Taser Sues Second Life For Having Virtual Tasers

from the no,-seriously dept

Stun gun maker Taser is notoriously overprotective of its brand, even pushing judges and medical examiners never to list a Taser as a cause of death. However, this latest, as pointed out by Dave Title has the company going "virtual." Taser is suing Second Life because of virtual Tasers found in the game. Specifically, Taser seems upset that these virtual stun guns are being sold next to pornographic material, which (the company claims) will harm its brand. I'd argue that going around suing everyone probably does a lot more harm.

Of course, Second Life parent corp. Linden Lab doesn't actually make or sell these things, but just provides the platform -- so you might think that the company is protected by safe harbors. Except... one of the little loopholes in safe harbor rules is on trademark claims, which mostly aren't covered by either the DMCA's safe harbors or the CDA's. However, it should be covered by common sense (which is not so common, unfortunately).

If the virtual Tasers actually do infringe on Taser's trademark, then it seems that the liable party should be the user who made/sold them in the first place -- not Linden Lab, the platform creator. On top of that, there's the big question of whether or not this is actually trademark infringement at all. You could make an argument that users might believe that virtual Tasers were somehow endorsed by the company itself, but do such products really "harm" the Taser brand? Again, it seems a lot more harm is being done to the brand by silly lawsuits. And, yes, people will point out (they always do!), that the company has an obligation to protect its marks, but there are better ways to do so than suing.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    another mike, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 3:41pm

    don't sue me, bro!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    GregSJ (profile), Apr 21st, 2009 @ 3:46pm

    Likelihood of Confusion

    Likelihood of confusion = 0.
    Cost of filing the suit = high.
    Cost of rewriting trademark law = higher (would be cheaper if everybody pooled resources but have a public good problem.)

    Thus:
    trademark law's obligation to protect = happy attorneys ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Cecil Green, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 3:50pm

    I thought...

    I thought Second Life died as a result of "excited delirium". Oh, wait, that was the teenager who was tased 19 times.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 3:59pm

    hm

    I wonder if anyone could mistake the virtual Taser for the real thing ...
    /loads up second life on cell phone before going down a darkened alley.
    Isn't it more about consumer confusion than it is about endorsement?

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    ScytheNoire, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 4:08pm

    Taser should be sued

    Taser should be sued for stealing the name from someone else, Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Swift_and_His_Electric_Rifle

    Love how one thief sues another.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 4:15pm

    Easy name change

    I saw call them "Monster Tasers" and bring more people to the party!

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    rhan, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 4:15pm

    Re: hm

    AFAIK, there hasn't been a Second Life client yet to run on a cell-phone based platform.... Unless you want to talk text-only solutions but you cannot use inventory items in clients like SLiM, which are focused on communication only.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Matt T., Apr 21st, 2009 @ 4:46pm

    Isn't it Generic?

    I literally just found out that Taser was only a brand of stun guns. I thought they were a generic name for them, like Kleenex or Xerox.

     

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  9.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 21st, 2009 @ 5:24pm

    Porn will harm Taser's reputation?

    Seems to me that porn is the only thing that might help Taser's image.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    inc, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Isn't it Generic?

    ...but Xerox and Kleenex are not generic terms but brands as well. This is why Taser, just as Xerox, Kleenex and band-aid, protect their trademark. You can't let the brand become a generic term and risk losing the trademark. Now they would have been better off trying to leverage the online version for real world advertising or just ask politely to not use the brand name and just use a generic term rather then being a douche bag about it.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    duaneinva, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 5:55pm

    Streisand effect at work again...

    Logging into SL so I can get one, just to spite the Taser company...

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Sos, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re: Isn't it Generic?

    You missed the sarcasm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Divorce Attorney ESQ, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 6:42pm

    Re: Isn't it Generic?

    Witty. Caught it right away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    LOL, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 7:05pm

    Linden Lab actually is earing ALOT of $ from the "TASER" brand and trademark, what this article does nto mention is that Linden Lab, earns a % of every US$ (US DOLLAR) converted into $L (Linden Dollars) and Vise Versa. As well thier E-commerce website also named in the suit www.xstreetsl.com earns a % of every virtual "TASER" sold.

    Unlike the recent case against the pirate bay, Linden Lab not only provides the means to sell stolen and copywritten items on thier servers, Linden Lab Directly profits from the sales.

     

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  15.  
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    Cameljockey, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    no,-seriousy

    i think you meant "seriously"

    That is all, carry on.

     

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  16.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 21st, 2009 @ 7:24pm

    Re:

    Unlike the recent case against the pirate bay, Linden Lab not only provides the means to sell stolen and copywritten items on thier servers, Linden Lab Directly profits from the sales.

    Good. More power to them.

    What is your problem with that? Are you going to sell fewer portable-electrocution-machines because someone sells a virtual model of them in a virtual world? Seriously?

    I think you have bigger problems in First Life.

     

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  17.  
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    Cap'n Jack (profile), Apr 21st, 2009 @ 7:25pm

    What the...

    How is this even a problem? I didn't even know there was a company called Taser! I thought all taser-like products were tasers - I thought that was just the name for any device of that kind, like a gun is a handheld rifle that shoots pieces of metal at high speeds. I didn't know taser is to handheld shock devices as Kleenex is to tissues.

    This could never cause confusion to anyone. This definitely wouldn't hurt brand in any way. How utterly silly.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Trollificus, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 8:38pm

    uh oh.

    Internet Rule Number 3: Anything you say 3 times will be found to exist on the internet.

    Here goes...taser porn, taser porn...

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 9:45pm

    Re: uh oh.

    Oh, you didn't actually type http://www.taserporn.com ? Because, y'know.. that's a real site...

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Sigmund Leominster, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 9:56pm

    Why not sue the right person?

    Taser International have every right to protect the trade name of "Taser(TM)" just as Linden Lab have every right to protect the brand name "Second Life(R)." But why sue Linden Lab? If the alleged "taser" is called a "Taser," then TI should be sending a "cease and desist" to the creator of the infringing product, not LL. But if the alleged "taser" is called something along the lines of "an electronic stun gun," then that's pretty generic! In fact, TI took the name "taser" from a novel written in 1911 ("Tom Swift and his Electronic Rifle") where the notion of the electronic stun gun was outlines.

    The extent to which a provider can use the DCMA Safe Haven may be open to discussion (most commentators call it "a mess") but if TI is serious, it should first file a DCMA complaint to Linden Lab to allow them to act by trying to removing the infringing content. Suing should happen if this doesn't happen, not as a "first step."

    What this really sounds like is a crude attempt at making a quick buck. TI sue LL because (a) they can't be bothered to find the actual infringer and (b) LL have more money - unless the infringer is making a fortune selling "electronic stun guns"!

    Until we get a look at the actual claims, it's hard to guess where this may go.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 11:54pm

    generic

    taser is so synonymous with hand held stun guns that i can't imagine the company actually winning. show a thousand people the handheld thing with a spark erupting between the 2 prods, and 99% of them will say it's a taser, regardless of the brand.

    all i have to say is "don't tase me bro"

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Apr 22nd, 2009 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re: Isn't it Generic?

    Yes, and having everyone going around using YOUR product's name when discussing an entire class of product would be so bad.....uh...how?

    If you simply made the better product, and that product name is what everyone knows, you'll do just fine. Yes, there might be the odd rip-off artist, but they become out'ed for what they are soon enough.

    Keep your product good, your value high, and having everyone walking around using your product name even when buying cheapo generic brands, won't hurt you in the long run.

    Do you know how much effort all the other companies had to spend trying to get people to say "photocopy" instead of "xerox". How much fun do you think the sales folks at Cannon, Sharpe, etc. had going into a sales call only to be announced as "the guys are here to talk about xerox machines".

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Tgeigs, Apr 22nd, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Dumb dumb dumb

    Arguing that a corporation has to act to PROTECT against their trademarked name becoming a generic term makes no sense whatsoever. If everyone thought all stun guns were called tasers, instead of Taser, what do you think they are going to type into google? "Taser" maybe? And whose website do you think is going to pop up first?

    For that matter, how absolutely THRILLED do you think Google is that everytime a lay person says he's going to do an internet search, they say "I'm going to google it"? They're THRILLED (I used to work in an advertising capacity and saw a presentation by a Google rep outlining this fact).

    Or how EVERYONE calls soda "coke". Is it any wonder that these same companies seem to often be the leaders in their market? Some of them need to talk to their branding people, shut the fuck up, and enjoy the free name recognition help.

     

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  24.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 22nd, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Re: Dumb dumb dumb

    Or how EVERYONE calls soda "coke".

    You must be in the south. Everyone here calls it "soda," while the folks over there call it "pop."

    Your larger point stands, though. Carry on.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Tgeigs, Apr 22nd, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Dumb dumb dumb

    Thanks for the general agreement. And yes, I am from the south. South-Side of Chicago....

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 22nd, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    That is shocking.

    I once attended a conference where Taser was exhibiting. They had a mat on the floor and attendees actually lined up to get shocked. Really.

    I didn't think the conference was that bad. I have attended a few meetings that would warrant choosing to be tasered, but never a conference.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    SL user, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    LL is not just a platform, they did profit from the sale of these items. LL bought XSTREETSL a website for creators to sale their goods, which LL collects a % of the sale.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Betsy Sue, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 10:31pm

    TASER sues Linden Lab

    I believe TASER International,Inc. has every right to sue whoever is misuing their registered trademarked name. Have you ever heard of consumer confusion? think about it.

    Besty Sue

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Betsy Sue, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 10:39pm

    TASER sues Linden Lab

    All you ignorant people out there who think TASER International, Inc. was wasting their time and money to sue Linden Lab need to EAT CROW. It is a known fact that when Linden Lab received the Complaint, that very day they surrendered and settled out of court with TASER International, Inc.! They knew they didn't have a leg to stand on.
    So There!!!!!!

    Stupid people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 10:45pm

    Exactly you idiot, that is why TASER needs to keep the fight ongoing to protect their name from become completely generic. what if every tom, dick and harry put the name TASER on their idiotic stun device.

    you shut the fuck up you ignorant ass, and need to go back to your job at Circle K.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Vera Tenue, Apr 25th, 2009 @ 2:04am

    Second Life

    After being in SL for over three years I welcome everything that makes Linden Lab nervous. This arrogant company has to leave this worlds. Let a new generation with more common sence take over Second Life. Long live OpenSim :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Emilly Orr, Apr 25th, 2009 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Isn't it Generic?

    Actually, Kleenex, Xerox, and my other personal favorite, Jell-O, are all trademarked brand names, not generic terms.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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