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Closed until further notice.


Today this comment was posted on this blog, claiming that the name panospace is registered / copyrighted. While I am considering my options, I temporarily suspend blogging here.

My reaction is in no way an implied nor explicit acknowledgment of wrongdoing and I reserve myself the right to continue blogging here. As far as I know I have done nothing wrong and I am not violating any U.S. or Canadian law, but I am not inclined to attract bad vibrations.

To be sure, I made a quick research again. There is no entry for panospace in the U.S. Trade Mark Database (wordpress.com is domiciled in the U.S. and under U.S. jurisdiction). Nor in Canada where I am resident.

I am not too familiar with U.S. Trade Mark laws, but here in Canada it is most likely that the term panospace will be considered a generic composite noun that can’t be registered. Or has anybody registered / copyrighted / trademarked the terms cyberspace? and panohead?

I have no intention to infringe on anybody’s right, but I have also no intention to be intimidated, and I will defend my rights if necessary.

This accident reminds me of a similar accident on the defunct French Photopanorama YahooGroup, when somebody claimed ownership to the word “panographe”. He was greeted with hostility and kicked out by the group, whose members are all competing and all call themselves “panographes” without the need to claim exclusivity or potential confusion. Maybe there is a loophole in French legislation? Anyway, French legislation does not apply here.

What do you think?

10 Responses

  1. It looks like Antoine is trying to be friendly about it, but I think your research supports your right to blog under this name in a non-commercial capacity (I am not in any way qualified to make this assertion, BTW). Further, I think the complainant has misunderstood their rights. You can’t copyright a name, and they have failed to assert in the past how panospace is a registered (or even unregistrered) trademark in active use. The panospace.com site has a lovely copyright symbol next to the name, which I understand to be meaningless in the jurisdiction that you operate. A “TM” or “R” next to the name must be backed up with active protection of the trademark they are asserting.

    Then again, maybe the rules are different in France. They have odd rules about selling photos of the Eiffel Tower at night, so there may be more to it (the Geneva Convention may even kick in somehow). If you wish to keep using the name, I’d be leaning on them for some better evidence that they have a claim. Otherwise, it might be easier to consider a new name for your blog, but that would be a pain to go through.

    Incidentally, there’s a group in Australia that claim a trademark on the name too. http://www.panoramicoz.com/legal.asp
    Even there, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I share the same business name with at least 2 other companies in other parts of the world, and there are no issues, we even contemplated linking to each other to ease any possible confusion.

    Good luck with it, I hope the blog lives on.

  2. Well, this had been pointed out when you launched this website – it is unfortunate.

    I am no legal expert, and I can offer no advice on the rest.

  3. I couldn’t find panospace in the registry of french trademark (http://www.icimarques.com/), and the law in France is very clear, if your trademark is not registered, you can’t assert any rights to it, but then even if he had, unless he had registered the trademark in the USA, the only things he could legally do would be to ask wordpress to prevent the access to your blog from France. But I guess Antoine is just disappointed that your blog is rank first in google when searching for panospace ;)

  4. http://google.wordpress.com/

  5. I also agree with Roger’s interpretation.

    AFAIK, trademarks are enforced on a country level, by individual countries, and need to be registered as such. It sounds as if the “registered” part he mentions is “registered the domain name” of.

    Antoine Cuvelier has made a mistake in his interpretation of Copyright Law; personal photographs are Copyrighted and protected by international Copyright laws to an individual the instance he creates one.

    “Service marks” — those names in and of which a company uses for trade, such as a Trademark, or Registered Trademark which are noted by the ™ or (r) markings — must be registered IN EVERY COUNTRY he does business trade.

    Service marks do not have the immediacy transferred to a person like a Copyright does, because they serve two different purposes: Copyrights protect the IDEAS that an individual creates from another thieving individual by acknowledging the one person that created it. Tradenames are just that: “Trade names”. Used for branding or endorsement of a product FOR TRADE, even though one product (Kleenex(tm) brand tissues anyone?) might be completely identical to another.

    If you were able to copyright a word, Webster’s would be making a mint suing the entire English world.

    My guess is that Antoine is hoping to bump his domain name popularity up in Google by overtaking yours in a quiet takeover. If he can present a legal proof of ownership of the Panospace trademark in both France AND the US/Canada, you may be obliged to change the name.

    I’d keep using it until you hear from his lawyer. Even if he/his lawyers do, they must grant a reasonable amount of time to correct any legal errors after bringing it to your attention. They could only sue you for damages if you genuinely prove lack of concern to correct the oversight.

    Until then, his wishes mean squat, as he is not a lawyer.

  6. IANAL, but I think you’re safe. As Roger correctly points out Copyright has nothing to do with this issue.
    Also, I checked on http://www.icimarques.com/ if I could find any french trademark about it, so still no ground for legal action.

  7. He can’t claim a copyright on a brand name, at best he could have registered a Trade Mark or related thingie. IANAL but while copyrights exist de facto as soon as you create something, trade marks /have/ to be registered.
    If he hasn’t registered it where you live, he can probably just STFU.

  8. The usual “I am not a lawyer” applies.

    Prior comments have already pointed out the obvious. He holds no trademark in Canada, he doesn’t hold a trademark with WIPO, ergo.. he doesn’t have a leg to stand on, currently. Even if he has a trademark in France, then at worst you wouldn’t be able to do business in France under the PanoSpace name. You’re already not doing any business in France, so that’s a moot point.

    Google-wise.. Mr. Cuvelier’s website is currently result #2 (which is surprising as it hasn’t really changed since 2003; I guess that has more to do with the relatively uniqueness of the name).
    He can’t particularly claim lost revenue from a competitor either, as you do not offer, nor link to, people/companies that make/sell panoramic images.

    I wish Seb would qualify his statement “Well, this had been pointed out when you launched this website”, as I feel that – regardless of legal standings – this is important from a courtesy viewpoint.
    However, I didn’t find any comment that pointed this out near the beginnings of your blog. Mr. Cuvelier’s comment may be in the first blog posting, but the date on it is of today (or yesterday by now).
    If it was indeed pointed out early on that there’s overlap, I think you should have reconsidered the name. If not, then certainly you now have so much exposure that changing your site’s name, location, etc. would be quite a hassle.

    The above said… if somehow he feels cheated, he could – at great expense – file a trademark registration in Canada and, in the unlikely event that he’s granted said trademark, come back to you once more this time with legal backing. The reason it’s unlikely is because he doesn’t have a legal or significant commercial presence in Canada (that we know of).

    -That- having been said, these things are always best resolved amicably. Mr. Cuvelier doesn’t seem to be completely loopy – simply pointing out that the names overlap and that he fears confusion from existing and potential new clients and would rather not see that happen. Although his request you change the name then seems a bit overboard, consider it a haggle instead. Offer to add a link with the “Looking for Mr. Cuvelier’s PanoSpace? Please visit www dot panospace dot com (no affiliation with panospace.wordpress.com – This week in panospace)” that other sites who have been through this before (usually on the domain name) have put up.
    If Mr. Cuvelier does not agree to this, then at least you have shown willingness to resolve the underlying matter without incurring significant inconvenience yourself.

    And -that- having been said (I’ll stop after this one, I promise); some might see that as advertising, that Australian company might bug you for a link as well (and they at least have legal standing in Australia), etc. etc.

    When in doubt – seek legal counsel :)

  9. This classical “war” and “run-ins” of microsites.

    panospace.com – down position 12,013,470 rate
    this very low result:)))
    http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/panospace.com

    panospace.wordpress.com – 1,159,045 rate

    http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details/panospace.wordpress.com

    you ahead of on ~11 mln upper steps

    _____

    Edit: Section with inappropriate language not contributing new facts to the discussion censored.

    ____

    panospace.wordpress.com – it’s third domain

    tomorrow I open public blogs:

    americanairlines.wordpress.com or

    georgebush.wordpress.com

    Nobody – don’t complaint!

  10. Comments on the legal opinions in this thread.

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