Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Bitcoin Idle

Lawyer Attempts To Trademark Bitcoin 209

Posted by samzenpus
from the said-it-first dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A NY based lawyer has submitted an application to the US Patent and Trademark Office claiming first use of the term bitcoin on June 22nd, 2011. The evidence of first use in the form of a letter detailing his wife's offer to sell "bitcoin" for $17.50 on June 23rd. A pdf extolling the virtues of bitcoin has also been uploaded to his law firms webpage."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Lawyer Attempts To Trademark Bitcoin

Comments Filter:
  • Punish Trolls (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jarich (733129) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:07AM (#36681378) Homepage Journal
    This beautifully illustrates why there should be some punishment for this type of behavior. He's obviously ignoring all prior art and forcing an already overloaded system to deal with this crap. Fine him.
    • Re:Punish Trolls (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ice Tiger (10883) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:12AM (#36681406)

      I guess he thought the wikipedia stub for Bitcoin created 8th March 2009 doesn't count as prior art or something.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nice rant, but unfortunately your knowledge of intellectual property laws is about on par with the rest of slashdot. First, you can't trademark troll, since trademarks are only valid if in active use. Second, there's no such thing as prior art in trademark law. If Coca Cola went out of business tomorrow, and nobody bothered to buy up their trademark, it would be perfectly legal for me to start my own soda company called Coca Cola. Third, most of the fault here is Bitcoin's, as they should have registere

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by kmdrtako (1971832)

        I had mod points yesterday, but they're gone today, or I'd mod you up. Too bad too that you posted as AC.

      • IANAL, but registering trademarks is not necessary.
        As far as I understand a registration was needed in the US in the past, but to harmonize with international laws that was changed.

        Still, registering a trademark helps to determine who has priority, but with a term like bitcoin it would be quite easy to prove that one has been using that term commercially way before this lawyer tried to trademark it.

        • Re:Punish Trolls (Score:4, Informative)

          by pacergh (882705) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:30AM (#36681534)

          Registering a trademark isn't necessary. It's never been necessary. International laws have not changed trademarks like they have changed copyright.

          Even a registered trademark can be restricted geographically. An example is Waffle House. Waffle House is a chain of diner-like restaurants in the Southeast US. It has a federal mark for 'Waffle House.' However, a chain of Waffle House restaurants geographically located in Indiana (or Illinois, can't remember exactly) had used the mark in that geographic location prior to Waffle House seeking the federal registration.

          The result is that Waffle House cannot use the Waffle House name for its restaurants in Indiana because of the already-existing Waffle House restaurants. Instead, it goes by Waffle Steak.

          • by g0bshiTe (596213)
            Want you smothered want you covered like my Waffle House hash browns...
          • by cusco (717999)
            Thanks for the warning, I'll make sure to avoid them, too. (Although the term 'Waffle Steak' would probably have scared me off anyway.)
          • by Whalou (721698)
            I think something similar happened in Australia with regard to Burger King, which is known of there as Hungry Jack if I recall.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by nugatory78 (971318)
              When BK wanted to enter the Australian market, the name Burger King was already in use. They tried to everything possible to get ownership of the name but failed. The current owner was happy with his business and refused to sell. Eventually (I think it was ~2003), BK got rights to the name and started renaming every store BK. I used to work for Hungry Jacks in the late 90's. All the training material was BK branded, even the equipment was.
      • by TheCarp (96830)

        > Third, most of the fault here is Bitcoin's, as they should have registered the trademark themselves, or failing that, protected their trademark
        > without registration.

        I was unaware that an abstract unit of measurement could trademark itself. The whole point o fbitcoin was to design a currency system with no central issuing authority. There is no single, cohesive organization that backs bitcoin. The closest thing to that would be the person generally recognized as the lead developer but, it is really

    • Re:Punish Trolls (Score:4, Informative)

      by erroneus (253617) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:15AM (#36681430) Homepage

      "Prior art" is about patents. Trademarks have more to do with "common use" and in this case, I believe that can be easily demonstrated. Bitcoin is a "thing" not a brand and so it should not be eligible for trademark any more than "web browser" would be.

      • by kmdrtako (1971832)

        A McDonalds Big Mac is a thing too, and I'd wager McDonalds has a registered trademark for it.

        The idiots behind Bitcoin.org don't even seem to have bothered to declare common law trademark, i.e. , on the term.

        If they lose it they'll have nobody to blame but themselves.

        • by kmdrtako (1971832)

          The idiots behind Bitcoin.org don't even seem to have bothered to declare common law trademark, i.e. , on the term.

          Stupid /. still doesn't do Unicode or even ordinary Latin-1. C'mon /., this is the 21st century. Get with the program. Honestly---

          There was supposed to be a little superscript TM between i.e. and ,. That's what I get for not looking at the Preview before Submitting.

        • by erroneus (253617)

          Uh... I think you misunderstand. McDonald's Big Mac is a branded thing. The "thing" type is hamburger sandwich which is not eligible for trademark. For more examples, "Kleenex" is a brand of thing type "tissue paper" and "Coke" or "Coca-Cola" is a brand of thing type "soda" or "soft drink."

          Whatever the case, the term was in use by Bitcoin.org prior to this lawyer's filing. Whatever he is up to, I am sure a judge presiding over a case surrounding this issue will see through it.

          • In the UK - "Hoover" became very concerned in the 70's that their vacuum cleaning products and those of other manufacturers were being called by their trademark - i.e. the term "hoover" had entered the english language - because, as soon as it does that - it cannot be trademarked anymore.

            "To google" has done the same thing to the Google trademark in the UK.

            (this could be a nuance of the UK trademark system)

            • by geekoid (135745)

              It's not. Common usage will cause you to lose a trademark.
              see: Aspirin, Butterscotch, Zipper, Thermos, etc . . .

              • by wiedzmin (1269816)
                I'm starting a trend for "iphoned" as soon as I can figure out what that would mean. Suck it Apple! :)
        • by sribe (304414)

          If they lose it they'll have nobody to blame but themselves.

          They can't lose it unless they simply don't respond to this fraudster's action. Use establishes trademarks, and prior use is always senior.

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          They can't lose it. You can't register a trademark and revoke the right for somebody to refer to an object by it's already existing name. That's like registering a trademark on email(tm).
      • by pacergh (882705)

        Trademarks are not about common use but, rather, about how consumers will identify the mark. If the mark makes consumers think of the company claiming the mark then it can be registered.

        Your argument that Bitcoin is a 'thing' is an argument that it is a generic term. This isn't really a good argument for Bitcoin because it's not generic. It is not really descriptive, either. It's more suggestive. This is neither the weakest nor the strongest type of mark. (There is a spectrum, in order of weakness to

      • by m50d (797211)
        So if I started a fresh root with a more sane mining rate policy, would/should I call it bitcoin?
        • by erroneus (253617)

          Actually, you make a good point and I accept it. I think I was wrong in my initial assertion. After reading the lawyer's description of bitcoin, he identifies it as thing type "digital currency" and also as thing type "encrypted currency" as well as thing type "peer to peer currency." These things make sense.

          However, if someone did come up with a rival to bitcoin and called it "something bitcoin" I think it would be acceptable to me. And I agree that bitcoin does identify a very particular type of thing

      • by Lectrik (180902)

        Bitcoin is a "thing" not a brand and so it should not be eligible for trademark any more than "web browser" would be.

        Well, i doubt anyone has trademaked the term Dollar.... I'll be right back....

    • Re:Punish Trolls (Score:5, Insightful)

      by v1 (525388) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:41AM (#36681608) Homepage Journal

      Fine him? he's a lawyer. disbar him. He's obviously unfit to be legal council.

    • by SplicerNYC (1782242) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:01AM (#36681786)
      Loss of license to practice law for life might be a way to dissuade the next person.
    • It's obviously a publicity stunt, as there is no real money to be gained from this. He has (successfully) made himself famous, now placed on Wikipedia and on news outlets eating up bitcoin news *cough*slashdot*cough*. Fame CAN be bought.

      The other thing to consider is whether or not this is a ploy to unmask the original creator of Bitcoin, who disappeared and remains completely anonymous. The lawyer might argue in a court case that only the original creator can defend or fight his claim. In that case...

    • by alexo (9335)

      This beautifully illustrates why there should be some punishment for this type of behavior. He's obviously ignoring all prior art and forcing an already overloaded system to deal with this crap. Fine him.

      You seem to forget that laws are written by lawyers and special interest groups for the sole benefit of lawyers and special interest groups.

  • by youn (1516637) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:08AM (#36681386) Homepage

    my first documented use of the word dollar being today when I said enthusiastically, "oh a dollar sign... how cool would that be if every one paid me a dollar every time they used the word dollar" ;)

    • by gilleain (1310105) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:31AM (#36681548)

      my first documented use of the word dollar being today when I said enthusiastically, "oh a dollar sign... how cool would that be if every one paid me a dollar every time they used the word dollar" ;)

      Even better, every time they pay you, ask them "How much was that again?..." and they would reply "Oh, just a dollar..dammit!". You would be raking it in, so much so that you would have to construct some sort of special multi-rake machine to get it all.

  • I am quite confident that he will lose in court, since bitcoin is already being used by a large group of people to describe the very thing he is attempting to trademark it on. There is of course a possibility that he is filing for this trademark for the purpose of preventing some other business from using the term to apply to anything other than the existing bitcoin. If it is the latter, it might make some sense. However, it does not look like that is the case. We will have to wait until we have more infor
  • No bitcoin user is going to cough up the $300 required to counter his claim.
    • by timholman (71886)

      No bitcoin user is going to cough up the $300 required to counter his claim.

      Will the USPTO accept payment in BTC instead? :-)

  • from his PDF:

    "Bitcoin transactions are virtually anonymous, and untraceable."

    4 lines later:

    "a public list of all previous transactions is collectively maintained by the members (peers) on the network."

    i guess it should be expected from someone trying to do something like this.

  • I just checked, it's actually in the US Patent & Trademark Office's trademark database:

    http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=85353491 [uspto.gov]

    By the looks of it, it will be three months before it is assigned to an attourney for review.

    I wonder if there is a fine for fraudulently claiming a trademark?

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Report the applicant to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for illegally issuing their own money. They are applying for the trademark, so it must be them that's doing it.

  • by slackzilly (2033012) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @08:28AM (#36681526)
    For the following words and characters:

    first
    post
    copyright
    patent
    plus
    +
    apple
    troll
    euro
    .

    I could apply for some more but I figure these will generate enough money for my needs. I am not greedy and selfish.
  • 1. Trademark the term Bitcoin [tm]

    2. Collect a royalty everytime someone uses them

    3. Profit! He'll soon be a Bitcoin [tm] millionaire*

    * which will buy him a BigMac [tm] in the real world once that phony currency collapses.

  • Maybe he should have googled it before trying to trademark it. A google of "bitcoin" returns 8.7M hits. Seems like it is in pretty wide use. Maybe he can do like Band-Aids (Band-Aid brand bandages) and use "Bitcoin brand absurdity."

  • It's so sweet to see a anarcho-cypherpunk currency all grown up... A lawyer, trademark claims, probably a white picket fence and a golden retriever in the suburbs...

    More seriously, though, while it isn't clear that this guy is entitled to the trademark, it also isn't obviously deleterious for 'Bitcoin' to be a trademark(rather conveniently, the definition of a bitcoin is a quite specific bit of math, rather than some natural language handwaving, so it would arguably be a better defined trademark than man
    • by gringer (252588)

      Rather conveniently, the definition of a bitcoin is a quite specific bit of math, rather than some natural language handwaving, so it would arguably be a better defined trademark than many — unlike patents and copyrights, which are enforceable against all comers with only a few 'fair use' and such exceptions, so long as they aren't being used deceptively.

      FTFY, by removing those unsightly parentheses. It's almost understandable now!

      • Sorry, ever since my first math class with grouping symbols my writing has gone all to hell. Just be glad I wasn't nesting them this time...
    • You are basically correct. Someone could take the existing software even and tweak a couple of things and start their very own block chain. There is one such block chain already in use for the test network. But that block chain wouldn't be compatible with the current bitcoin block chain. It would be like another country's currency.

    • But the problem with a person from the Bitcoin dev team trademarking it is that it could become something like this [techdirt.com].

      As in, the US Gov seizes trademark because they don't like it, then they use the trademark to try to take it down.

  • please help him, there are missing steps in his business model:

    1 - Trademark bitcoin
    2 - ???
    3 - ???
    4 - Profit!
    • No, no... step #1 is missing too. He's not going to get that trademark.

      1 - ???
      2 - ???
      3 - ???
      4 - Money!!!!

      "The love of money is the root of all evil" - Jesus Christ

  • It's clear that this guy has no claim to the trademark, and as a lawyer he would likely know this. So where's the rest of the story?

  • I hope that rather than $US, he is going to try to pay the registration fee in bitcoin.

  • by pablo_max (626328) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:00AM (#36681780)

    Now, normally, I am not a fan of vigilante justice, I should make that clear.
    The problem I see however is that it is clear that our system no longer has justice for the common man. Justice can be bought in America, this is clear. Judges routinely tear up the constitution in order to protect corporate interests.

    Lets say that a group of guys beat this guy down. I'm talking hardcore. Would the next guy think twice? What about beating 10 of these trolls down? How many beat downs would it take for the message to get out that the people are not going let you fuck them any more?

  • The trademark claim is so easy to dispute, I'm guessing the lawyer is just trying to get attention.

  • Publicity Stunt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brainzach (2032950) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:31AM (#36682070)

    Instead of defending the trademark, the lawyer is promoting the virtues of Bitcoin. He is probably just trying to generate publicity to pump up the price of Bitcoins that his wife is selling. I doubt the lawyer is stupid enough to think he can be successful trademark Bitcoin.

  • Oh ... wait ... somebody already said that. Well, no matter. "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Copyright (C) 2011 Squire Toad, all rights reserved.

  • All these arguments are great, except that they mean nothing if the mark gets published in the Official Gazette and no one files a notice of opposition within 30 days. Then the mark will be presumed valid and harder to overturn. After a certain point, the mark can no longer be challenged, so it's best to get in opposition as early as possible.

    If it gets past the first examiner, it will be published in the Official Gazette in the coming weeks (it's a weekly publication). That's when the notice of opposition

  • The problem with our legal system it does what most of us know instincitvly not to. It feeds trolls.

    They grow up with huge pudgy bellys and have little trolls. Before you know it there are more trolls than lawn gnomes and crack whores combined.

  • If this lawyer refers to every time he and his wife have sex as the "first time he ever had sex." This so clearly demonstrates the lack of understanding the word "first", they he should literally have his examined. Let't not be too harsh on the guy. I can understand someone doing that as a consequence of having suffered a stroke. Perhaps he has a history of mental illness. There is all kinds of mitigating factors to explain this filing. "First use" doesn't have to be first if the person doesn't unders

Get hold of portable property. -- Charles Dickens, "Great Expectations"

Working...