Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Internet companies try to stretch the concept of trademark ("Cloud Computing"; "Live Mesh")

Recently (Aug. 31, 2008) Steve Lohr of The New York Times ran a thoughtful discussion and recapitulation of new issues regarding “branding” on the World Wide Web. The story is called “A New Battle is Brewing for Branding on the Web,” link here.

One issue is that companies want to trademark computing service concepts that go beyond the idea of what usually is expressed in a domain name. Dell wanted to wordmark “Cloud Computing” and was turned down by the USPTO. Microsoft wants to trademark a concept that it calls “Live Mesh” regarding coordinating the activities of people in a cohort. (It sounds more like something a social networking site would try to trademark.) The jury is out on that one.

The article notes that ICANN has been active in managing domain name v. trademark disputes since 1999, and that a recent area of controversy is domain names set up to criticize or parody a commercial product or service already established as a brand. Does such activity cause dilution in the meaning of trademark law? Another controversy is the practice of buying “keywords” of business competitors from search engines in order to display “your” ads from a search on that keyword. This seems to be more acceptable in trademark law in the United States than in Britain or Europe.

USPTO official Lynne G. Beresford is mentioned in the story, and she indicates that some attempts to establish trademarks in cyberspace seem to stretch the intention of the legal concept.

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