Germans apparently allow all sorts of English words to be trademarked. I ran into the problem buying Google ads, and the ads would get rejected for a trademark violation. The whole campaign would get messed up because I targeted english speakers worldwide and the ads got rejected because the word "immersion" is trademarked in Germany.
Edit: I think Google has since improved the error message and gives a message like "Ad is running, but cannot be run in all regions due to a trademark issue." Adwords used to just reject the ad with ominous text "trademark violation".
"Germans apparently allow all sorts of English words to be trademarked [...] because the word "immersion" is trademarked in Germany.
Immersion is a German word.
(as many others comes from Latin as the English word does)
(Physik) Einbetten eines Objekts in eine Flüssigkeit mit besonderen lichtbrechenden Eigenschaften (zur Untersuchung von Kristallformen und in der Mikroskopie)
(Astronomie) Eintritt eines Himmelskörpers in den Schatten eines anderen
Methode des Fremdsprachenunterrichts, bei der die Schüler von Anfang an in großem Umfang in der Fremdsprache unterrichtet werden
(EDV) Eintauchen in eine virtuelle Umgebung
You are right, that may not be a fair characterization. The problem I see is how a list of trademarked words becomes blacklisted for use in advertising. I am fine if Germans want to let any word be trademarked, and then sort it out later in the court system. But we have a situation where the trademark list is auto-uploaded to Google and stops the word "hackathon" from being used in ads in Germany, thus a real problem.
The automatic trademark blacklist in Google adwords is really idiotic even if the trademark is valid. I once tried making an ad for my Mac app, and I couldn't include the word "Mac" or "Mac OS" in the copy because they are trademarks.
I had literally the exact same issue. They said I had to get them paperwork from Apple's legal department, ignoring Apple trademark page saying it's okay to use the Mac trademark to sell a Mac app which I forwarded to them with an explanation.
My exact ad said "Try _____, a better way to _____ for Windows and Mac".
There's a pretty big discussion/shitstorm going on in the Berlin Startups Facebook group.
The trademark owners claim that they want to use the licensing fees to support non-commercial events, quotation: "I think it's worth trying. If not, there sure will be other ways to finance non-commercial projects. I any cases it's better that it's a trademark of a non-commercial project, than of some cease-and-desist law firm."
I totally disagree with that whole idea though. Makes us Germans look ridiculous :-).
You can trademark anything that isn't already trademarked, but you have to defend the trademark if you want to enforce the trademark.
Trademarks are a lot like patents, the due diligence when filing is on the filer for the most part. The agency only checks against the filings. So you can get a trademark for Hackathon, but if you tried to enforce it you would lose if there are prior uses by others.
You could get a Trademark in an alternate context. Like if you decided to combine a marathon with a machete and have a run through the jungle. That could be a new use for Hackathon that would be unlikely to cause confusion in the market.
That said I'm sure they will send some C&D's and scare some people in to not using the term.
The "Hon" trademark for a Baltimore restaurant springs to mind. Where the owner tried to extract money from the city of Baltimore, but she ended up dropping the trademark after community backlash.
>You can trademark anything that isn't already trademarked //
That's absolutely wrong in the UK and USA. In Germany their English language guidance notes say:
"The following are also excluded from registration: promotional statements, general advertising slogans and word sequences that have become customary in the current language as fixed expression."
So it's wrong there too.
>"the due diligence when filing is on the filer for the most part"
In some jurisdictions but by no means all.
I'm surprised there were no oppositions filed, guess TM registrations are off most peoples radars. Of course the TM lacks distinctiveness and so is probably going to be struck down, doesn't stop them wielding it as part of a shakedown though.
I've just heard through the grapevine that this was created as a protective trademark, to prevent the exact thing we're afraid was going to happen. An official statement from the CEO of the company will follow soon.
The trademark has been filed in Germany by a German events directory. Their main focus appears to be club events, not nerd events and indeed there is only one listing from mid last year for a hackathon.
Are they getting into the trademark troll business on the side?
with implying that most of the people are on board with this - most of the organizer used in that image however where only asked if they liked the idea of the techhub nothing more. The good thing about the connected world is that those kinds of statements can be easily verified.
This has been trademarked in Germany so it shouldn't be a problem for people in other places, I presume (correct me if I'm wrong); but, this will be a problem for Germans. A quick google search shows that there are Hackathons happening in Germany and I'd like to know if the holder will take legal action.
It's a shame this hasn't been posted anywhere before the deadline for Opposition Proceedings had been reached (March 7th 2013). Whether it would have been possible to stop this at all is another matter, of course.
What about this...? A simple tool might be useful as a first line of defense against silly filings. First, the tool could monitor trademark filings. Second, it could compare against common words, perhaps from a dictionary. Third, it could score filings using a 'frivolity' score. Fourth, perhaps it could expose its a moderation queue via a mailing list or web interface. Fifth, maybe it could be gamified?
For such a tool to be most useful, I'd recommend gathering data from several places (such as DuckDuckGo, Wiktionary, Wikipedia). Also, it would be better not to be tied to fixed thresholds (such as 10 million results); rather, it would likely be better to construct a feature vector and try out various machine learning approaches.
I went to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) site and searched for the word "hackathon" in their (US) trademark database and it didn't find anything, so US-based hackathons should be fine (for now).
In Germany, I'm sure the Germans can come up with some long-German-word-like-'marathon-of-hacking'-that-means-the-same-thing-as-hackathon, if they haven't already.
In the late 90's some guy trademarked "Halloween" in France, because "Halloween" wasn't in any French dictionary back then.
He made an incredible fortune by going after all of those (starting with McDonald's and Disney) making Halloween-based advertising.