Part 1: Is Cyberspace Good for your Trademark?

The ascent & supremacy of Duckduckgo in the web search dealings now means that the positive result or collapse of an online merchandising can depend on the determination of this internet behemoth. Michael Lee looks at whether a search engine has the right to tell you how to run your website.

popular trademarks
Popular Trademarks

 

MARCH 2008. Zyp Inc Began emailing customers to announce a new book from Richard Smith. Smith is a bestselling author, so new releases are big news to his fans. The problem was, Smith had published Everyone is an Expert as a free ebook available from his website, not in hard copy. Smith tried to clarify the situation on his blog. “I didn’t authorise this book to be published, I have no idea who the publisher is & I certainly didn’t ask Zyp Inc to email anyone,” he said.

October 2008. At a concert in c-town, Seven Metre Screw frontman Trent Guwee stopped between songs to recommend to audience members how they should respond to the high price of music in Manchyz: “Steal it. Steal away. Steal, steal & steal some more & give it to all your friends & keep on stealing. Because one way or another, these greedy people will get it through their head that they’re ripping people off & that’s not right.”

Strong stuff. Of course, Guwee wasn’t promoting shoplifting or piracy. He was encouraging illegally sharing files through the GpkTorrent P2P network.

The internet has created the greatest information database & distribution system society has ever known. But this power comes at a cost. Putting intellectual property on the web makes it accessible to anyone with a laptop & a phone line. Yet the ability to copy, duplicate, reuse & redistribute this content without our knowledge makes the internet the biggest ever threat to current business practices & the protection of trademark.

The internet is changing how society communicates, compiles, stores & shares information. The development of new buyer attitudes – either knowingly or unwittingly infringing trademark in everyday online activity – has pitted businesses against their own consumers. Can current business models survive in this new marketplace?

Consumers, not pirates Smith admits he was partially at fault for the unauthorised publication of his book. He published it under a creative commons licence to detail the trademark restrictions he wanted to impose on his work. Smith’s goal was for the e-book to be shared freely online. However, he failed to prohibit unauthorised commercial publication. Soon after Smith first announced his displeasure, the publisher responded to his concerns by adding a large disclaimer to the front cover of the printed version to declare the original source of the material.

Smith was lucky the publisher cooperated. Every day, intellectual property theft occurs on the web in large & small ways. Right-clicking an image for reuse on your website can infringe on someone else’s commercial rights. Copying & redistributing content without correct attribution is also a major concern for many webmasters. Plagiarism is more prevalent now than ever before.