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4chan.org creator sends a cease & desist letter to moot.it
13 points by tipiirai on Nov 19, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments
Creator of the image board 4chan, Christopher Poole aka "m00t", sends a cease & desist letter to Moot Inc., a company offering free discussion forums & commenting for websites, claiming ownership for his pseudonym.

Definitions of the word "moot" from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/moot:

1. open to discussion or debate; debatable; doubtful: a moot point. 4. to present or introduce (any point, subject, project, etc.) for discussion 8. an argument or discussion, especially of a hypothetical legal case. 9. Obsolete. a debate, argument, or discussion.

Moot's website: http://moot.it

This sounds more like a publicity stunt by moot.it than anything else.

This is absurd -- "moot" is a common word, not a trademark or copyrightable property.


A quote: "Copyright laws disfavor protection for short phrases. Such claims are viewed with suspicion by the Copyright Office, whose circulars state that, '... slogans, and other short phrases or expressions cannot be copyrighted.'"

Trademark, not copyright, is the applicable law here. Copyright protects creative works like books or paintings or program code. Trademark protects names and marks used to identify the source of things. Brands are commonly one word or even one symbol and have trademark protection. If you can't identify the applicable law for a situation, you're probably not in a position to make any comments about the merits of the claim.

Common words can be trademarked. Apple Inc holds the trademark to "apple". Time Magazine holds the trademark to "time". Caterpillar Inc holds the trademark to "caterpillar". They're all common words and they all appear in the federal trademark register, which you can check yourself at USPTO.gov. If someone else uses these common words in commerce in the industries the trademark holders operate in, they will be infringing, they will be taken to court, they will lose their cases, and they will pay damages to the trademark holders.

What's absurd is operating in the software industry without even basic knowledge of intellectual property laws.

Paris Hilton disagrees http://gawker.com/5648787/paris-hilton-owns-the-phrase-thats...

No matter how absurd, anything is possible. Welcome to 2012

> Paris Hilton disagrees

That's not a good example. Consider "Sun Microsystems". Can "Sun" be protected? No. Can "Microsystems" be protected? No again. Can both together be protected? Yes, of course.

> Can "Sun" be protected?

Yes. Why do you think it can't?

Recall that Apple has successfully gained and defended its trademark on the word "apple", easily as common a word as "sun", in the relevant industries it operates. "Time" is trademarked by TIME Magazine, and "caterpillar" by Caterpilllar Inc., the construction equipment company.

Feel free to check yourself. Federally registered trademarks are publicly searchable on the USPTO website. You'll find not only the registration for the word APPLE, but if you do a design mark search, you'll find quite a few drawings of the sun are registered trademarks as well.

>> Can "Sun" be protected?

> Yes. Why do you think it can't?

Because it cannot be protected, not that an agency won't issue a document to that effect. A company that expects to use a common word as a trademark can expect to have a public-relations nightmare on their their hands as they try to keep people from using the "protected" word for any other purpose. Examples abound -- even words that aren't everyday words lose protection over time. How successful has Xerox been in getting people to say "dry electrostatic copy"? How successful has Johnson & Johnson been in getting people to say "adhesive compress" instead of "Band-Aid?

This isn't about law, it's about reality. Reality trumps law. The present controversy over software patents shows the degree to which people in the legal profession think they can prevail over reality. They can't -- not for long, anyway.

I gave you three examples of single common word marks that are currently protected and have been defended without courts declaring them generic words, which is the danger you're hinting at. How can you seriously write this response while ignoring three counterexamples already given?

Do you know of any companies successfully selling their products under the Xerox and Band-Aid brands other than Xerox and J&J? In 'reality', as you put it, both companies have successfully had law enforcement intercept, destroy and file charges against counterfeiters of their products. A mark is effective 'in reality' as long as the courts are willing to defend it, and unlike those few high-profile software patent cases, a totally different area of law, these marks have all been upheld in court.

It's really non-constructive to compare trademarks to software patents, too. There are no "trademark trolls", as a mark cannot exist without continual use in commerce. There are no uses of trademarks as proxy wars for attaining licensing agreements without running afoul of antitrust laws as the mobile phone industry is doing with patents right now.

> I gave you three examples

You're missing the point. The only way a party holding a trademarked word can prevent its use for another purpose is if they can show that the use would hinder the first party's ability to conduct his business. Clearly not true here.

That, by the way, was why Apple Computer and Apple Music coexisted so long without any kerfuffle -- different businesses, no chance for public confusion.

Your argument is that people have defended single words used as trademarks. But that's a different issue. The present discussion is whether someone's successful use of "moot" as a trademark (one apparently not registered) will be interfered with by another party's use of the same word. A trademarked word is only a starting point -- the plaintiff must then show that another use of the trademarked term hurts his business and/or misleads the public. In a case like this, the burden is most definitely on the plaintiff.

> How can you seriously write this response while ignoring three counterexamples already given?

Because you haven't thought your position through and your examples aren't germane. The fact that single words have been defended as trademarks is not the issue. The issue is why, and under what circumstances, and whether those examples are germane to this case -- one in which the "plaintiff" hasn't even bothered to register the word as fair warning to others of his proprietary interest in it.

My examples were germane to the comment I was replying to, which was about whether "sun" could be protected, which in turn was a reply to discussion of Paris Hilton. We're far removed from the specifics of moot's claim... why you thought that was the topic of my reply is beyond me.

Wow. That's hot! Welcome to USA.

Or maybe just Paris :P

Seriously. kind of baffling that he even decided to try this!

I sent you an email on this matter...please read

Indeed. I guess he simply trusted on his big name on this. Tried to scare.

All due respect, how do you know this C&D is real? What law firm claims to have issued it? What mailserver sent the headers? Is it an SPF match?

This sounds like something /b/ would do as a prank.

Well considering we got the notice via overnight courier from his law firm (LEASON ELLIS) I think we can rule out /b/

I'd be surprised if moot actually got a law firm to try to enforce a trademark on moot as he has registered no trademark under moot or m00t with the USPTO.

Have you confirmed with the attorney listed on the letter that the address is legitimate? Again, all due respect, but I've had fedex letters with a fake return address before. Paying for overnight shipping is kind of stupid for a prank, but could be done (in my case, a party was trying to get information from me that I declined to give earlier, and tried to get me to give it under false pretense).

If he did actually send that (it's legitimate), as per earlier comments, I'm baffled because with no trademark over a dictionary word, I just don't see it carrying any real weight.

It is a legitimate request. Honestly we were quite surprised/baffled to receive it as well.

That's utterly unenforceable (not a lawyer though).

The users on his site are asking him for comment (via email), usually rowdiness about lawyers and him being greedy (or whatever) is floating around. Curious to see if he acknowledges it.

Without a registered mark though it's really just kind of huffing and puffing...making a case on moot being recognizable and moot.it hurting his name is ludicrous (in my opinion).

Ludicrous stuff like this happens all the time, like the C&D against Zen Magnets by Buckyballs a while back. Completely baseless but they sent it.

this is funny, Christopher Poole is wasting his time.... and wasting the time of the guys at moot Inc

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