SXSW Threatens YXYY With Trademark Infringement
from the can't-we-all-get-along? dept
I know that in certain circles it’s become fashionable to bash SXSW as the conference has gotten bigger and bigger, and in typical “hipster” fashion, people will complain how it was “better back before everyone knew about it.” Personally, my experience with the event has been quite positive. Other commitments have kept me from going the past few years, but when I’ve gone, I’ve always been impressed by how many interesting people were there, and how many valuable and useful connections I was able to make. Still, I understand the desire of some folks to try to come up with alternatives that have more a feel of “the early years” of SXSW, which is great, because competition is a good thing and gives people more opportunities and choices. I’ve heard people compare newer events like XOXO to SXSW, and last year another new event popped up, called YxYY, which explicitly noted that it was trying to recreate the feel of “early” SXSW. The YxYY stood for “Yes By Yes Yes.” I had a few friends who attended YxYY and seemed to enjoy it.
So, it’s a bit distressing to find out that SXSW decided to get trademark bullyish and send YXYY a cease and desist. While it was a somewhat more friendly cease and desist (not sent by a lawyer, but still implying legal action) claiming that the name violates SXSW’s trademarks and could “cause confusion or dilution of the SXSW marks.” I don’t see how it would cause confusion, given that YXYY was always pretty clear that it was not associated with SXSW directly. And the “dilution” claim seems pretty weak as well (admittedly: I’ve long argued that dilution claims shouldn’t be included in trademark law, but they do exist).
Either way, the YxYY have agreed to modify their name slightly, keeping the YxYY, but now claiming that the “x” refers to “and” rather than “by.” So it’s now “Yes And Yes Yes.” As they point out, this is also a bit of a play on the standard improv rule of “yes and…” which fits with the more improvisational nature of the event. It’s unclear from the announcement if the SXSW folks find this an acceptable change, but I certainly hope they do. SXSW is a mammoth event and it’s kind of silly to think that its brand would be in any way harmed by another event — clearly inspired by SXSW — that happened to use YxYY to mark its own event.