Trademarking Something That's Not Yours At All

from the what-is-this-guy-thinking? dept

This story could definitely use a bit more details and confirmations, but Slashdot is claiming that the CEO of a multi-arcade kit is trying to trademark the name and logo of MAME, the popular open source multi-arcade emulator. The claim is that he’s then going to sue MAME’s authors. If true, this is stupid for any number of reasons. It’s important to recognize the differences between patent, copyright and trademark law in understanding this one. The guy is apparently claiming a registered trademark (you can get a trademark without registering it, but it limits your ability to go after others), which he shouldn’t get and should be thrown out quickly once anyone recognizes that he’s not using the name or logo as a trademark and that it belongs to someone else. Even if for some bizarre and totally incorrect reason he did get the trademark, it’s unlikely he’d be able to do very much about it. He could sue the MAME creators, but they’d have a pretty strong defense (it was their name and logo first…). In the absolutely worst case, they could just change their name and keep going. No matter what, it seems absolutely ridiculous that anyone would try to pull a stunt like this. My only guess is that it’s a very bad attempt at publicity for the registering company which is likely to backfire, badly. Update: Slashdot has posted a long rambling letter from the guy applying for the trademark, and the situation is even less clear. Basically, the guy is claiming that people selling MAME-based arcades are breaking the law (only true if they’re really selling it with unauthorized games). Those sellers, though, can sell for much less than he can — and that means he’s losing business. Thus, he’s trying to trademark MAME to stop commercial use. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s still not going to go very far. He simply has no legal rights to the MAME name or logo, so filing for a trademark is a bizarre plan. If he’s really upset about unauthorized sellers, he should have the legitimate copyright owners of various games go after the distributors of unauthorized content.

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Comments on “Trademarking Something That's Not Yours At All”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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Actally, he’s right that it is illegal to sell Mame, even if ROMs are not included. The license for Mame prohibits selling either the source or the binary so anyone who does is violating copyright law. What he should of done, however, is have writen the Mame devs and offered to pay to register the trademark for them in exchange for the right to legally go after those that unlawfully sell Mame. Both sides would benefit from that.

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