Sunday, July 06, 2008

Company associated (at least tangentially) with founding of Facebook was in interesting trademark case

Having read Aaron Greenspan’s intriguing book on his place in the birth of Facebook (itself a matter of controversy) and read about his own trademark battle, I looked a little further.

I found a press release from June 2004 from its site “Think Declares Resounding Victory in Trademark Dispute”, link here. The other party was a company named H. Co. Computer Products and this time the dispute was settled by administrative law judges within the USPTO (in Alexandra VA.) From a reading of the press release, it would sound as if there was some thought about future confusion, a concept codified into law with the 2006 Trademark Dilution Revision Act (discussed in detail on this blog in June 2007).

Think Computer offers a sublink called "Common Room," which as of today is undergoing renovation, but is seems to offer a variety of innovative services including literary agent submission (I wonder if this includes movie screenplays!) and specialized "professional" social networking, which employers may want to see their associates engage in (as I noted in a July 7 entry on the IT Job Market blog -- see my Profile). Because of my own interests (including a future screenplay submission) I'll watch this link to see what the company does with it.

My book review is here.

I noted in the review that variations of the words “think computer” have occurred in the trade and domain names of several businesses or entities (links given in the review). Because the name comprises common English words, it is more likely that other entities will want to use them. They may sound less distinguishing than a trade name that includes someone’s name (like Greenspan). I was able to figure out which domain went with which business in a couple of minutes, but that presumes some computer and Internet domain knowledge. Has trademark law evolved to the point that it is willing to assume that most consumers are able to figure out which businesses do which? Maybe an administrative law judge would consider the nature of the product or service being branded: a prospective customer for any of these entities would probably be computer-literate enough not to be confused. A prospective buyer of home furniture would not necessary be as literate.

I easily found the USPTO registration with a TARR search at USPTO. The mailing address (Palo Alto CA) on serial 78100628 matches that on Think Computer’s website. The registration includes an interesting disclaimer to the effect that no claim is made for exclusive use of the word “computer” in a wordmark, but the combination of “think computer” is presumably exclusive. The visitor may want to try various wordmarks on the TESS database at (Free Form Search or Advanced Search) and see how the site behaves and how similar marks, often in unrelated businesses, may come up for a particular search string.

I don't think there is any connection between these computer companies and "ThinkFilm" which is a Canadian distributor for independent films.

But, let's say, the "kids" settle this "feud" amicably and make a movie about the formation of Facebook. Maybe they throw in some material about "reputation defender." I'll help them write the screenplay. And guess who should distribute the (still hypothetical) movie in places like Landmark Theaters: "ThinkFilm."

A link to my Wordpress overview of trademark law bills and opinions is here.

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