Overzealous Trademark Holder Tries To Stop Blogger From Using The Phrase 'Branded Community'
from the this-again? dept
In a culture that has everyone thinking that you can “own” ideas, it’s no surprise that we see such regular misuses of things like trademark law to pretend it conveys traditional property rights on the holder of the mark. As we’ve explained all too often, the purpose of a trademark is consumer protection — to keep someone from being tricked into buying Bob’s Cola, thinking that it’s Coca Cola. However, with so many stories promoting “intellectual property” in the news these days, it’s no surprise that some trademark holders think it gives them near total control over the mark.
Take this bizarre case as an example. A blogger on ZDNet had a post about “enterprise communities” where the phrase “branded community” was used. That’s a descriptive use and a perfectly reasonable one. Yet, the owner of some marketing firm wrote a semi-threatening letter claiming to hold the trademark on “branded community” and demanding that the blogger “refrain from using the phrase in any other current or future materials.”
Of course, that’s a complete abuse of trademark law, which does not grant the holder the ability to prevent all usage of the phrase, only usage that might cause confusion with the goods or services related to the mark. Using it as a passing phrase in a blog post does no such thing — but it already scared off the blogger, who changed the phrase in the original (though, thankfully, posted the threat letter with a detailed response). Either way, it’s yet another sign of the times, when people start thinking that a trademark allows them to prevent people from using a perfectly normal descriptive phrase like “branded community.”