Lawyers at Skype bring negative PR to Skype

Ahh, the lawyers at Skype screwed the pooch. I am actually on their side in this fight, too. I know that they need to protect the trademarks otherwise they’ll lose them. At Microsoft the lawyers would do stuff like this from time-to-time (my friend Robert Mclaws told me recently that the Microsoft lawyers are again going after some community members who’ve taken on trademarks too closely).

What should have happened? A licensing deal that doesn’t cost much. Say a buck a year. That way Skype would have been able to shut down bad uses of the Skype trademark, while letting community members who are helping its ecosystem out stay up.

Worst case? Sites like this should be shut down by lawyers when they pop up, not years after they become popular.

Personally? I’ll never start a community site with a trademark in a URL or a name. I know that the danger of getting a lawyer to jump on you is way too high. This isn’t the last time this will happen.

Comments

  1. Firstly, he should have consulted a lawyer.

    2ndly, a letter from a lawyer is just a letter. I’m sure you remember that all too google famous letter we had received from Newscorp.

    Backing up a legal threat is extremely expensive. Most IP lawyers like ours work at $300+ per hour, and they LOVE to take their sweet, sweet time deliberating everything from the sparkles on their donuts, to what ink to use.

    If the company does not have full time lawyers like Microsoft, that’s a definite plus. I’m not sure how a UK company like Skype would fair though seeing how this is a US based site. That would be interesting, and super costly.

    He should have hung on to it a bit longer and used the negative publicity from the Skype initial filing to drive traffic to his new sites though.

    He could have also tried to make a disclaimer:
    No claim is made to the exclusive right to use “Skype” apart from the mark as shown.

    That could have thrown them off as well legally, if he had made the disclaimer visible on all pages.

    My take is, that he didn’t have any resources and let himself get pushed around. That happens sometimes.

    Had I taken down sitespaces because of a little threat from Newscorp, I would have been the worse off.

  2. Firstly, he should have consulted a lawyer.

    2ndly, a letter from a lawyer is just a letter. I’m sure you remember that all too google famous letter we had received from Newscorp.

    Backing up a legal threat is extremely expensive. Most IP lawyers like ours work at $300+ per hour, and they LOVE to take their sweet, sweet time deliberating everything from the sparkles on their donuts, to what ink to use.

    If the company does not have full time lawyers like Microsoft, that’s a definite plus. I’m not sure how a UK company like Skype would fair though seeing how this is a US based site. That would be interesting, and super costly.

    He should have hung on to it a bit longer and used the negative publicity from the Skype initial filing to drive traffic to his new sites though.

    He could have also tried to make a disclaimer:
    No claim is made to the exclusive right to use “Skype” apart from the mark as shown.

    That could have thrown them off as well legally, if he had made the disclaimer visible on all pages.

    My take is, that he didn’t have any resources and let himself get pushed around. That happens sometimes.

    Had I taken down sitespaces because of a little threat from Newscorp, I would have been the worse off.

  3. What should have happened? How about a phone call, email or even a blog entry saying:

    “Hey folks, here’s where we need to draw the line to protect our trademarks, it’s a legal thing we need to do. You can reference $DUMB_COMPANY in x,y or z manner, but if you use it in foo, bar or baz fashion we may have to take action.”

    Additionally, the statement should have been surrounded with all sorts of “we love our users, especially our passionate, involved ones” with lots of humble gratitude for the people who make you successful.

    Jeez, for a company that wants to kick the big telcos and media networks squarely between the legs, treating your users just like they do is pretty kick-worthy itself.

  4. What should have happened? How about a phone call, email or even a blog entry saying:

    “Hey folks, here’s where we need to draw the line to protect our trademarks, it’s a legal thing we need to do. You can reference $DUMB_COMPANY in x,y or z manner, but if you use it in foo, bar or baz fashion we may have to take action.”

    Additionally, the statement should have been surrounded with all sorts of “we love our users, especially our passionate, involved ones” with lots of humble gratitude for the people who make you successful.

    Jeez, for a company that wants to kick the big telcos and media networks squarely between the legs, treating your users just like they do is pretty kick-worthy itself.

  5. why do people insist on registering websites with trademarks they don’t own? it’s just stupid at this point. ditto the alexaholic nutjob.

    you wouldn’t lease a building and put a sign out front with “skype blog” on it. why should you get away with it online?

    the correct response isn’t to yank the site down like a baby and pray for scoble to link to the controversy — it’s to contact them and negotiate a license.

    as usual, the blogger is unable to do this and makes a blog post instead. this does not help resolve the issue. sometimes blogging is great, other times it’s just a jackass with a bullhorn.

    as for negative PR, uh — $2.6 billion dollars, was it? let’s pretend that this blogging PR disaster decreases their value by one thousand times the total money rocketboom has sold in advertising so far this year. FYI, that’s $0.

  6. why do people insist on registering websites with trademarks they don’t own? it’s just stupid at this point. ditto the alexaholic nutjob.

    you wouldn’t lease a building and put a sign out front with “skype blog” on it. why should you get away with it online?

    the correct response isn’t to yank the site down like a baby and pray for scoble to link to the controversy — it’s to contact them and negotiate a license.

    as usual, the blogger is unable to do this and makes a blog post instead. this does not help resolve the issue. sometimes blogging is great, other times it’s just a jackass with a bullhorn.

    as for negative PR, uh — $2.6 billion dollars, was it? let’s pretend that this blogging PR disaster decreases their value by one thousand times the total money rocketboom has sold in advertising so far this year. FYI, that’s $0.

  7. “rocketboom has sold in advertising so far this year. FYI, that’s $0.”

    You know who is making the money off of all these great startups?

    Datacenters, bandwidth providers and people who sell development frameworks.

    Scoble pimps these sites like they’re the next sliced bread, when ultimately they disappear after a year or so. Y Combinator stuff is just as bad.

    If you believe the hype and invest, then it’s your fault I suppose. The net will change this year and look much different with all the AJAX frameworks coming out. It will be remarketed further than web 2.0. But it will be every bit as much of a monetary dud as the web since 2000. Only fools get tricked by silicon valley and their mouthpieces. Rocketboom are fools.

  8. “rocketboom has sold in advertising so far this year. FYI, that’s $0.”

    You know who is making the money off of all these great startups?

    Datacenters, bandwidth providers and people who sell development frameworks.

    Scoble pimps these sites like they’re the next sliced bread, when ultimately they disappear after a year or so. Y Combinator stuff is just as bad.

    If you believe the hype and invest, then it’s your fault I suppose. The net will change this year and look much different with all the AJAX frameworks coming out. It will be remarketed further than web 2.0. But it will be every bit as much of a monetary dud as the web since 2000. Only fools get tricked by silicon valley and their mouthpieces. Rocketboom are fools.

  9. I wouldn’t either, besides that wouldn’t be a good idea to build a brand. I would go for something unique. Skype is an unique name. I’m with Skype too.

  10. Chris: I don’t know about Rocketboom but PodTech has sold quite a large amount of stuff so far this year.

    I know lots of startups that are making out just fine. I don’t agree that I’ve really hyped up datacenters, bandwidth providers, and people who sell development frameworks that much.

  11. Chris: I don’t know about Rocketboom but PodTech has sold quite a large amount of stuff so far this year.

    I know lots of startups that are making out just fine. I don’t agree that I’ve really hyped up datacenters, bandwidth providers, and people who sell development frameworks that much.

  12. I wouldn’t either, besides that wouldn’t be a good idea to build a brand. I would go for something unique. Skype is an unique name. I’m with Skype too.

  13. “Chris: I don’t know about Rocketboom but PodTech has sold quite a large amount of stuff so far this year.
    I know lots of startups that are making out just fine. I don’t agree that I’ve really hyped up datacenters, bandwidth providers, and people who sell development frameworks that much.”

    Robert, you could have started a lemonade stand last November, and through the miracle of your contacts it would be a national chain by now. So I don’t think that is a fair comparison.

    Pre-2000 startups used to be able to sell services. That is no longer the case. You have to sell adverts, and the profit margin is horrible. Only somebody like you can instantly pull in big name advertisers and get one to one advertising for your website. Your case is highly unique.

    I would also say you sold a lot of developer hours.

    When we sold pre-made intraweb software for email and social networking ect…. We kind of did the same exact thing, without ever implying that people were going to succeed. I’m glad we don’t do that anymore. Now I tell people that unless they have some ungodly funding or talent, just to buy themselves a fancy new car instead of investing in startups.

    None of this effects business development of course, which is why that’s a good place to invest in IT right about now.

  14. “Chris: I don’t know about Rocketboom but PodTech has sold quite a large amount of stuff so far this year.
    I know lots of startups that are making out just fine. I don’t agree that I’ve really hyped up datacenters, bandwidth providers, and people who sell development frameworks that much.”

    Robert, you could have started a lemonade stand last November, and through the miracle of your contacts it would be a national chain by now. So I don’t think that is a fair comparison.

    Pre-2000 startups used to be able to sell services. That is no longer the case. You have to sell adverts, and the profit margin is horrible. Only somebody like you can instantly pull in big name advertisers and get one to one advertising for your website. Your case is highly unique.

    I would also say you sold a lot of developer hours.

    When we sold pre-made intraweb software for email and social networking ect…. We kind of did the same exact thing, without ever implying that people were going to succeed. I’m glad we don’t do that anymore. Now I tell people that unless they have some ungodly funding or talent, just to buy themselves a fancy new car instead of investing in startups.

    None of this effects business development of course, which is why that’s a good place to invest in IT right about now.

  15. Is this something Skype has to do, due to trademark etc? Yes of course. Is this something which could have been expected? Yup as well.

    It is a clever way to do so and treat Jan like every oder kid who just registers a domain without even the hint of recognition that he might have done something nice (of course in ways which do not in any way admit anything which could be used against them?) Nope.

  16. Is this something Skype has to do, due to trademark etc? Yes of course. Is this something which could have been expected? Yup as well.

    It is a clever way to do so and treat Jan like every oder kid who just registers a domain without even the hint of recognition that he might have done something nice (of course in ways which do not in any way admit anything which could be used against them?) Nope.

  17. @the rocketboom issue

    As soon as Amanda Congdon left they should have shut it down. Just as podtech.networks relies 99% on Scoble, Rocketboom was 115% Amanda. I don’t think she’s hot or anything like that. I think she’s annoying as all bloody hell, BUT she was the star of the show.

    Technology is easily reproducable, but stardom is not.

    Anybody who thinks MySpace was a good example of a little engine that could should read this:
    http://freemyspace.com/history.htm

    Anybody who thinks youtube was profitable or was started by generic California wanna be’s should read up on that business.

    It doesn’t matter what you do as far as the web, it doesn’t matter what good idea you have, it will fail if you do not have exactly the right rich folks and superstars behind it.
    I don’t think that’s evident in your Cali startup series. People do not visit websites for technology features alone, even if they are the bestest technology features ever. Even if God him or herself wrote them on a tablet with lighting. It will still fail.

    We sold software to tons of people with hopes and dreams of making money on the internets. Most of them did not know what kind of massive multi-million dollar team you have to have to achieve said success.

  18. @the rocketboom issue

    As soon as Amanda Congdon left they should have shut it down. Just as podtech.networks relies 99% on Scoble, Rocketboom was 115% Amanda. I don’t think she’s hot or anything like that. I think she’s annoying as all bloody hell, BUT she was the star of the show.

    Technology is easily reproducable, but stardom is not.

    Anybody who thinks MySpace was a good example of a little engine that could should read this:
    http://freemyspace.com/history.htm

    Anybody who thinks youtube was profitable or was started by generic California wanna be’s should read up on that business.

    It doesn’t matter what you do as far as the web, it doesn’t matter what good idea you have, it will fail if you do not have exactly the right rich folks and superstars behind it.
    I don’t think that’s evident in your Cali startup series. People do not visit websites for technology features alone, even if they are the bestest technology features ever. Even if God him or herself wrote them on a tablet with lighting. It will still fail.

    We sold software to tons of people with hopes and dreams of making money on the internets. Most of them did not know what kind of massive multi-million dollar team you have to have to achieve said success.

  19. the person who incurred the greatest loss here was the blogger, not skype.

    the blogger lost the ability to use the skype name and made himself look like a jackass. he could have quietly negotiated a license. but no, he couldn’t resist and made a big heated blog post because he didn’t understand basic business deals or procedure.

    not to keep dropping the rocketboom name, but it’s just like when andrew baron decided to make a blog post dropping out of a deal because he didn’t understand what ‘disparaging’ meant.

    scoble linked to this, too. again with the implication that a big company (microsoft) was making a mistake and misunderstanding the blogosphere.

    that was nov 11. shall we compare the relative trends of microsoft and rocketboom since then?

    stupid comparison, of course. but so are many of these ‘david versus goliath’ blog posts.

  20. the person who incurred the greatest loss here was the blogger, not skype.

    the blogger lost the ability to use the skype name and made himself look like a jackass. he could have quietly negotiated a license. but no, he couldn’t resist and made a big heated blog post because he didn’t understand basic business deals or procedure.

    not to keep dropping the rocketboom name, but it’s just like when andrew baron decided to make a blog post dropping out of a deal because he didn’t understand what ‘disparaging’ meant.

    scoble linked to this, too. again with the implication that a big company (microsoft) was making a mistake and misunderstanding the blogosphere.

    that was nov 11. shall we compare the relative trends of microsoft and rocketboom since then?

    stupid comparison, of course. but so are many of these ‘david versus goliath’ blog posts.

  21. I’m not with Skype. I’m not saying their layers were wrong, but sometimes you need to stop and think carefully of what you are going to do.

    There are TONS of websites that have a BIG BRAND on their title/domain name. “Ring Nokia”, “Apple Gazette”, “SkypeJournal”, “Google Operating System”… and many, many others. Any of them do a great job for the correspondent company, with great passion. Those companies must be really happy about that.

    Looking forward to people like Jan in order to discuss, comment and promote, with passion, my company’s products ;-)

    My take
    http://lucafiligheddu.blogspot.com/2007/04/skype-against-blogger-i-not-with-them.html

  22. I’m not with Skype. I’m not saying their layers were wrong, but sometimes you need to stop and think carefully of what you are going to do.

    There are TONS of websites that have a BIG BRAND on their title/domain name. “Ring Nokia”, “Apple Gazette”, “SkypeJournal”, “Google Operating System”… and many, many others. Any of them do a great job for the correspondent company, with great passion. Those companies must be really happy about that.

    Looking forward to people like Jan in order to discuss, comment and promote, with passion, my company’s products ;-)

    My take
    http://lucafiligheddu.blogspot.com/2007/04/skype-against-blogger-i-not-with-them.html

  23. The big question was whether or not he was making ad based revenue off of his site. If he wasn’t, then there’s not much Skype could do about it.

    Trademarks are there to protect businesses from PRODUCTS that are SIMILAR obviously trying to piggyback on a known BRAND in order to make money…they aren’t there in order to allow companies to SQUELCH free SPEECH.

    Just another example of how companies over-zealously and wrongheadedly go after people who are actually helping their brand.

  24. The big question was whether or not he was making ad based revenue off of his site. If he wasn’t, then there’s not much Skype could do about it.

    Trademarks are there to protect businesses from PRODUCTS that are SIMILAR obviously trying to piggyback on a known BRAND in order to make money…they aren’t there in order to allow companies to SQUELCH free SPEECH.

    Just another example of how companies over-zealously and wrongheadedly go after people who are actually helping their brand.

  25. uh… “squelch free speech”?

    didn’t he just click a button and reappear under a dotcom name that didn’t have “skype” in it?

    big picture: the only thing dumber than having a blog with “blogger” or “myspace” or “live.com” in the domain (death by generic) is to have a domain name with the exact thing you’re talking about in it (death by specific).

    dude needs to learn how to run a business and build a brand. skype did him a favor.

  26. uh… “squelch free speech”?

    didn’t he just click a button and reappear under a dotcom name that didn’t have “skype” in it?

    big picture: the only thing dumber than having a blog with “blogger” or “myspace” or “live.com” in the domain (death by generic) is to have a domain name with the exact thing you’re talking about in it (death by specific).

    dude needs to learn how to run a business and build a brand. skype did him a favor.

  27. you are all right. read my comment on http://www.voip-watch.com.

    hence let’s also close down all other skypethisandthat domain name that write something about voip/skype.

    i was just trying to get clarification on the matter of wether it makes sense to use these domain-names or not.

    maybe somebody can soon tell me what I am doing wrong, except for being an idiot giving free publicity for skype… for so many years.

  28. you are all right. read my comment on http://www.voip-watch.com.

    hence let’s also close down all other skypethisandthat domain name that write something about voip/skype.

    i was just trying to get clarification on the matter of wether it makes sense to use these domain-names or not.

    maybe somebody can soon tell me what I am doing wrong, except for being an idiot giving free publicity for skype… for so many years.

  29. Didn’t a court say the domain name “www.walmartsucks.com” was okay? Using that domain name shouldn’t be a problem, unless using the brand name somehow misleads the public into thinking the website is affiliated with the brand name. Regardless, this is a domain dispute. Arbitration required.

    The trademark issue would be wrapped up in the banner image and how “skype” was used. Was it misleading?

    Like most have said, the dude should have asked for a license in exchange for disclaimer language at the bottom of the blog.

  30. Didn’t a court say the domain name “www.walmartsucks.com” was okay? Using that domain name shouldn’t be a problem, unless using the brand name somehow misleads the public into thinking the website is affiliated with the brand name. Regardless, this is a domain dispute. Arbitration required.

    The trademark issue would be wrapped up in the banner image and how “skype” was used. Was it misleading?

    Like most have said, the dude should have asked for a license in exchange for disclaimer language at the bottom of the blog.

  31. The right to satirize is enshrined in US law, but a fat lot of good that’ll do you in a British court. Personally, I think that co-opting bloggers is a far smarter move than steamrollering them (“nice blog, here’s your free t-shirt, keep in touch” vs C&D letter).

    So, are they going to write C&D’s to everyone who has “Skype me” in their sidebar?

  32. The right to satirize is enshrined in US law, but a fat lot of good that’ll do you in a British court. Personally, I think that co-opting bloggers is a far smarter move than steamrollering them (“nice blog, here’s your free t-shirt, keep in touch” vs C&D letter).

    So, are they going to write C&D’s to everyone who has “Skype me” in their sidebar?

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