be held responsible, but the owner of the webpage you have been mentioning V********b, as he should/ought/could have prevented the mentioning on his page.

      There actually *is* a reason why Germans are required to have a imprint on their pages (Don't believe me? Look for "6 Teledienstgesetz").
    • Re:Jawohl! (Score:5, Funny)

      by MarkGriz ( 520778 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @01:01PM (#15927712)
      "I'm going to start using the word "VirtualDub" as often as I can"

      Be sure to use it as a verb, that really pisses off trademark holders.

      IANAL, so how do I know? I googled it and sure enough, trademark owners hate that.
      Google it yourself and see.
      • Google THIS (Score:5, Funny)

        by The_REAL_DZA ( 731082 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @01:13PM (#15927805)
        That's good fun, but you should try Googling "Google". When you Google "Google", all the Googles you get back aren't googles but GOOGLES! What's more, I suspect that if Google Googled Google, there'd be a GAGGLE of Googles Googled (and what's more Google than Google Google Google? Google? google...)
        • "I suspect that if Google Googled Google, there'd be a GAGGLE of Googles Googled"

          Maybe even a googol [] of them
          • What's even funnier is that in Michio Kaku's latest book "Parallel Worlds" (and as a bigshot physicist, he _should_ know better... although maybe it was an editor's mistake), he referred to the number 10^100 as a "google".

            Of course, there was another serious typo in the book (a logarithmic time-line that should have been in seconds, but was labelled in years. Great book nonetheless.
          • I think you photoshopped that.
        • Great googly moogly!

        • by jwdb ( 526327 )
          What the smurf did all that mean?
      • Be sure to use it as a verb, that really pisses off trademark holders.

        Verbing weirds language.

  • Virtuadub (Score:3, Funny)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:06PM (#15927254)
    Yeah, sue me. Oh, only in Germany though. Bigtime. Today Germany, tomorrow.....Belgium!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... a while back. They strongarmed the developer(s?) to remove WMV compatibility. And now some Trademark Troll is busting their chops? Can't my favorite movie editing software catch a break?
    • Not until they pay all of the extortionists. Then they get 2 breaks (15 minutes each) and the fresh round of extortions start up.
  • by zyl0x ( 987342 )
    Wasn't there just a big issue with people suing for copyright/trademark infringement when they only own the IP to do so? I was pretty sure that some kind of law was recently passed because of the new fad of beating companies to trademarks and then taking all their money.
  • I've often read that European laws offer their citizens greater protection than the US. My thinking is that if you could show any form of malice or harmful intent from the name squatter that that person could be held for a criminal act.

    Is there any recourse against this marmot!
    • Yeah - let it unfold as normal. Considering the prior art involved, this guy can sue as many people as he wants - until the courts throw out his garbage. Unlike in America, most European courts do allow legal damages to be awarded if the plaintiff loses, so this will just work itself out. Can I get a confirmation from our /. German-law-knowing guys on this?
    • by j35ter ( 895427 )
      Even in Europe, there are sleezy lawyers. Most people are just insecure about the legal state of IP, TM, ... Hence, they often choose to pay (if the price is moderate) just to stop being hassled. I guess that is the consequence of having such complicated laws!
    • by MyNameIsFred ( 543994 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:42PM (#15927538)
      ...I've often read that European laws offer their citizens greater protection than the US...
      When you compare two countries laws, there are always instances where country A is better than country B. And other instances where the opposite is true. For example, see the many European criticisms of the Patriot Act. One the other hand, I note the recent foiled plot in England, the British police used powers that are likely unconstitutional in the US []. It is not hard to find similar examples. Look at the recent slashdot discussion on evolution []. Many people pinged on US atitutdes, ignoring surveys in Europe showing similar atitudes [] My point being, neither Europe or the US has a monopoly on good laws or atitudes.
      • Well, the thing is that whenever someone from the other side of the pond starts comparing the US with Europe they have a tendency to cherry-pick countries. If you're making comparisons don't pick the country that much of the rest of Europe considers as bad as the US.

        Why not instead pick Norway as an example, just because I'm familiar with it. Probably has one of the most modern data protection laws around. norway/dp_norway.html [] Neither was the iTunes thing
        • Your example on data protection has merit. I would agree that EU laws on data protection are generally better than in the US. On the other hand, many liberals state that the Scandanavian countries have a fairer economic system. One in which it is better to be poor. However, according to this Swedish study []

          Poverty is a highly relative concept. As we saw in the preceding section, for example, 40 per cent of all Swedish households would rank among low-income households in the USA, and an even greater numbe

      • by renoX ( 11677 )
        While I agree with the gist of your argument, the website you linked about the "British police used powers that are likely unconstitutional in the US" is so vague that it is useless.
        And as every sword has two edge, I would advise watching the movie "In the Name of the Father" which is inspired by a real case where British police abused its power.
        As always who guards against the guardians? ..
      • I do not disagree with your point, but I am not convinced that your example is a good one.

        Not only does the survery the slashdot article links to show a huge difference between Europe and the US (the only European country that is worse than the US is Turkey), but I find it very hard to believe the numbers in the survey that the BBC quotes.

        I have met very few creationists in Britain, despite living these most of my life and despite many of my friends being people I met through churches and despite moving aro
        • by Haeleth ( 414428 )
          The problem of ppolice powers stems from the fact that Britain does not have a consitution so the government can do what it likes.

          (a) Britain (or, more precisely, the United Kingdom) most certainly does have a consitution. It just doesn't consist of a single concise written document.

          (b) A written constitution is no guarantee of civil rights. For nearly 80 years, the USA had both a written constitution and legal slavery.
        • by Duds ( 100634 )
          You may want to look up the Magna Carta []. The UK had a consitution equivilent over 500 years before there WAS a USA.
  • by himurabattousai ( 985656 ) <> on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:19PM (#15927356)
    It appears that the author or VirtualDub might not be in trouble at all. According to the comments about his blog entry, the letters are worthless if they aren't from a lawyer--and sometimes even if they are. It also seems that since his program has documented existence that predates the word mark "registration," such a registration would be invalid.

    No less troubling, though, are those who can't do a damn thing in life trying to legally steal from those who actually produce something of value. I can't think of any better word to describe the actions of people who create nothing, not even ideas, and sue when someone comes up with a device that loosely resembles their mystery ideas.

    • As good /.'ers (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
      shouldn't we link to VirtualDub [], Sourceforge [] and its download [] links [] a few thousand times?
    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:29PM (#15927433)
      There is actually a rather infamous lawyer in Germany who's been harrassing people for a long, long time (especially for copyright infringement whose companion was, interesting enough, arrested for running a warez-FTP server), I wouldn't put it beyond him to register the VirtualDub 'word mark' to continue his profitable practice of milking the unsuspecting.

      Why again is it illegal to shoot lawyers on sight?
      • by Nimey ( 114278 )
        Would you want lawyer gore scattered everywhere? It might be catching.
      • by Samus ( 1382 )
        Maybe because politicians make the laws and most politicians are/were lawyers? The real question is. Why do we continually trust lawyers to make our laws for us if we continually bash them as being unscrupulous and lower than low?
        • by Pope ( 17780 )
          Well, for one, it's good to be able to understand the law if you're going to be writing and interpreting them. On a more practical note, lawyers are one of the few groups of self-employed business people who can more easily stop and start their trade at will to run for office. I doubt the average corner store owner can do that!
        • Who's that "we"? If it was legal, I'd be running 'round with shotguns.

          I don't trust lawyers further than I can throw them. Twice so when it comes to IT topics.
      • by rsidd ( 6328 )
        Why again is it illegal to shoot lawyers on sight?

        Is it illegal? Dick Cheney did it [] when his popularity was down, and got away with it.

      • Because bullets don't stop them. The only thing that can really kill a lawyer is another lawyer.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You could implement a law that asking for license fees to use a certain trademark when a) the product to which it is referring is clearly identified, b) the product that is being referred to clearly predates the trademark registration date, and c) the trademarkholder has been made aware of this, is a form of legal harassment from which victims can seek redress.

      Basically, if someone rejects a demand for license fees with well-founded reasons of the above, the trademarkholder is forced to initiate legal actio
    • Those who can't do ... teach^h^h^h^h^hsue!
    • Better than what? "Troll"?
    • by sco08y ( 615665 )
      No less troubling, though, are those who can't do a damn thing in life trying to legally steal from those who actually produce something of value.

      Lawyers are still an improvement over the natural order, though. There will always be people trying to steal. What the law does is replaces violence with a courtroom.
  • by arodland ( 127775 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:22PM (#15927377)
    All he has to do is rename it to "V-Dub in da Houze"
  • He should quickly trademark in the USA as that will override that trademark especially since the author can provide proof of creation and originally naming it.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      Wait, did I miss something? Suddenly Germany honors our trademarks over their own?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by trifish ( 826353 )
      > He should quickly trademark in the USA as that will override that trademark especially
      > since the author can provide proof of creation and originally naming it.

      Sorry, but everything you wrote is utter nonsense. The filing date and geographical jurisdiction are what counts. You can "override" it only in USA (not in Germany), and only if the holder of the German trademark does not oppose your US registration.
  • Er... this is stupid (Score:4, Informative)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot&keirstead,org> on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:39PM (#15927515) Homepage

    You can't sue someone for using your trademark in a publication, as long as the trademark actually referrs to your product, there is no problem.

    Why do you think review sites are allowed to bash Sony / Microsoft / FooBrand products without fear of retribution?

    The point of a trademark is not to keep people from talking about your product, it is to keep another company from pretending to be your product.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @12:46PM (#15927573)
      Exactly that is supposedly happening. Or at least so the person who registered the trademark claims.

      His claim is that he owns the trademark and has a product (if he has one is irrelevant, at least for the law) by that name, and that the "false" VirtualDub is trying to mooch from his publicity.

      He's not suing people who talk about it. He sues people who link to the downloads.
      • Still no case (Score:3, Informative)

        by brunes69 ( 86786 )
        Even assuming this person was being truthful, the only case they would have is agsinst the makers of VirtualDub, not the people who are talking about VirtualDub.

        This is not patent law, where the user is the infringer - it is trademark law.

        • Not in Germany. A clueless judge ruled that you are responsible for the stuff you link to. Thus, if someone links to a download site of VD, he's responsible for the "trademark infringement" going on there.
      • by julesh ( 229690 )
        His claim is that he owns the trademark and has a product (if he has one is irrelevant, at least for the law) by that name

        I don't believe this is true. My understanding of trademark law is that registration is not enough: you have to show actual use of the trademark. This may be different in Germany, but I don't suspect so.
  • Don't know anything about German trademark law, only a bit about the Dutch law, and ofcourse IANAL, but doesn't a registered trademark only give you (legal) protection against competitors using that name for their brands?
    You would need to have a copyright on a word in order to prevent people from using it and that's not possible afaik.
  • Already saw on his blog, and see here, confusion over the difference between copyright and trademark.

    From the United States Copyright Office:

    How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?
    Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be. A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or s

  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @04:09PM (#15929463) Homepage
    > "Well, I confess that only now I fully understand why Linux, Mozilla, TrueCrypt, and other open source projects register their names as trademarks"

    In the case of Linux(tm), it's precisely because back in the mid-nineties, someone named William Della Croce, Jr. tried to hijack the mark [] and extort money from various vendors and publishers. It took a year, and a bunch of money, to get the matter resolved [] and the trademark reassigned to Linus.

    It was an ugly and sordid affair, and I really wish there were better alternatives than either registering a mark or allowing it to be attacked by trolls. Prior use of a mark--even an unregistered mark--does (or should) count against trolls, at least in the US, but it can still be a hassle to fight them off if the mark's not registered. Personally, I would like to see the term "Linux" become a generic term (like "Aspirin"), but I can understand why Linus is reluctant to allow that to happen after the Dell Croce incident.
  • (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Thursday August 17, 2006 @08:34PM (#15931490) Homepage
    Didn't the same thing happen to group, forcing them to adopt the silly '.org' to their name? IIRC the trademark "Open Office" was bought by a Brazilian company at the behest of Microsoft.

    How would sound? :)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    eMule also had the same problem.

    Someone registered that name in Germany, and sent out letters. It got to court, and he transferred the trademark back to the author.

    Two differences exist between the cases:
    1) The authors of eMule live in Germany.
    2) The troll published an eMule fork himself. (possibly with spyware)

    You should look exactly on what they did. I don't want to see VirtualDub renamed. (anyone mentioned WireShark? wxWidgets? Joomla!?)
  • He could always rename it to VertDub. And trademark it.

  • Does that country have any wiggle room for prior art in trademarking laws?

    It would be pretty easy to show he was using it first.

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