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"Hackathon" Has Been Trademarked in Germany (dpma.de)
102 points by 67726e 1661 days ago | hide | past | web | 45 comments | favorite

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

"Germans apparently allow all sorts of English words to be trademarked."

Like "Apple"?

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".

They didn't mention the Windows trademark. Pfft.

In the US, you couldn't trademark the word "Apple" in the food category since it is the term for a group of fruits. It is valid in other categories.

Which means it should at most be blocked for categories in which a trademark is held, not for ads in other categories, or use as a generic word - if at all.

Not sure about German law or how much research they do into words before they allow the trademark. It does seem a bit of due diligence was missed.

"Bonjour(tm), tu as touché(tm) du doigt un vrai problème durant ton exposé(tm)."

"Hello, you pointed out a real issue during your talk."

Does that mean I can block companies from using any word I like, by trademarking it in Germany, since they seem to let you trademark any words?

Their official blog post and explanation: http://www.young-targets.com/formation-of-tech_hub-started/

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 :-).

The discussion can be found here https://www.facebook.com/groups/159595270791268/permalink/44...

with the guy in charge. (You need to join the group to see the discussion)

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.

Ya, the "Hon" trademark was ridiculous. I think I saw that on kitchen nightmares. I could see a similar backlash happening over hackathon.

If that happened in the states I'd definitely boycott someone trying to own something that belongs to the community.

I've organized a few hackathons in Germany and am pretty disgusted by finding this.

I've already contacted a few fellow organizers to find out what we can do about this.

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.

And the earth is flat.

Doesn't a trademark have the same rules of a patent, i.e. "prior art"?

Don't do anything. Let the company try and stop you.

In Germany they could stop me with a cease and desist i'd be court ordered to stop organizing an event until i can prove his claim wrong.

But as i've mentioned in my other post, this won't happen, it seems the good guys trademarked it.

Call it Distrupathon


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?

It's the same agency that does http://www.nerd-zone.com/, which seems to be partially funded by public money.

Edit: The agency also has a word mark on "Nerd Zone", both seem to be motivated by this: http://www.nerd-zone.com/hackathon.

That is the entity filing, probably easier.

Here is the claimed background for this http://www.young-targets.com/formation-of-tech_hub-started/

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.

The discussion is happening with the guy here https://www.facebook.com/groups/159595270791268/permalink/44...

if you don't like to join, you can see statements of organizers also here https://www.facebook.com/nicole.simon/posts/1015164077361130...

Nachtleben.de seems to have also some kind of IT recruitement branch: http://www.young-targets.com/imprint/

All part of my plan to make "Hackgasm" the next big thing.

Hackathons are actually pretty popular here, especially in Berlin. I'll keep you updated if I hear of anybody running into trouble because of this.

This just shows that "hackathon" is becoming more popularized.

Today, everything is a "hackathon" which is rather annoying, IMO. In the past year or so, we've seen legal hackathons [1], marketing hackathons [2] and more.

Now, more and more corporations are starting to get into the hackathon game - eg. Campbell's disaster a few months back [3].

With popularity comes consequence, but perhaps the "spirit" of a hackathon is what matters: getting people to GTFO of their element, come together and create something in a short period of time.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/legal-hackathon-law...

[2] http://atdc.org/2012/07/atlanta-hosts-worlds-first-marketing...

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5086013

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?

Hackathon doesn't appear in any dictionary.

Maybe you should use Google Search result count. If a phrase doesn't appear frequently online, its ok to trademark. If there are 10 million results, it should be flagged.

Wiktionary has a very inclusive list of definitions. It does include hackathon: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hackathon

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.

... in Germany.

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.

Hopefully, they will get the trademark preemptively this time. I vote for "Codefest".

Codefest it is. Like the sound of it.

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.

Germans brothers called 'Samwer' copycat any existing successful website like ebay, amazon etc. Now they probably will trademark any single existing word. So typically german, just like chinese...

I can't see any connection to the Samwers or any of their companies in this case.

The German tech- and startup-scene hates the Samwer brothers as much as the rest of the world because they gave German startups a bad name.

Getting really sick of this corporate bulsh*t

I'm sorry, but are you fucking kidding me?

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