PostHeaderIcon SPAM vs. spam; Xerox vs. xerox; Taser vs. Linden Lab?

Adam and his pig modelTateru scooped the legal complaint of Taser International, inc. against Linden Research. As always, Tateru does an outstanding job of explaining what's going on (as she understands it) and peppering with great insight.

She describes it, in part like so:

Basically a few people in Second Life make some digital replicas of Taser's products that do not have the same function as Taser's products, or props that have the Taser name, but do not have any functions or resemblance similar to Taser products.

Some of these content creators also manufacture/sell material that Taser describes as pornographic, or offensive, and they feel that their brand is being linked with these prurient materials, and that they're losing business and sales to Linden Lab.

[From Taser International vs Linden Lab: Crack Den crackdown - Massively]

In a nutshell, the Taser people do have a point. I'm not so sure I would enjoy my good name, commercial or otherwise, being associated with some "underworld" meme that I am not actually associated with.

I suspect this started with a virtual in-world "slave collar" that actually was called a "Taser Collar". No matter how you look at any of this, that is a blatant violation of trademark and copyright. There also was a vitual SL "Stun-Gun" that had the Taser name attached to it. However, that one was was changed to another name and a statement to the effect of "Taser is a registered trademark, blah... blah, and is not affiliated with this product, blah... blah" (Paraphrased.)

Also a good friend Alle Ree, creator of "VGS" products has a couple of items that also provide this disclaimer, even though I don't see (or at least haven't noticed) any mention of the Taser name in any of her descriptions.

In a nutshell, Linden Lab has placed itself into liability for these kind of legal challenges when they took over X Street Sl outright. Because XSL takes a commission on every sale (even if that commission is not based on legal tender,) they are 'profiting' from every sale. Hence, they become liable regarding DMCA rules.

Legal fiasco aside, almost immediately upon my seeing this a prominant question came to mind... repeated in one of the comments to Tateru's story:

TigroSpottystripes Katsu said on 8:49PM 4-21-2009
there is actually a company called "taser"? that is like trying to call your company "telephone" 0.0


Hormel, the makes of the food product SPAM were asked about how they felt with the term "spam" being used to describe unwanted 'junk' email. Their reply was simply (paraphrased) "It has actually brought more attention to our product and we don't see it as an infringement on our copyrights and trademarks as long as the description is never used in all capital letters as in 'SPAM' - as that is our trademark."

Thus, SPAM is not considered the same as "spam" - in terms of the written word.

Microsoft applied for a trademark on the term "Windows" - it was shot down in court as "windows" is a common and generic term in the English language. I may be wrong, but I remember Xerox becoming synonymous with "photocopy"and Xerox going with the flow (either voluntarily like Hormel or by legal decree, I don't remember.)

So part of this argument will become: "is the word taser synonymous with 'stun' and not regarded as trademark infringement against 'Taser' - the name and title?"

Another comment in the Massively thread:

sigmund leominster said on 1:17AM 4-22-2009

I'm curious about how "patent infringement" comes into this. Taser International have every right to protect their trademark ("Taser(R)") but do they in fact hold a patent on the electronic stun gun? Even if they have, how can they show parallels between that and a virtual electronic stun gun that is (a) not electronic (b) not stunning and (c) not a real gun!

I think someone should be talking to the estate holders of Tom Swift novels and explaining how they could sue Taser International for stealing their plan for an electronic stun gun. Not only that, they used an acronym of the title of the novel to name their company!

I think reparations are in order - as are reprints of the original Tom Swift novel.

Exactly, friend. That's more or less how I see it, too.

However, as Tateru reported previously regarding registered trademarks, where anyone having a registered trademark is actually required by law to defend or attempt to defend it, or risk losing it.

from "SLArt name in trademark dispute:
Frankly, trademark law is not something most people have a very good handle on - indeed most people get it muddled up with copyright law, even though the two have very little in common.

...In brief, a trademark serves to identify the source of goods and services and to distinguish them from other sources. One of the main functions of a trademark is to prevent confusion among consumers as to the source of goods and services.

...plied for the trademark in 2006, and may now be put in the position where he is obligated to defend that mark now that it has been approved by the USPTO.

I've always understood this as well. Though I am first to proclaim I am not of legal training or education.

I have my own first life company with a registered trademark. The nature of the business is certainly not something I want associated with anything other than happy, dreamy thoughts (much like the Disney brand name) - and I will defend it to the hilt. Fortunately my company name is odd enough that it is incredibly easy to google and know without a doubt, it's my property.

As for the SL creators that even mention the word "taser" - why? Just use the word "stun" to describe your wares. When I see (or hear) the word taser, I picture first a devise the shoots hooked electrodes out that attach to skin (ouch) and then send a serious bolt of electrical juice.My secondary image if the hand-held box similar in appearance to a television remote, with two metal teats at one end that the holder will press into the target person, pressing a button to send a similar jolt.

Beyond that, any other kind of "stunning" via electrical, flash or 'bang' means just doesn't strike me as related to the word "taser".

However, and here's the defendant's kicker: it does strike me that this can be described as being "tazed" or "to taze" someone - and I'll know exactly what that means.

Looks like a convoluted, sticky issue all the way around.

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