Fighting for freerecyling

Even TFN say freecycle is a generic word

It is interesting that as you right something others seem to write along the same lines. At guardian unlimited there is a piece entitled Is it ethical to trademark an ethical word? In this instance there is a company using the word ecotist (sorry was that egotist?) in the context of saving the planet. So TFN you are not on your own and there are others who are equally…

Delving into this a bit further the law does not really care that much for ethics? What is important is that a word is trademarkable. At 4hoteliers there is a piece on this from a trademarking attorney. They cite five lines along which a potential trademark is judged. The first three are considered good cases for trademarking, these being fanciful, arbitrary and suggestive. I leave you, dear reader, to do the research on that page for understanding these.

What I will spend my time blogging about is the last two “weak” categories for trademarking. That is if your potential trademark falls here then you have made some serious mistakes in choosing your trademark. The first is “descriptive” and the question is does freecycle describe what it does. And by golly I bet ANYONE who reads or hears the word “freecycle” could make an easy guess as to what it is all about. That is the word freecycle is descriptive and therefore makes a poor case for trademarking.

The last category is “generic”. Any word that is generic is deemed untrademarkable. Well if you read my previous blog before you will see that across the Internet, freecycling in all its forms is used very generically across many news articles, across many freecycle groups and non-freecycle initiatives.

Just because freecycle is a relatively new made-up word does not stop it being generic. It rides on the back of recycling and the free aspects of the Internet. Such a thing would have been impossible to conceive of before the Internet and that is the only reason it is relatively new. The word has been adopted into common parlance for anyone who gives items to others in their community. It has been adopted globally in the English speaking and in the non-English speaking world.

Yes, TFN could attempt to close down this blog. But they will never stop the plethora of web pages that their TFN newswire links to each day that use freecycle in different spellings and in different contexts – but all to do with freecycling. And TFN applaud and promote such news feeds.

In fact I even blogged how TFN provided a recent link to a newsfeed regarding Brevard Freecycle. This is very interesting because I am assured that Brevard, although compliant with TFN guidelines are absolutely not related to TFN in any way, and I am sure the feeling is mutual. But TFN continue to use Brevard Freecycle as an exemplar of the freecycling spirit, and so they should because Brevard have been a pillar of their local community for as long as the term freecycle has been out there. In fact Deron Beal even continues to use them in his presentations as one of the key successes of the wider freecycling movement. This is despite, I am assured, being explicitly being asked to remove all references of Brevard Freecycle and its initiatives. So my point is that if TFN are happy to continue to refer to the word freecycle in a non-TFN context then surely they are themselves supporting the generic use of the word.

July 17, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle

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