Thursday, June 05, 2008

Take Me Out© to the Ballgame®

"The biggest fantasy was Major League Baseball’s claim that its fans should pay to talk about fantasy baseball."

"In recent years, corporations have been aggressively pushing the bounds of intellectual property — extending the length of copyrights to unreasonable lengths, for example, and patenting seeds."

Although not mentioned in this article, corporations have also gone to great lengths to use trademark claims to bludgeon free speech as well. For instance, here are some words in popular use that the "owner" would like to have exclusive use of: freecycle, bakeoff, captcha, bandaid, rollerblade, frisbee.

Here are some older examples that I think don't matter as much as there are popular alternatives: xerox (photocopy), kleenex (tissue), hoover (vacuum).

And finally, here are some that lost trademark rights due to genericide: escalator, yo-yo, zipper, aspirin, and linoleum.

Unfortunately for most regular people, corporations with lots of money can often buy the legal outcome they want. Thankfully in the case of Major League Baseball, free speech won out.

I myself was involved in a case where a corporation claimed it was trademark infringement to use the word freecycle. Luckily the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that using the word freecycle generically is not trademark infringement, that saying freecycle is generic is not trademark infringement, and that encouraging others to use the word freecycle generically is not trademark infringement.

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