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Are you infringing upon someone? Is someone infringing upon you? Did
you copy a piece of graphic artwork, a button, an icon or banner and use
it? Do you think it’s OK because you modified it for your own specific
use? Did you obtain a domain name and think it is secure because you
also filed a trademark with the United States
Patent and Trademark Office?
What would you say, if I told you that Internet may not be a generic
term describing our World Wide Information Super Highway. That’s right
— a fight is still going on over the word “Internet.” Seems a bank
filed for the trademark long ago for a system they owned. It moved
banking information. That was long ago before this mesh of
interconnected telephone, cable and satellite circuits became commonly
known as the Internet. The owner will be “We the People” or them, the
bank, that filed first. The decision may be heavily based on the
trademark description (or type) the bank filed. They used not only the
words “Electronic Banking” but also “Retail Marketing.” Clearly
there is a lot of Internet retail marketing going on in the same
international class 38. If you would like to take a peek at that trademark, I think this is the link.
Let’s take a moment and explore a tiny bit of information about
domain names and trademarks. If you own a domain name it’s worth the
time to learn how to protect yourself or your company from others. There
have been thousands of news stories about domain name trademarks
lawsuits. Domain name stories help to sell newspapers. So it’s no
surprise that most of these stories are about the fight instead of how
the fight began. All seem written with an “Extra, Extra, Read All About
There are important basic details that you need to be aware of before
you file for a trademark. Learning about details of trademark laws has
now become easier for average non-lawyer type individuals like myself. I
am not referring to the basics of trademark classifications list. I
mean real hard, bite you in the butt, details — details that can cost
you money or possibly your business at a later date. Here is a link to
books that have taught me plenty: Multimedia Law and Business Handbook
and Internet Legal Forms for Business was co-authored with Mark
Radcliff. One of the few legal professionals I have met that actually
understands the fundamentals how the Internet works.
Did you know that there are different types of trademarks?
Are you familiar with the “four different types of trademarks? I am
no lawyer, although I have paid a pretty penny for good and bad legal
advice. Most trademark legal services provide basic advice consisting
of help with trademark classification and or filling out forms. I wish I
had learned more details of the different types years ago. The possible
ramifications of using a specific type of trademark is a detail that
shouldn’t slip by. Overlooking trademark details can result in the
possibility of reinvesting huge marketing dollars to re-educate people
of your business or web site name change.
The four basic types are Generic, Descriptive, Suggestive and
Generic no one owns. You can’t keep your competitor from using it.
An example is the words, “Computer Software.” You cannot stop your
competitor from placing an advertisement stating that they have Computer
Descriptive you can own. Your last name is descriptive because it
indicates the clan you belong to. All-Over-Tan and Burger King are
descriptive trademarks. Descriptive trademarks require marketing and
advertising sales dollars to establish a secondary meaning.
Then there’s Suggestive and Arbitrary trademarks.
You may not need a lawyer but you do need a little education on
trademark law. It’s not something you want to leave up to your lawyer.
The details are something you need to know. This will provide you a
better chance of success later on. If you have a law firm or trademark
service filing for you, your knowledge of these details will help them
establish a better filing.
In the late 1800s the Coca-Cola trademark was registered in international class 32 with
the description including nutrient or tonic beverages. Today, that legal
sounding description simply means sugar-water drink. However, filing
with the description of sugar-water drink might not hold up very well if
the description was challenged by a baker with the name
coca-cola-pastries or a vitamin called, “extract-of-cocacola.” In the
late 1800s that clever word “nutrient” stood out and helped to detour
others from thinking about using Coca-Cola in any form of food. It was
specifically vague. If you were to describe your Internet website,
domain name or business you need a nice specific vague all-inclusive
legal sounding description as well as a unique sounding trademark.
Speaking of domain names my inside sources tell me that Network
Solutions (once the Internic) is five or six months behind on changing
ownership titles on domains.
Last week I wrote about Java.
A few truly techy types attempted to remind me that Java Script and
Java are different. And of course they used the word “technically” in
the claim. It is a true fact, “technically” they are unrelated. However,
on a non-technical level, both are computer program languages using the
word Java to describe them. In addition, both run through the Net to
create visual and other effects on my computer. Although they are
technically different, they are closely related in many ways. I think
there is a possible trademark issue here or one that was already worked
Here’s a tip from Lon @ hubwest.com: “You failed to mention that
using a browser’s option to turn Java off will prevent a lot of the
problems you mentioned. Deleting cookies and history at the end of a
session can be very helpful also.”
Bernard @ saber.net wrote, “Thanks for the informative column. I use
the Intermute software that screens out ads, cookies, Java, etc. I’m
very pleased with this software.”
Charles @ modempool.com wrote, “I went to the website you linked to
— a tiny list of hostile Applets — and it caused my MS Explorer and
Outlook to crash.” (Sorry Charles. Remember, all computers are broken.)
Lucky @ UniXpress.com wrote, “When I tried your Java Script which
tells me my browser version (Netscape 4.08 on SCO Unix), I found I could
not use the “Back” button to return to your column. I had to go to the
WorldNetDaily bookmark and then back to your column from there.”
(Actually, Lucky that’s not Java that opens that second window. It’s old
HTML code that targets and creates a new window to open. You can reduce
that new window size and see the original window under it.)