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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
"William Hudson (ACM)" <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 8 Jun 2006 00:27:49 -0400
"Jared M. Spool" <[log in to unmask]>
"Jared M. Spool" <[log in to unmask]>
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At 05:28 AM 6/7/2006, William Hudson (ACM) wrote:
>It's not that they have applied for a trademark that upsets or confuses
>me. It is that O'Reilly promoted the term "Web 2.0" as a general
>description of the next generation of web behaviour and then they (or
>their partner, CMP to be exact) applied to trademark it for conference
>use. I can understand the ruckus that followed.
>Having to come up with different terms for the same thing just to
>circumnavigate the trademarking of a generic term does no one any
>favours (IMHO).

In the US, if you walk into a restaurant and order a "Coke", there's a good 
chance the waitress or waiter will respond, "We have Pepsi, is that ok?" 
Many people find the question somewhat annoying, since the two products are 
basically identical. It is *because* they are basically identical that the 
question needs asking.

It turns out Pepsi (and Coca Cola too) hires college students by the 
droves, sends them to restuarants that serve Pepsi, and pays them to order 
a "coke." If the staff doesn't ask the question, they report it to Pepsi's 
legal team who sends out a stern letter warning the restaurant to defend 
the trademark.

If you were to publish a story or produce a movie where a character, in a 
time of need, "fedexed a package" to save the day, you'd probably get a 
similar stern letter from the lawyers at FedEx, explaining that "FedEx is a 
trademark and must always be used as an adjective" and not a verb.

In order to prevent losing a trademark, you have to diligently protect it. 
That means sending out stern letters. Aspirin was once a trademark of 
Bayer. Tissues were once a trademark of Kleenex Corporation. Floppy Disk 
was once a trademark of IBM. All were lost because the trademark owners 
weren't diligent.

O'Reilly has not trademarked "Web 2.0." They've only trademarked "The Web 
2.0 Conference." As I mentioned before, you or anyone else can hold a 
conference about web 2.0 concepts. You just can't call it what O'Reilly 
calls it. (Being that I run a conference called the "User Interface 
Conference," this notion of trademark falls very near and dear to my heart.)

If you were to hold a very successful Syntagym Conference, discussing the 
best practices for designing systems and Syntagym became a general 
description of best practices (because the conference was just *that* 
good!), would you be happy with the idea of anyone holding their own 
Syntagym conference (and people, thinking it was as good as yours, would 
pay them big bucks just to be disappointed)? What if, instead of Syntagym, 
you named it "the Best Web Design Conference" instead? Should it become 
successful, would it be ok for others to name their conferences the exact 
same thing?

It seems you have the chronology wrong: O'Reilly created the Web 2.0 
Conference before the term was a "general description." One could argue 
that it became general because the conference series was such a success. 
Should O'Reilly be punished and lose the ability to control its own 
properties just because they had a successful idea?

Do you feel O'Reilly also shouldn't own trademarks on their "Where 2.0 
Conference" or their "Telephony 2.0 Conference"? At what point does 
something go from obviously being a trademark to when it is "a general 

As Corey Doctorow pointed out, part of being a Web 2.0 company is you have 
a business model that works. And part of having a business model that works 
is you protect and leverage your intellectual property. O'Reilly is doing 
just that. By enforcing their trademark, they are being an ideal Web 2.0 
organization. :)


Jared M. Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike Street, Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
978 327-5561   [log in to unmask]

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