by Tim Cushing

Filed Under:
critic, netherlands, phone book, speech, trademark

Dutch Phone Book Publisher Uses Trademark Bullying In Attempt To Shut Down Critic

from the no,-that's-German-for-'the-phone-book,-the' dept

Mike recently discussed the ridiculous assertion that copyright can't be used for censorship, despite the fact that it has clearly been used to do exactly that multiple times. And it's not just copyright being waved around by IP thugs like a Louisville Slugger with a © on the sweet spot. Claims of trademark infringement have been used as a handy beating implement in attempts to silence criticism (like "[x] company sucks" sites) or keep a competitor from detailing the superiority of its product.

Fortunately, infringement claims like these rarely succeed in doing anything more than driving more eyeballs to the offending content. Another attempt to "swing for the fences" with the trademark bat has resulted in the plaintiff hitting itself squarely in the face, this time over in the Netherlands. This particular self-beating revolves around a relic from days past know as "The Phone Book."

Much like in the US, everyone in the Netherlands receives a phone book whether they want one or not. (Fortunately, it looks like the Dutch only receive one, unlike many metro areas, where two or three phone books [minimum] are crammed into mailboxes or dumped unceremoniously on doorsteps every year. And it's not just a "big city" problem. I live in a town of 1,300 and I get three [3][!] phone books every year.) You can opt out, but the phone book publisher would very much rather you didn't. 24oranges has more details on one man's fight against the wishes of the dying [via Overlawyered]:
To help stop this form of harassment, a guy called Alexander Klöpping has registered a URL called which redirects to the phone book cancellation form. In other words, if you want the phone book to be eliminated (‘die’) from your life, follow that link.
Or don't follow it. 24oranges points out that De Telefoongids has been known to ignore cancellation requests. Also this: the URL is no longer live. (Thanks to Google Cache, you can still enjoy the heady rush of a URL redirect. WHEE!!!)

And that's all Klöpping's URL did: redirect users to the cancellation form on De Telefoongids' website. Apparently, using "telefoongid" in the URL was somehow a "trademark violation" and Klöpping was ordered to cease and desist. Klöpping wasn't having it:
Klöpping replied that he will take the URL offline as soon as the dead tree merchant stops shoving the equivalent of “months of advertising leaflets”, and “half a percent of all paper used in the Netherlands” through everybody’s mailboxes, including those of people that have indicated they want to receive no advertisements through the legally binding “ja-nee” and “nee-nee” stickers (yes-no and no-no).
When the continued success of your business relies on ignoring "legally binding stickers," perhaps it's time to reconsider your distribution plan. Selling advertising space in redundant stack of paper is tough, but ignoring both stickers and your own webform is only going to get you dragged into court, rather than the other way around.

It didn't take long for De Telefoongid's bullying tactics to turn into self-inflicted wounds. Within 24 hours of the public dustup, the Dutch parliament called for making the phone book opt-in, something that should be implemented worldwide. Of course, some people still use the phone book and by all means, they should still receive one. Until opt-in becomes the norm, the rest of us can continue to use them as paperweights, booster seats, kindling and conversation starters to aid in engaging our sullen teens and tweens.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 2:37pm

    Wow, legally binding stickers - there's an idea with so many possibilities. I'm thinking of one that says "try to sell me something for 10" and picking up spending money walking around stores for half an hour.

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

  2. identicon
    Reply to AC, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 2:48pm

    Those stickers are standardized and only indicate if you want to receive addressed and/or generic advertising materials.

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

  3. icon
    Jay (profile), Sep 20th, 2012 @ 2:48pm

    Or you can tear them in half to demonstrate your strength. That's always a fun trick, especially once you realize how easy it is.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    You missed out door stop as a use.

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

  5. identicon
    anonymous dutch coward, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    add 1

    just filled in the form. i live in a flat of 50 apartments and every year i see only a few of those books dumped in our hall being picked up by my neighbours. still the telefoonboek persists, because ad revenue will drop sharply if the advertisers find out how few are actually used.

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

  6. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 20th, 2012 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Moar uses!

    They're also good at propping up easy-chairs which've lost a leg...

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

  7. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 20th, 2012 @ 3:19pm

    Unanticipated joys

    When I decided not to have a land-line phone anymore, the biggest joy was one I didn't think about until it happened: I don't get those damned phone books anymore, and I don't have to pay the extortion fee to keep my name out of them!

    Cutting the cord is just as good with the phone than with TV.

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

  8. icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Sep 20th, 2012 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Unanticipated joys

    I have no land-line and I still get three. Of course, time travels slower here in the Midwest...

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

  9. identicon
    NullOp, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 3:35pm


    Is every company run by a bunch or dumb-fucks? It would seems so. My assertion that business people are those that couldn't get into medical school, law school or engineering school is proven by things like this.

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

  10. icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 20th, 2012 @ 4:18pm

    I don't have a land-line, and I still get a phone book every year (Sacramento).

    I cannot remember the last time I used a phone book. I keep the latest one around, Just In Case, but so far all it's done is weigh down the inside of a cabinet and provide a bit of extra annual recycle-fodder.

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

  11. icon
    Ninja (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:36am

    Oh but they are useful. Who has never impressed any kid with their "titanic" strength by tearing one of those mammoths apart without sweating?

    I myself haven't seen one of those for years now and when needed I use the online service. So eh, what's the point of keep sending those relics (other than some shady "conspiracy" theory that it makes money for some1)?

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

  12. identicon
    Michael, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 5:19am

    Why not find out who's publishing the phone book, drive on by and heave it on their property?

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

  13. icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 8:00am

    Camping gear

    I throw them in a camping tub and use them to start fires. They are great for that.

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

  14. identicon
    Johan, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 8:54am


    Apparently, using "telefoongid" in the URL was somehow
    It's "telefoongids", not "telefoongid".

    from the no,-that's-German-for-'the-phone-book,-the' dept
    I don't know what you had in mind when you wrote that, but Dutch isn't German.

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

  15. icon
    dennis deems (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Language

    I'm pretty sure it's a reference to the 'Cape Fear' episode of The Simpsons in which Sideshow Bob explains to the parole board that his tattoo reading "Die Bart Die" is German for "the Bart, the".

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

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