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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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    The name "100 books challenge" merely describes a challenge in which 100 books are read. I don't see how that could every have been trademarked. I don't see how it could ever withstand a court challenge. I hope they fight this BS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:07pm


    "I don't see how that could ever have been trademarked."

    Hey, someone allowed Tim Langdell to trademark the word "Edge" and use it to tear videogame companies a new hole...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Matt (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:07pm


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Jacob (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:24pm

    LibraryThing apparently decided that it wasn't worth it to fight it in court, and as such, changed the groups' names to "cute" alterations of 100 (e.g. "Ten Times Ten Books Challenge").

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:39pm


    I would've just changed it to the "101 Book Challenge."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    PopeHilarius (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:43pm

    If you want to tell American Reading's CEO Jane Hileman how you feel about a company whose goal is to encourage reading threatening a community group that encourages reading, you can share your thoughts with her here: jhileman (at)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Re:

    I was just about to say the same thing.
    Guess I'll have to go with 102 book Challenge.
    Or perhaps 0x64 book challenge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Pitabred, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 2:47pm


    "Read 101 Books Because American Reading are douchebags"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    The Infamous Joe (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 3:13pm

    Re: Re:


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Lyle, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 3:53pm

    Obviously not marketers above, it should become the 99 book challenge, 99 cents sells better than $1.01. Make it the 99 book challenge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 4:14pm


    If they were really serious about just getting people reading 10^2 books they would invite the other sites to join them in a partnership.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 4:29pm


    I am sorry did you say ? Whoops I hope that dose not get read and put on a spam list.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Danny (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 5:24pm

    one upping them

    I just came on line to post the same thing. Nice to see others thought of it too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Pamala, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 5:36pm

    They should have changed it to 99+1 Book Challenge.

    Like someone said it's odd that a company built on encouraging reading, would discourage a reading group.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    TW Burger (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 7:51pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Ray Trygstad (profile), Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:00pm

    Oh Heck: Why not a 99-Book Challenge, or a 101-Book Challenge?

    I mean, c'mon, they can't trademark ALL the numbers! They could even protect themselves by getting permission from Disney, just in case someone might confuse Dalmatians with with books.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2010 @ 8:18pm

    Re: Education as Control and Profit

    Copyright != trademark.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Ann, Jan 15th, 2010 @ 5:42pm

    Why not just call it

    the 100-book bakeoff and get Pilsbury involved as well?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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