Spin Magazine Sends Cease & Desist To Twitter User @Spin

from the how-not-to-win-friends dept

Two and a half years ago, we wrote about the question of Twitter squatters and other likely fights about who gets to own what Twitter names, and pointed to a suggestion from lawyer Erik Heels that there needed to be a clear Twitter user name dispute resolution policy, similar to UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy) for domain names. To date, there still isn’t anything quite like that, though Twitter often seems to take matters into its own hands if someone complains. However, apparently, Spin Magazine decided to bypass contacting Twitter directly and instead sent a cease & desist letter to the guy who had the @spin user name on Twitter, relegating Spin Magazine to using the dreaded @SpinMagazine (you can see the full cease & desist letter at ChillingEffects).


Spin Magazine tried to claim that there was “confusion” with Eric Rice’s @spin account by pointing to tweets that were meant for the magazine, but were directed to Rice instead. Of course, I don’t see how Spin Magazine would have any legal claim here, since Eric Rice is an individual and is unlikely to be using the Twitter account for commercial purposes. Honestly, Spin Magazine comes off looking pretty silly here, and could have just tried a friendly approach, rather than running to the lawyers. However, Rice claims that until the C&D showed up, he’d never heard from Spin Magazine, despite his using Twitter for years with the name. We see this kind of thing all the time with lawyers and clients who think breaking out the legal nastygrams is a good way to get people to cooperate. Perhaps the scare tactics work some of the time, but they have a high likelihood of backfiring badly, as well.

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Comments on “Spin Magazine Sends Cease & Desist To Twitter User @Spin”

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32 Comments
Ken says:

Spin Magazine does not own the term 'Spin'.

Oh yeah when I hear the word spin I automatically think of Spin Magazine. That is the problem with companies that decide to use common names as their trademark.

It reminds me when Joe Montana starting suing businesses in Montana for having the name of their State in their name.

Subway started sending cease and desist letters to restaurants who have been using the name “footlong” for decades claiming they own the term.

Spin Magazine, you don’t own the term ‘spin’. What next are you going to sue the makers of Sit and Spin, or sue someone who uses the term spin-doctor, or people who play Spin-the-bottle, or sue the makers of washing machines who have a spin cycle?

Mike42 (profile) says:

I feel ignorant

Sorry, I seem to be missing something here. Twitter is a company, not a public institution, right? They can use any name for anyone on their service. It’s Twitter’s call. If I was Twitter, I’d add a no-litigation clause to the terms of use, and ban anyone who broke the clause. Using the legal system to strong-arm one of my users would certainly not make me happy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I feel ignorant

It is twitters call, but twitter wants to be a valuable and desirable service for big companies as well as single users. If too many companies find themselves getting shut out of the process, it creates a hole in the market place that spawns competition. Just ask My [Blank] about that.

michael berkens (user link) says:

UDRP For Twitter Probably would have resulted in Loss Of Handle

If a UDRP that applies to domain names was applied by the same panelists that hands down UDRP decisions there is a good likelihood that the Twitter user would have lost.

Domain name UDRP decisions turn (or at least are suppose to) based off of use of the domain not just the domain itself (unless its a clear typo like wallmart.com)

Not sure how you can apply a use test to Twitter accounts but if you could and the account holder ever tweeted about the magazine, a competitive magazine or music in general they may have lost the handle by UDRP measures

wvhillbilly (profile) says:

Trademark protection

I remember several years ago a US shoemaker (Deckers?) trademarked “Ugg Boots,” then proceeded to sue the pants off of Australian shoe makers who had been making that style of boot and calling them “ugg boots” as a generic term for the style for 30 years or more, for infringing their newly minted “trademark”.

Is that legal? Seems like extremely dirty pool to me.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Trademark protection

The term “Ugg” was declared generic and struck off the list of registered trademarks in Australia and New Zealand approx 2006 if I recall correctly. Its a classic David v Goliath Story .. or Why huge American corporations should not f*ck around with good old Aussie products!

ie: Leave stuff like Golden Circle, Tim Tams, Vegemite, UGG’s etc.. ALONE!

An interesting point about UGG is that IP Australia (Our Trademark Arbitrator/Tribunal) recently ruled last year that both UGG AUSTRALIA and MADE BY UGG AUSTRALIA were fine as Trademarks by another company (Luga Productiosn Pty Ltd) and that Deckers COULD NOT claim anything since Luga’s usage predated Decker’s International Tradmark by 22yrs! HA!

Currently EMU Australia is currently counter suing Decker in California alleging that the trademark was granted by the USTO to Decker based on false and misleading statements and is therefore invalidated.

Ken says:

Re: genericized trademark

Companies that take generic terms are risking them becoming a genericized trademark. What is ironic is most companies do not want their trademarks used as verbs like Photoshopping etc because it risks the trademark from becoming genericized. The word spin is already a verb so Spin Magazine is already in jeopardy.

Ugg Boots have been made in Australia for decades and is a style of boots. It would be like someone trademarking the term loafer. high-heals, or cowboy boots.

What this is all about is arrogance on the part of these companies that take common words as their trademark and then think they now own the term. Its like calling your product “And” then proceeding to sue anyone who uses that word. I for one will think twice about ever frequenting a company that displays such crass arrogance.

Anonymous Coward says:

The very first search result on Google for spin is Spin Magazine. It is almost incomprehensible that this guy didn’t at some point search for his own posts or references on Google at some point in that time.

Spin is a generic term in some ways, but denying knowledge of a well known common commercial user makes him look less than honest.

Ken says:

Re: Re:

If someone had taken the Twitter name @spinmagazine they would have a legitimate gripe. However, to claim you own a common term just because you chose that as your trademark does not make you own that term. Infact any company can trademark the word spin as long as they are not in the same industry and as long as the name will not confuse consumers. ie Delta Airlines, Delta Faucets. Some companies will send cease and desist letters to unrelated companies trying to strong arm them away from using the term but legally they are on thin ice.

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