Life intervened to stop me posting about this so far, but if you’re one of the two Netizens in the world to have missed this story so far, here are the highlights. ‘Web 2.0’ (a very silly name) is apparently trademarked by Tim O’Reilly’s company (it’s his term), and their ‘media partners’ (CMP). IT@Cork have a conference that dares to use such in its title. The trademark (EU pending, which is what’s relevant here) is for use with conferences and so on – the Web 2.0 conferences are a big (and incredibly expensive) deal.
You can guess what happened next? IT@Cork gets a legal letter (despite having invited Tim to the event and receiving a polite ‘I can’t make it’). Tom Raftery posts it. The ‘blogosphere’ goes crazy. (A little too crazy for my liking – there are reasonably complex legal issues here, but such is the way of the world). It gets /.ed.
To me, the most constructive thing to do is to object to the registration, or alternatively to avoid the use of the term (i.e. deny it oxygen). I think that the registrants were right to protect the mark, but wrong to register it in the first place. Dead wrong. You can’t try and popularise an idea while making it difficult to even discuss it.
Anyway, Tim O’Reilly has (just!) responded with a lengthy and careful post. I giggled at his description of legal language as the special language that lawyers use to cover their various bases is as odd and arcane as a Perl program might appear to most lawyers. As a techie-lawyer/lawyer-techie (not being a real lawyer, of course), I think (or like to think) that there’s a way across the bridge, and that not every cease and desist letter needs to sound as bad as they do – or, heaven forbid, that a technology ‘business’, with knowledge of the dangers of overzealous law and IP in particular, might think twice before sending the letter, or even joining the debate on whether the laws-that-lead-to-C&Ds-like-confetti should even exist.
I hope that this affair (which involves quite a lot of harsh words) will encourage the O’Reilly bit of the world to decide whether Web 2.0 is and shall be a conference marketing tool or a real concept. I’m not convinced after the last week’s worth of reading that it can be both.
Note: The crosslinking in this post has led to an awful lot of spam comments. So I’m closing comments on it entirely. If you really want to say something and are not a robot, please email me.