NYTimes Threatens NYTClean Bookmarklet Maker With Bogus Trademark Claim

from the uh,-that's-not-how-trademark-works dept

We’ve already mentioned NYTClean, the four-line javascript bookmarklet that lets you remove the NY Times’ paywall with a single click. Apparently, the NYTimes’ lawyers, with their interesting interpretation of trademark law, have threatened the creator of those four lines of code, and bullied him into changing the name to NYNewspaperClean. The NYT claims that it’s not complaining about the functionality, but just the name:

I am writing concerning your ?NYTClean? bookmarklet, posted at http://euri.ca/2011/03/21/get-around-new-york-times-20-article-limit/.

As you obviously know, The New York Times Company has used its ?The New York Times? trademark since at least as early as 1851 and today offers numerous products and services under its famous ?The New York Times? trademark, including its online version of The New York Times at the URL NYTimes.com, and various blogs and electronic media products. NYTCo?s NYTimes.com website receives over 15,000,000 unique visitors each month. NYTCo owns numerous registrations for its ?The New York Times? trademark in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Canadian Trade-Marks Office and these trademarks are among the company?s most valuable assets.

We object to your use of our famous “NYT” trademark in connection with your application and your promotion thereof, which constitutes trademark dilution and trademark infringement under U.S. and Canadian trademark law.

Accordingly, we ask that you immediately cease use of the “NYT” trademark in connection with this application. This email is without prejudice to any action that may be necessary to protect the valuable rights of NYTCo in its intellectual property.

This is trademark abuse. There is no confusion here. No one using the NYTClean bookmarklet thinks that it’s endorsed by the NY Times. No moron in a hurry is going to be confused into believing it’s a product of the NY Times. The trademark that the company has on the NY Times does not give the company total control over NYT. It only allows them to stop situations where there is clear confusion or dilution, neither of which are likely here. This is just a form of trademark bullying.

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Companies: ny times

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Comments on “NYTimes Threatens NYTClean Bookmarklet Maker With Bogus Trademark Claim”

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Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

I'm not totally sure it's clear cut.

I think the action was unwarranted, but let’s say I’m a moron. Let’s say I’m in a hurry. Let’s say I see an article title about “New York Times Clean.” I can see myself thinking, oh, they’re putting out a “clean” version now? If I’m a na?ve moron in a hurry, I might just want that. Oh! Maybe that’s what they could have done with the 40 mil! A bookmarklet that edits out all of the unhappy news from every story! See, that’s a potential product, so they clearly needed to defend their mark.

Anonymous Coward says:

NYTCo is just the company name. It had nothing to do with the Trademark ‘The New York Times’ NYT is not the trademark and I would have let them know that. Bullies! They sound like bullies and besides they’re from New York and like who gives a damn about New York. The socialist state. Right next to Washington DC and the other socialist Wazoos. I won’t even go to New York! What a nightmare place.

Karl (profile) says:

Slightly inaccurate

The “four lines of JavaScript” part – though widely quoted in the media – is slightly inaccurate.

The bookmarklet is just four lines of JavaScript. However, all it does is create a link to a script called “nyt.js” on euri.ca. That script is actually about 30 lines long.

But there’s no question he wrote it on his lunch break. I took a look at the code, and it’s really basic, script-kiddie stuff. There must be dozens of ways to get around the paywall.

By the way, you missed the best part of the article:

For his part, David Hayes says he plans to comply with the Times? request and rename the script to something like NYNewspaperClean. But he also says the Times missed an opportunity:

“I?m a big fan of the newspaper in question; I would?ve taken the page down in exchange for a manila envelope with leftover detritus from Bill Safire?s old desk.”

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