Every new day brings a new opportunity and today I had the fortune to enjoy a unique experience; the one of receiving a cease and desist letter. The email regarded the “use of XXX company’s logo and trade name in my websites http://datamine.it & http://gtziralis.com/post/59121553/introducing-datamine-it” and I cannot put it better than pasting some (slightly modified to avoid mentioning the sender, if that is possible after all) excerpts from the letter itself.
Ok, let me now shed some light and put things in context. When we came up with the idea of getting together and turn our humble expertise into a start-up (the story is in the link above, put the blame on me!), we didn’t even think of the term “data mining” as a trademark or anything like that (you know, we are scientists and engineers above everything else and we lack knowledge of legalities or pathological imagination, poor us).
So, we started looking for a catchy domain name to better describe our offering, which is, well, data mining (check wikipedia for more on this popular research area, plus there exist today only 14.3 million relevant results in the web, according to google). We came up with the phrase “data mine it” and the italian domain “datamine.it”, utilizing a “domain hack” just like myriads of other web services like del.icio.us, blo.gs, grou.ps etc. ad infinitum do.
And we launched the website about three months ago, targeting the international market and waiting for our services to mature before we get incorporated or quit our day jobs (neither of which is a fact yet). To give you a better idea of the way we look at things and “competition” (with the conventional use of it), we also organized an open event entitled “data mining in business”, sending an invite to company XXX to be our proud guest speaker.
We actually didn’t receive a reply, or I think -to my great surprise- we just did, asking us to comply with some requirements I personally find nonsense, to say the least. And it is not that big of an effort to satisfy these requirements; to be honest it’s a matter of minutes and a few euros to find a better domain and change our logo, plus we haven’t build such a fantastic brand awareness yet and a simple redirect will do the job for us.
However, before moving on, I need some clear answers in the following questions and I would be glad if you could elaborate.
- Firstly, is it possible for a firm to trademark the name of a research field or a popular tool (like data mining or statistics or … email)? In this context, if company X registers the trademark “statistics” or “email”, then nobody is able to provide email services, or relevant services to email, or utilize anyhow the term “email”, is that correct?
- Second, if a company owns the “trademark” of “datamine” (or anything else in that matter) in Greece, or Delaware or Papua New Guinea, then every other company willing to pitch a customer in that location, having a name or offering somehow related to this trademark (like datamine.co.uk, datamine.com etc) should ask for the local company’s permission first?
- Finally, if “datamine” is registered as a trademark, then is this trademark also valid in every other derivative of it (just like the full “datamine.it” we are using religiously) or every component of the word (in our case “data” and “mine”)? In that case for example, should every company ask for British Airways’ permission to include the syllable “ba” (as of ba.com) in its brand?
Generic nonsense or our innocence, I would be happy if the above proved to be just a poor joke. In case that it’s not, while I undertake full responsibility of everything wrong (?) happened, I dare to say that our team is more determined and passionate than ever to turn threats into opportunities and a bad (?) start into a great asset, good karma included.
You get to know the results.