from the answer:-none dept
The latest in a long series of stupid trademark bullying lawsuits comes to us courtesy of The Village Voice (who should know better than to file bogus lawsuits). The Voice is suing Yelp for trademark infringement. The Village Voice somehow convinced the USPTO that it deserved a trademark on the phrase “best of [place name]” for certain locations — such as “Best of Seattle” or “Best of San Francisco.” Yelp, quite reasonably, also uses the term of “best of” to describe certain places:
Village Voice is claiming that Yelp’s infringement is “willful” because it notified the company, and Yelp apparently told them to go away. It’s also ridiculously claiming that Yelp’s usage has “irreparably harmed” the company. I realize that’s standard language used in such lawsuits, but seriously?
The EFF points out that the US Patent and Trademark Office is partly to blame for allowing registrations on such trademarks:
What is going on at the Patent and Trademark Office? For decades, folks have been complaining (with good reason) that the patent examiners need to do a better job of screening out bogus patent applications. It’s clear that the problem extends to the trademark side as well. The PTO has allowed companies and individuals to register marks in any number of obviously generic and/or descriptive terms, such as “urban homestead” (to refer to urban farms), “gaymer” (to refer to gay gamers), and “B-24” (to refer to model B-24 bombers).
Once a mark is registered, it is all too easy for the owner to become a trademark bully. And while companies like Yelp have the resources to fight back (as we expect it will), small companies and individuals may not. Just as dangerous, the trademark owner may go upstream, to intermediaries like Facebook who have little incentive to do anything other than take down an account or site that’s accused of infringement.
Separately, the EFF asks the most important question: who is actually being deceived here? There is no confusion. No one associates “best of” with the Village Voice. Everyone reads it as a perfectly normal descriptive term, rather than a trademark belonging to any single party.
Filed Under: best of, bullies, trademark, trademark bullies
Companies: village voice, yelp