Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Hashtag Hijinks

I was a little annoyed yesterday by the April Fool’s jokes I was finding over the internet.  My LinkedIn homepage suggested J.R.R. Tolkein and Sherlock Holmes as people with whom I may want to connect.  And the bar graph on my blog stats page said I got ten times the page views that I really received (if only!).  But trademark infringement humor?  Now that’s funny!

The background – there’s a rapper named Chris Webby, and there’s an internet awards show called the Webby Awards.  And a hashtag is – well, it has something to do with Twitter.   (You can follow me on Twitter @LauraWinston.)

The law-related gossip blog Above the Law posted a story entitled “Cease and Desist Letter of the Day: Who Owns Your Hashtag?”   The story described Chris Webby’s objection to the Webby Awards’ use of the hashtag #Webby, and linked to rapper Webby’s cease and desist letter which the awards Webbys had posted on Tumblr (which now is emblazoned with “April Fools”, but wasn’t until late yesterday).  I was falling for the story until I saw the letter.  Although it contained the language of a serious cease and desist letter (I wonder what real letter they copied), the giveaways were that (1) there was no address of the sending law firm (and I’d never heard of the firm, which turned out to be fake), (2) the registration numbers for US trademark registrations that rapper Webby claimed to own were too high (they were in the 4 millions and we’re only up to the high 3 millions, as only a trademark nerd like me would know), and some of the classes of goods in which they were ostensibly registered were ridiculous – class 4 (industrial lubricants and fuels) for example.

But I WAS fooled in this way – I believed that Above the Law thought the story was real when they posted it.  Turns out they were in on it all the time and had a second post late in the day to this effect.  My apologies to Elie Mystal, the Above the Law editor and author of the posts, for thinking he was that gullible.  

Of course, there is rampant concern about trademark misuse and infringement in social media among trademark owners and practitioners.  That’s why the last sentence of Above the Law’s reveal post has an ominous feel: “It might have been a joke today, but the first hashtag infringement suit is surely just around the corner.”


April 2, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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