Be Careful Challenging Others To Read 100 Books, As You Might Infringe On Someone's Trademark

from the do-morons-in-a-hurry-read-books? dept

Jacob writes “It appears that American Reading has several trademarks on the term “100 Book Challenge,” and as such, has sent a cease & desist letter to the owner of the website (a social cataloguing site that also provides content and services to libraries) for having a user-created discussion group called “100 Books Challenge 2010” (and also for previous years).

I looked up the trademarks they listed in their C&D letter and they all seem to apply to educational programs designed to promote children (pre-k to 12th grade) to read through incentives and stuff. Members of the 100 Books Challenge groups on LibraryThing, however, only commit to reading at least 100 books in one year, with no set curriculum, reading levels, or prizes, and all members of LibraryThing are, by law, over the age of 13, due to the COPA, and as such, are not “children.”

I do not know if they’ve sent a similar letter to other sites that have a “100 Book(s) Challenge,” such as another social cataloguing website called GoodReads..”

There are certainly questions about whether or not there’s any likelihood of confusion here. I have a lot of trouble seeing how any such confusion would result. It also seems like the term is being used in a descriptive way (it is in fact, a 100 books challenge), which you would think would help qualify as fair use. But, of course, just going through the process of fighting such a claim is expensive and probably not worth it for a site like LibraryThing.

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Comments on “Be Careful Challenging Others To Read 100 Books, As You Might Infringe On Someone's Trademark”

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Matt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is descriptive, but it may have acquired secondary meaning. All it takes to do so is prolonged use, even if no one is aware of that use.

Unfortunately, there is no empirical standard for the acquisition of secondary meaning. I’ll bet if you went to 10 reading teachers and said, “I’d like to sell you a 100 Books Challenge,” none of them would say “Oh, you’re from American Reading?” So, as a matter of empirical fact, the mark has not acquired any secondary meaning. Nonetheless, if it has been in use for 5 years it will be treated as if the entire world relates the mark to its source or origin.

Trademark is broken, but so much less broken than patent and particularly copyright law that it seems acceptable.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Education as Control and Profit

The copyright infringement might be valid but after examining the offering of American Reading Company the A.R.C. 100 Book Challenge is an ‘education’ package for schools including workbooks, incentive prizes, and the reading materials. LibraryThing’s 100 Book Challenge is a club and not selling anything except membership to individuals. This looks like apples and oranges, however, I have heard that a copyright undefended is a copyright lost and A.R.C. has an apparently huge financial reason to defend its turf. In one case an American Reading Company education package was listed at $3500 for 30 students. $117 a child can buy an entire school year in most countries.

The underlying problem I observe is more serious. Prepackaged corporate built education, spoon fed to teachers that can not or will not design courses is a little too Big Brother for my tastes. I remember the endless flows of crap and factoids (a ‘Factoid’ means something presented as fact that is erroneous, not a little fact – there’s no such thing) presented to me in grade, middle, and high school that were substituted for information, free thought, discipline, critical thinking, and logic.

The reference material supplied by text book companies like American Reading Company were just as bad: Biology Books that called the American bison a buffalo, music books containing nothing that was not copyrighted by Disney – Disney subsidized the cost of the materials. It seems that educational supply corporations try to make money by saving on the research and fact checking or make you learn to be good consumers of their products in the future. Perhaps what American Reading Company is offering is a good product, but I can not understand why it is needed. I simply went to the library and read and, hopefully, questioned, everything could.

There sure wasn’t much thinking being taught then and there does not seem to be a great deal of improvement today. The system still seems to be designed to produce thoughtless consumers of beer, cars, media, fast food, God, and nationalism instead of thinking individuals.

Sorry for the off topic rant.

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