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Three little words - You've been sued 95

Kris_J " ...reports that AOL is suing AT&T for the use of some e-mail related phrases, including "you have mail" and "you've got mail." H: AOL is also cranky about "buddy list" and "IM" Sheesh-I feel like I need to put a copyright by those.
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Three little words - You've been sued

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  • BonzoDog wrote:

    The interesting thing in my mind is that on the screen it says: "You have mail" and the annoying voice says: "You've got mail"

    Not only are people more forgiving of bad grammar in verbal communication than in written, but in many cases the good grammer "sounds" wrong when spoken. I'm sure the discrepancy between the screen message and the soundbite is the result of focus groups saying "Yeah, I like that better", and walking away with their free lunch in their belly and ten bucks in their wallet.
  • "Just wait until you get a call from an AoL lawyer"

    They've progressed, both mentally and physically, to the point at which they have the motor skills necessary to use a telephone?


    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • I think what they did, and what a lot of M$ lookalikes do is get a collection of common words and phrases, and use them for 1 advertisement, then trademark them. If anyone remembers, the term Wardialer has been around A LOT longer than AOL has. Maybe it isn't too late to start trademarking "a", "the", "with", "and", "or", and "I". ??

  • I think TAPR has prior claim on that phrase. Watch it, AOL, you're getting too big for your britches.
  • (1) In my personal experience it goes back to 1981. I'm quite certain it goes back even farther.

    (2) On V7 and BSD-ish systems it's printed by login; on System III/V-ish systems it's printed in /etc/profile.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 )
    Well, "You've got mail" could possibly be legally allowed as a service mark. I haven't seen it used by anybody else before AOL, and yes, you can trademark phrases (as Sun did with "The network is the computer"). "You have mail" however, isn't trademarkable, since lots of programs (including UNIX's mail) said "You have mail" before AOL was even around.

    As for Instant Message, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure I haven't heard anything other than AOL's Instant Messanger called an "Instant Message" until recently, so it's possible AOL invented the phrase. I personally used to call it "real-time messaging" or "one-on-one chat" or other such phrases.
  • Well, the question *isn't* whether AOL invented a list of names - they're not trying to patent it. The question is whether they invented the term "buddy list." They're trying to trademark (or servicemark or whatever) the term, so other can have buddy lists, but they have to call them "notify lists" (like IRC) or "list of friends" or "online friends" or something other than "buddy lists."
  • I think I'll get a copyright "You"*, "got"* and "mail"* individually and then sue AOL for all three! That's about how much sense AhOLe makes with their suit. Hmmm...While I'm at it, I think I'll have to have a discussion with the worlds postal services regarding their use of the word mail*.

    *copyright Special J. All rights reserved.

  • Posted by Stephen "The Carp" Carpenter:

    Yes "Look And Feel" that disgusting
    concept that some large companies feel
    is something they have a right to sue about

    This is still frivolous at best
  • Posted by Jeremy Witt:

    Just one more indication that they're handing out law degrees like Halloween candy these days.

  • Demon probably aren't the biggest (about 250,000 users as I recall), but they do have the lowest churn rate. Most Demon users stay Demon users, whereas most AOL users only use it as a springboard whilst they learn about the Internet.

    And Demon are still using MMDF to do customer mail. Sob.


  • "There's not such thing as bad press(TM)" :-P

    AOL is hoping cash in a little on

    You've got Press^H^H^H^H^HMail.

    Personally, I disagree with AOL, and thier case, and agree with you. But no it's not a hoax, it's a bunch of lawyers and buisnessmen in suits in an office that have just saw a preview for the new Tom Hanks movie and decided to get thier names in the papers.

    Personally, I am supprised AOL hasn't spam mailed anyone yet. They seem willing to do anything to get more attention, and I sure get enought junk mail from them in my REAL mailbox (but I do have a nice set of AOL/CD/Coasters for my beer!).

  • AOL appearently doesn't think they're different; the case is against AT&T for using "You have mail." when AOL uses "You've got mail." (at least, according to the article). Since trademarks are on exact wording, and single sentences can't be copyrighted, AOL doesn't even have any reason to complain if they were first, which they were not. This is why I think that countersuits should not need to be valid-- AT&T ought to be able to countersue despite not having a trademark or copyright, just based on the fact that AOL thinks there's something wrong.
  • AOL's claim is nuts. They've been using the phases since ~1989, and yet, they only bothered to file in May 1998. In the words of a spokesman
    "We think AT&T is trying to free-ride on a term widely used and historically associated with AOL," said Tricia Primrose, a spokeswoman for America Online Inc. []

    Apparently AOL wants to prove that there are enough morons who associate the phrase with AOL to give it common law rights. My guess is that AOL will try to claim trademark rights to "The Internet" next.

    Incidentally, is the offending code mentioned in any of the "annotated source code" books out there-- e.g. "The Lions Book"? I'd love to see a copy of "login.c" from 1989, but I can't find an appropriate Web/Gopher/FTP resource-- Linux dates from 1991, and I think the FreeBSD varients date from the same period.

  • Excuse me. I need to go get my copyrights on "How are you?", "What's up?", and "AOL sucks."
  • However, I'm pretty sure Demon Internet are still the most successfull ISP. They're certainly a damned site better than AOL - it's still considered the mark of a loser having an AOL account ...

    It's all a matter of perspective. Demon has long been the UK's biggest ISP, but Compuserve (i.e., now AOL) has more subscribers -- the difference being not all of Compuserve's users use it for internet access. Hence both can claim to be #1, and both will be right depending on how you look at it.

    It'll be interesting to see how FreeServe affects the market (they're rapidly approaching the top spot) when Energis stop paying for it. It can't last forever on the income from support calls alone.

  • Well strings on login on SunOS 4 shows
    "You have mail"

    So, since login came from the official AT&T
    System V sources (about 1983 or so) they should
    be ok on "You have mail" -- however, You've got mail may be another story...

    However the layers of legal @#$%^&*( that
    cause this stuff is just plain silly. You should
    NOT be able to trademark or copyright "You've got mail"

    I want to copyright and trademark the following:

    Password: or password

  • How about them trademarking "Spammer's Heaven", "Clueless Providing" and "Me Too" also?

    Now that at least would have something to do with inventings stuff concerning the net ;-)

  • If you read carefully (the Wired article isn't written very clearly), the judge denied AOL's request for "a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction" against AT&T--i.e., forcing AT&T to stop using these alleged trademark violations pending a final court decision. This judge clearly did not buy AOL's initial presentation of the story, which doesn't bode well for AOL--but nothing has been finalized yet.
  • AOLame -- get a clue. If you win, soon it will be illegal for me to put phrases like "Press any key to continue" into my programs. This is nuts. I hope AT&T counter sues you and wins for this outrage.
  • porcupine login: pascal
    Last login: Mon Jan 4 23:51:14 on ttyp1 from 164.tuscon-05rs1.
    You have mail.

    The state law of Pennsylvania prohibits singing in the bathtub.

    pascal@porcupine:~> /P?

  • Actually, it's /bin/login, IIRC.
  • In the United Kingdom, AOL are currently running adverts claiming they have more subscriptions than anyone else. That seems to be the inference one is supposed to draw from ads stating they are "number one in the UK".

    However, I'm pretty sure Demon Internet are still the most successfull ISP. They're certainly a damned site better than AOL - it's still considered the mark of a loser having an AOL account ...

  • Yeah, but that was in defamation, nor for copyright infringement.

    Still, intellectual property law is now starting to butt heads with freedom of speech. For once I think I want freedom of speech to win.

  • Here is a stretch, but if there are any lawyers out there, is this even viable? Or is this an attempt on AOL's part to just cause so much trouble that AT&T just decides to change the message instead of wasting money on legal battles?
  • Wow, I didn't think people like you really existed.

  • Wired News [] reports that the lawsuit was rejected by the courts.

    Maybe common sense is coming over your country's judicial system?
  • An odd thing.. As a few of you'll probably notice, my name comes from a white wolf roleplaying game 'Vampire the Masquerade'...
    In the clanbook for the clan Malkavian, there's a peculiar critter called 'Word Eater'.
    Word Eater is generally detested by all that know it, as it lives by eating ideas. Ideas are couched in words, and as Word Eater eats the words, they become lost, and the world become duller, more mundane, and less flexible.
    This seems to be exactly how AOL (I know this acronym to mean 'Assholes On Line', and it seems with awful good reason right now) is behaving.
    In the clamour for 'intellectual property', certain companies seem to be hell bent on removing concepts from general use. What they fail to comprehend is that for new ideas to be born, sometimes, older ideas need to be an integral part. Without these new ideas, there will BE nothing new...
    Sooner or later, these 'Word Eaters' will have nothing new to claim. All that'll be left is the ruin of a once bright and developing place. And they'll be reduced further and further, trying to fight for the scraps that are left.
    The world in general will probably be set back by about 20 years or so in development. Research will be stymied. The net could very well be a dark and dismal place.
    I wonder if someone would care to claim the naming of TCP/IP, or 'internet' or 'World Wide Web'... Now, where would AOL be if they mentioned they allowed you to hook up, but couldn't mention 'Internet' or 'World Wide Web' or 'Web'... Or their engineers couldn't write docs that referred to TCP/IP...
    Language arose for a very good reason; it allowed us to develop a framework in which we could relay concepts to one another, to allow humankind to develop past the pack animal to create many wonders, and, in the hands of the misguided, many atrocities. But each step has allowed us to learn.
    It seems now, that in the hands of the legal system, the greedy few can persue a method of removing the product of thousands of years of development and refinement by a whole race, and all in the quest for a small amount of money, which'll soon vanish and dry up.
    The burning of books was only one way to limit the spread of knowledge... One can but hope that the laws protect our most valuable asset... Our words... After all, they're owned by us all (think if language as a business partnership.. We're all responisble for it's development). If one person in a partnership decides to remove an asset from the company and claim it as it's own, it's termed 'embezzlement', or fraud (I'm no legal hotshot.. Quite which applies, I'm not sure)..
    Maybe it oculd be argued that anybody could countersue as a representative of the 'Public Domain' company for theft of a concept. After all, I'm sure even back in the the days of Ancient Egypt and before, ever since the dawning of writing, some people were saying the very equivalent of 'You've got mail'. And I'm damn sure AOL wasn't around back then.
    I just find myself baffled at the sheer arrogance, stupidity and short-sightedness of anyone who believes they can claim the creation of any phrase so commonly used...
    So, as clan Malkavian plans to 'Prank' Word Eater in such a way as to cause it to cease it's practices, so I aim to 'Prank' AOL. And no, I don't mean hack.
    Every company relies heavily on it's 'Corporate Image'. They spend millions on advertising to make this seem slick and competent.
    The greatest Prank is to show everyone you can just how utterly inept, incompetent and grabbing they really are. Your words spread to others who learn from you. And in turn, people learn from them, and so on, and so the ripples spread.
    In the long term, this'll cost AOL more than just the legal costs, as long as the joke lasts.

  • ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous
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    ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous
    ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous ludicrous

    There's more if you run out.
  • If they are not there yet, they are aiming to be.

    It isn't MS that we have to be worried about when it comes to the Internet. MS may control the desktop and wants to make the software that drives the net. However the real money is who controls the content. This is where MS cannot go because to do so means having to fight very established players like AOL. About the only way to get people to leave a service like AOL is to make it free elsewhere and then give them all their friends on AOL. Its not going to happen. (personally I thought AOL only made coasters)

    Still, AOL is now showing what big business is really about. Through the Justice department they managed to build share strength for both them and Netscape just so the merger would be palatable to their respective share holders.

    Stop MS from taking over the server market, and keep AOL from buying up the net. Screw the desktop - it was lost 3 years ago. Justice should be looking toward the future, not correcting their errors of ignorance from the past.

  • What the fuck is this all about?!! Tell me it's a IS a hoax right? "mail" is a totally common, non-company specific thing. They want to assert the sole right to tell someone they have mail??? (as Unix already does...) Not "You've got AOLMail(TM)" or "You've AOL-got(TM) mail" But the simple "You've got mail"?!!!!! And "Wardial"??!!! Christ!

    Whomever said the comment about "Press any key to continue" is right on. Ok, that's it, I'm going to have to trademark "CTRL-ALT-DEL", the "File menu" and "Establishing Connection..."


    PS THIS is the AOL that's just bought Netscape, everyone. The new "enlightened," open source embracing, freedom loving AOL. Ya right. I still say that deal is the worst thing to happen to the net so far.
  • I've just sent the comment below to AOL.
    The quotation is from "The Dogs of War" by Pink Floyd. By the way, I find the full lyrics of
    that song (see for instance tm) to best most appropriate for describing what is happening with the media and, unfortunately, more and more on the Internet too.

    Good morning, America Online, Inc.

    You have mail.
    From me.

    To show my indignation concerning your arrogance
    on your presumed ownership of the expression
    "You have mail".

    Currently, it can only be expected that companies
    like you are going to try to trademark every
    single bit of our lives, including our language. And then sell us what
    used to be free.

    Please stop trying to convince us about some
    form of AOL commitment to open source development.
    You have shown your true face even to those naive
    enough to have believed you.

    Have a nice day, America Online, Inc., and thank you for your attention
    to these "consumer comments".

    "For hard cash, we will lie and deceive
    Even our masters don't know the web we weave"

    P.S. I hereby deny America Online, Inc.
    permission for usage of my email address for any purposes---except
    replying to this message or reproducing it in its entirety on the World
    Wide Web---including but not limited to marketing purposes or disclosure
    to third party companies, government officials and law enforcement agencies.

  • No kidding. I don't recall which brand of UNIX,
    but that's the message that's shown up
    on my csh accounts since I got online in 1988.

    Just incredible. Perhaps AOL will trademark
    "Season's Greetings" and "Merry Christmas",
    in hopes of cornering the holiday market. . . .

  • Does anyone know of any Unix app that simulated the buddy list's display of who's on line or not?

    I have dim memories of a program called "Merlin's Buddies" (or possibly "Merlin's Buds") from around about 1993 or thereabouts.

    A brief web search doesn't turn it up, but my access if pretty slow at the moment which doesn't help.

    Anyone else remember this piece of software?


  • The lawsuit goes on. So, for the moment, they can continue to use the annoying "You've got mail!" phrase (But why they'd want to...)
  • "You have got mail" OK for American and British dialects

    "You have gotten mail" OK for American dialect only. "Gotten" transformed into "Got" sometime after the Colonies were founded.

    But in any case "You've got mail!" in the breathlessly excited voice is ANNOYING.

    End of language rant...
  • No, I think you're splitting hairs on this one.

    "You have got mail in your mailbox and you need to check it." is perfectly OK.
    "You have mail" would be perfectly fine, too.

    For more on "have" and "got" and American "gotten", see John Lawler []
  • On unix it is:

    You have new mail. (or "You have mail.", depending on whether or not you've read it yet)

    On AOL it is:

    You've got mail. (aka You have got mail.)

    AOL has to be hillbilly-literate you see..

  • According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's nifty online database [], some of AOL's registered trademarks are: My Place, Buddy List, FullDisclosure, My Home Page, E-VIL, You've Got Mail, "the spoken words 'you've got mail,'" You Have Mail, and (my favorite) War Dialer. -jon
  • I better copyright my name before i have to pay royalties every time i sight a check!!!

    Ooops..looks like Microsoft already has it.

  • Obviously they think they're gonna make some money off of that new "You've Got Mail" movie coming out... well DUH, that's why they're doing this. They want to make it look like they INVENTED EMAIL or at least the phrase. Sometimes this country makes me sick... (yes america DAMMIT)
  • This is just plain stuipd on AOL's part. As a matter of fact, I'll bet that some lawsuit hungry postal employee is steaming right now. Just imagine...How long have they been using "You've Got Mail", and it's associated derivatives? They could've copyrighted it and charged us for it all along!!!!
  • MCI owns this phrase:

    "Is this a great time or what? :-)"

    They have not yet tried to claim the ":-)" as a logo of some sort. Woe be unto you if they do.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984