Starcups, Starbucks & Trademarks

While on a short coffee break from the exciting world of thesis writing I saw this sign on the coffee place next to the place where I was having coffee.

Starcups Coffee? Its amazing that Starbucks would let such a thing survive… There seems to be a site registered online but it keeps timing out. Thanks to google image search here is a better image of the Starcups logo and next to it the Starbucks logo.

So what do you think? Trademark infringement? Which is the copy and which is the original? If you know anything about this please comment. And if you happen to be in Göteborg on Plantagegatan then I can recommend Cafe con Leche next door to Starcups…

Web 2.0

Apparently O’Reilly claims that they own the term Web 2.0 so without their permission academic conferences cannot use this term. Cory Doctorow writes:

O’Reilly Media have taken a ton of criticism for attempting to enforce a service mark against a nonprofit group in Ireland that wanted to have “Web 2.0” conference. O’Reilly exec Dale Dougherty coined the term Web 2.0, and O’Reilly used it for a line of very successful conferences chaired by Boing Boing’s business manager, John Battelle (I’ve been a speaker at Web 2.0 as well, and found the con to be an amazing, eye-opening experience).

The dispute seems to have been resolved amicably. O’Reilly has apologized for sending in lawyers against the con before speaking to them, and has granted the con permission to use “Web 2.0” in its name.

I am probably not alone when I say that I like much of the stuff which comes from O’Reilly but attempts to create value in this way show that even organisations which on the surface “get” the effects of the web and have been involved in defining (Not owning or creating) web 2.0 still do some amazingly stupid things…

O’Reilly writes about this story here and includes the following from their VP of communications:

Donagh Kiernan of IT@Cork (to whom the letter was addressed) graciously talked with me late in the work day on a Friday (Irish time), and we’ve resolved the service mark issue. O’Reilly and CMP are fine with IT@Cork using “Web 2.0” in the name of their June 8 conference. And I apologized again to Donagh for the tone of our letter, and for that fact that we didn’t contact IT@Cork before sending it. That’s not the way we want to do business, and as a few of you (OK, more than a few) have noted, it was a mistake.

I’d also like to reiterate that, as Web 2.0 Conference co-chair John Battelle noted, “Remember, Web 2.0 is also about having a business that works. And not protecting your trademarks is simply bad business practice.” We’re not claiming exclusive use of “Web 2.0” in all contexts. Our service mark applies only to “Web 2.0” when used in the *title* of “live events” such as conferences and tradeshows.

Censorship of Underground Maps

I wrote about a website that has a collection of adapted maps from the London Underground. These maps include anagrams of the stations, rude versions of the stations, the availabiliyt of toilets, geographically realistic underground maps and more.

Sites such as these are important since they are excellent examples of the will and ability of individuals and groups to comment their own surroundings. This is naturally not always appreciated. Geofftech (the mapsite) has now recieved a legal letter demanding that he remove the maps or be taken to court.

Whether or not Geofftech is right or wrong is unimportant since he cannot afford legal representation. He has to remove the maps. Another victory for corporate censorship of free speech and the chilling effects of trademark law. Read about the legal threat here.

If you want to look at, and download, the maps then be quick – they have to be gone by Monday.

Underground maps

Maps of the London underground are cultural artefacts. We rely on them for information and we stare at them in boredom while travelling. The term “mind the gap” has become synonymous with the London Underground. So I guess it wasnt a big leap of imagination to thinkt that someone would create anagrams of all the stations.

With the help of a computer and web-space the new anagram map of the London underground goes online. A perfect comment on our lives. Nothing terribly exciting just a nice idea.

From silly maps at

Then all of a sudden the trademark lawyers leap into action. Boing Boing reports that lawyers for London Transport using trademark law are attempting to take down the map.

It is really annoying when the law is used to attempt to limit the individuals (or groups) ability to comment on their surroundings. I realise that trademark law is there for a purpose but like so much other legislation it is often used for the wrong reasons and gains more strength than it was ever intended to have.

Geofftech has collected a whole list of social commentary on London Tube Maps. His collection includes: The realistic map showing the way the tubes really travel, maps where there is no mobile coverage, the useful map showing when it is quicker to walk between stations, maps with travel times and distance and so much more…

Canadian Lego & Lacie Hardisks

In the case of Kirkbi AG v. Ritvik Holdings Inc. (aka Lego v Mega Blocks) focus was on Lego bricks. The Lego patent has expired and the bricks are in the public domain. The company however is attempting to stop others from manufacturing similar bricks by claiming trademark infringement.

lacie lego

The Canadian Supreme Court, titled “the court that gets it” by Micheal Geist found the right balance in the case and wrote in its decision:

“In the end, the appellant seems to complain about the existence of competition based on a product, which is now in the public domain. As â??LEGOâ?? and LEGO-style building blocks have come close to merging in the eyes of the public, it is not satisfied with distinctive packaging or names in the marketing operations of Ritvik. It seems that, in order to satisfy the appellant, the respondent would have to actively disclaim that it manufactures and sells LEGO bricks and that its wares are LEGO toys. The fact is, though, that the monopoly on the bricks is over, and MEGA BLOKS and LEGO bricks may be interchangeable in the bins of the playrooms of the nation â?? dragons, castles and knights may be designed with them, without any distinction. “

Ouch! Excellent reasoning. I agree with Micheal any court that spells it out in this way is definately a court that gets it! While I sympathise with Lego for nostaligic reasons it is not enough to give them trademark rights over the shape of every little brick.

While on the topic of bricks take a look at the new stackable Lacie hard drives. In their own words “Professional storage is now easy and fun”. The image above shows the Lacie harddrives. Something about toys for boys springs to mind.

Trademarks & fish

Apparently someone thought it was a good idea to modify a fish so that it glows in the dark…

Naturally the fish is trademarked…

“Bring a miracle of science to your aquarium, and own the hottest, most talked about, most beautiful new fish to come to North America in our lifetime! GloFish� fluorescent fish bring color and excitement to any aquarium� in your home, office, or classroom.”

GloFish ™ – Welcome