June 26, 2011

Following your competitor’s Twitter followers is now legal

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 3:52 pm

Two weeks ago the court in Amsterdam held that trying to get your competitor’s Twitter followers to follow you is indeed perfectly legal.

Mediavacature.nl (which means ‘mediajob.nl’) had asked the court to stop mediavacatures.nl from abusing their trademark. The court ruled that trying to hijack your competitor’s followers is not illegal per se (PDF, Dutch):

4.10 Twitter

The defendants admit that the Twitter account @mediavacatures is being used to follow customers of the plaintiff on Twitter. Twitter is all about following and being followed. Furthermore all data on Twitter are public. Following the followers of a competitor can therefore not be seen as an illegal act per se. What is more, profiting of somebody else’s product, effort, knowledge or insight is not illegal by itself, even if this harms the other party. This only becomes illegal if a Twitter user (intentionally or otherwise) causes confusion with the general public.

Unsurprisingly the court ended up finding for the plaintiff, but the defendant did not have to turn over their Twitter account, domain name and brand, as they were no longer allowed to keep using them anyway. The defendants call themselves MV Jobs Media now.

At Arnoud Engelfriet’s blog somebody claiming to work for Media Vacature (plaintiff) pointed out that the Twitter claim was just a small part of their set of claims.

(Illustration: Twitter logo. Link: De Pers.)

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June 22, 2010

Dutch Twitter hashtag claim unfounded

Filed under: Online by Orangemaster @ 11:00 am

A hashtag in Twitter is a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign (#). If it’s a sentence, like #whatsontelly, it is written without spaces. It gives a certain punch to tweets, as a tweet is only 140 characters long. It is also used for people to search for subjects like #obama #oilspill #tigerwoods and so on.

Our favourite Internet-savvy lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet explains how some Dutch folk have missed their mark.

First of all, the trademark claim for #weetjevandedag (roughly, this day in history or what happened on this day) was claimed on an image (a square, black-and-white, cartoon-like smiley face), not on the hashtag expression. If you don’t use the image, it’s not an infringement. Second, such an expression is general and does not differentiate the trademark in question from other things. Third, the trademark claims it already won a court case on someone using their trademark with no proof anywhere to be found to back it up. In English it’s called ‘hot air’, in Dutch it’s lovingly called ‘baked air’ (‘gebakken lucht’).

(Link tip @wilbertbaan (Twitter), blog.iusmentis.com)

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September 13, 2008

Copyright judges: “copying unnecessarily is always bad”

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:51 am

Copyright law professor Dirk Visser interviewed 17 judges of so-called “intellectual property” cases (copyrights, patents, trademarks) and found some remarkable similarities:

  • Cases are mostly decided in the first instance (usually of a Kort Geding, the fast track for law suits that demand speedy attention),
  • Judges feel that creating confusion or misleading is always wrong,
  • Judges feel that copying in itself is not bad, but copying unnecessarily is.

Unfortunately the article with the results is behind a pay wall, so I have to rely on this summary by Boek 9 (Dutch). The suggestion though seems to be that cases are decided on moral, rather than sound legal or economic grounds.

According to Boek 9, public research and expert opinion barely influence the judges—their experience being that such studies and statements are almost always imprecise, manipulated, one-sided or contradictory.

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August 27, 2008

Cake fight

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 7:48 am

There’s war in pastry land. Bakers John and Petra Hartog have recently registered the name “skitaart” (ski cake) and are having their lawyers send threatening letters (Dutch) to other bakers who use the same name. A ski cake consists of a “vlaai” (pie) bottom, filled with yellow cream and cherries, and topped with powdered sugar foam. Baker Marco Lakerveld, a competitor from Wijk bij Duurstede, doesn’t worry about the Hartog’s trademark claims. He says he has managed to lay hands on a thirty year old baker’s magazine in which the name “skitaart” was already used.

Meanwhile baker Ruud van Oort, the inventor of the skitaart and the guy who sold his bakery to the Hartogs in 2007, is down in the dumps over this legal fight. He has been making his original for thirty years, but never worried about pie-racy (I so could not stop myself there—sorry!). Van Oort told Bakkerswereld (Baker’s World, Dutch): “This is so sad. I was always very proud that other bakers copied what I had created.”

You have to wonder why the Hartogs are so vehemently throwing away the reputation built by Van Oort. This cake could blow up in their faces in all kinds of interesting ways.

Via Boek 9 (Dutch). Photo by Inkswamp, some rights reserved.

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August 12, 2008

The Law on Internet, geek lawyer’s book ready for pre-order

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 8:36 pm

Arnoud Engelfriet is a geek turning lawyer, and a prolific blogger. That puts him a couple of notches ahead of other technology-oriented legal professionals in that he knows what he is talking about when discussing the meeting of law and technology. In September he will discuss this meeting a lot when he publishes his first book, De wet op internet (“The Law on Internet”—the Dutch title unfortunately lacks the second ambiguity).

If you want to know what pitfalls bloggers encounter, when hyperlinks are illegal, or what trademarks have to do with domain names, this book could be what you need. A 5 euro discount awaits those who promise before September 1 to purchase De wet op internet.

Disclaimer: the past few weeks I have been guest-posting at Arnoud’s Iusmentis-blog. Cover design by Jolie Martin-Van der Klis.

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February 16, 2008

English words no longer automatic trademarks

Filed under: Sports by Branko Collin @ 2:46 pm

Visitors to the Netherlands have noticed the phenomenon before, but now a judge has confirmed it: English has become common in the Netherlands. So common, that the use of an English word in a trademark no longer makes that trademark automatically unique. The owner of the “Runner Hardloopcentrum Groningen” trademark found this out last year when it tried to stop a competitor from trading under the name “Runnersworld” through the courts.

Having a trademark means that you are the only one allowed to use that word or phrase for selling your products or services. To avoind stifling commerce, words common to a certain trade cannot be trademarked. If you are a glass fitter, you cannot trademark the word “glass fitter,” because that would mean other glass fitters would infringe upon your trademark as soon as they described their commercial activities.

In 1993 the same parties stood in front of the same bench, and the judge then held that the two brand names were confusingly similar. But the Groningen court now finds that the Netherlands have changed. According to the judgement published by Book 9 (Dutch) “running” is a now a common enough word in the Netherlands to describe, er, running. The 1993 winner lost.

Via the Iusmentis Blog (Dutch).

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