Fighting for freerecyling

Top Posts 10: Freecycle in 2002?

As we all know Deron used the word freecycle first in his domain name and company name in 2003.  Someone has just provided a freecycle link (in the freecycle sense) that stems back to 2002.  You need to read to the bottom of this page on Aol Journals.  This one is interesting in that it seems to be a real free recycling group called Roseburg Freecycle.  If anyone can provide any further illumination on these events I am sure that would be much appreciated by all.


September 10, 2007 Posted by | freecycle | 1 Comment

Top Posts 9: Give & Take

Back in August 2007, Pete of the old Rewley Regis freecycle group wrote to FCnext about the departure from left TFN when, along with around 10 other freecycle groups they established Give and Take.  Their reasons for departure can be read here.

September 10, 2007 Posted by | freecycle | Leave a comment

Top Posts 8: Copyright versus Trademark

It has been asserted that The Freecycle Network had problems attempting to trademark since the copyright owner’s license to TFN did not permit trademarks. Much of the evidence on this can be read here.

September 10, 2007 Posted by | freecycle, trademark | Leave a comment

When the Cease and Desist letters start flying

Already The Freecycle Network closed down a yahoo group that was into music and nothing to do with free recycling, simply because it has the word freecycle in the name. If they win their court case then without any constraints I wonder where their Cease and Desist letters might end up. If you put “freecycles” into google then you end up some interesting links.

One is a yahoo group of people who paint themselves. These are the “Painted Cyclists in the Fremont” who turn out each year for their Solstice Parade each year, and always with no clothes on. Interestingly their yahoo group started on May 30th, 2003. If Deron wins his legal battle, I wonder if he will cycle there and deliver his Cease and Desist letter by hand 🙂 If he does I will be ready with my camera.

Another is a bike shop in Missouri offering bikes at no cost as a good deed to the community as part of a sustainable transport initiative. I am not sure their Cease and Desist letter will go down well with environmentalists anywhere. Interestingly I would argue this group had a greater claim to use the name since “free+cycles” = “freecycles”. They didn’t even have to leave out the “RE”.

September 10, 2007 Posted by | cease and desist, freecycle | Leave a comment

When is a noun, not a noun

When the word is freecycle. Someone who started the trademarking initiative off really got their knickers in a twist about the English (whether US or UK or whatever) language. They “decided” that the word freecycle was a noun.

Until that point derivatives that The Freecycle Network (both centrally and across all groups) had been propagating were verb forms such as freecycler, freecycling (as in Keep On Freecyclin’), freecycles and freecycled. These verb forms roll off the tongue so exquisitely that any search for these across the Internet will yields 1000’s of hits. However when their trademarking initiative started verb forms became a banned thing.

But in fact almost every single one of the newswire pages linked to from the official freecycle network pages, whether in the USA, or the UK or indeed any country – almost all the newswire articles refer to freecycle as a verb. So in linking to these news articles The Freecycle Network is going against its own noun definition.

I will just give you one example running from today’s home page for TFN, here in the UK. At the bottom right corner in their newswire links is an article entitled Online Freecycling club sees pig fly off to join new owner. If you look through the official TFN newswire archives they are full of links to news articles that are clearly in trademark infringement (according to TFN definition) and really instead of being posted as official news articles on behalf of TFN they should have a Cease and Desist letter sent out. (For your benefit in case this particular link goes, here is the original article.)

This official support for freecycle as a verb is not a new thing inside TFN. It is something they have done from the very first days even before they started their newswire, but since then it has grown exponentially.

I understand that TFN cannot be held responsible for the words spoken by journalists. But these news articles often are quoting what are we are lead to believe are bona-fide trademark compliant groups. Not only are the groups allowed to promote freecycle as a verb in whatever way shape or form they want, but also TFN officially propagates all that on its newswire.

I will go so far as to argue that the search terms used by TFN to research and build up its newswire include all the verb forms.

If TFN was truly serious about its trademark claims then should it not send Cease and Desist letters to each and every one of their news feed articles where a trademark infringement occurs?

Further to that, surely shouldn’t Deron Beal, the father of TFN, make sure that his own freecycle group and website are in order first? If you look at this TFN official newswire page then you will see that even in Tuscon there exists at least one ‘freecycler’. This is not even an old article – this one is very recent, viz 29th June, 2007.

In fact, since the official website for The Freecycle Network is fighting a law suit in which Tim Oey is accused of encouraging propagation of the word freecycle in verb forms, surely there is a contradiction here. I just can’t quite put my finger on it.

September 10, 2007 Posted by | freecycle, trademark | Leave a comment

Why trademarking freecycle is a bad thing

People who read this blog will see that I am not exactly pro-trademarking. For many they may think I am trying to do TFN down. This is most definitely not the case. It is just that for the kind of industry that TFN operates in trademarking is a very wrong thing to do. In addition to the criticisms I have levelled elsewhere in this blog there is one fundamental reason about which I have not blogged so far, at least in detail.

So far what I have concentrated on is whether TFN actually have a right to trademark. I am sure that from Deron’s perspective he is thinking well if I do not have that right, then no one else does.

To understand this you must envisage the initial meetings between the founder of TFN and its legal and accounting advisers. They might argue things like, “if you do not trademark then anyone or any company will be able to take the name over and use it against you.”

This, I feel is probably the key argument that might have been made in favour of trademarking. Sadly it is wrong.

We all know (at least I hope all my readers know) there is a court case about the freecycle trademark claim going through the 9th Circuit courts. The result which was due last month is now due this month. Predicting exactly when the result might appear seems a challenge, so we will just wait and when I know, so will you.

So here what I would like to concentrate on is why I think trademarking the word freecycle is fundamentally a wrong turn for TFN.

If anyone has made a big “business” out of the word freecycle then it has to be Deron – 76 countries, 4000 groups is no mean feat. There are a number of people who claim, with evidence, that he “gave” the word freecycle to the world. In the beginning, for example, he built the first website boasting the verb “freecycling” (actually the “g” was dropped in favour of an apostrophe. Beyond that he encouraged groups to use the word freely. No mention was made of trademarking.

And then the lawyers got involved and, in my opinion advised Deron badly. They knew that if they were acting pro-bono on that day and in the near future then if they were ever going to recoup their investment in full then advising against trademarking was not the way to do that. Instead looking at the value of Internet domain name sales and also the value of strong brand names must have seemed like manna from heaven, just a few years downstream. So why not trademark?

So, with no answers being stated, the crank started on the trademark machinery factory. In the UK we tend to be more driven by accountants than lawyers, so we might have have a clearer perspective on a subject such as this. In the USA once the first turn had been made the engine started and has never stopped ever since.

I am sure that in his heart of hearts right at the beginning Deron knew that trademarking was wrong. That was why he encouraged full use of the word (that had actually been first registered as a domain name for other businesses three or four years earlier in the year 2000).

So what IS wrong with the trademarking engine.

I believe that if Deron had not gone down the trademarking way then the word would have truly been accepted as a generic word. 76 countries and 10 million people all freecycling as freecyclers and all the volunteers is a fair bit of ammunition to stop any would be predator company coming in.

I believe that owning and maintaining the domain name associated with this worldwide enterprise would have been sufficient.

I believe that if Deron had not gone down the trademarking route then he would have had so much credibility from the world that 76 countries and 10 million people and all the volunteers would have supported him to the ends of the earth.

All this would have happened because that is the nature of Internet social communities.

It is not too late to stop.

September 10, 2007 Posted by | freecycle, trademark | Leave a comment