Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I smell a cease-and-desist letter

Have you seen MsDewey.com? It's an odd, somewhat diverting "search engine," with terrible results, but featuring a funny—and hot, albeit scary-hot—actress who flirts with you, insults you and generally hams it up to the questions you give her. Play around, but ones like "Kiss me!," "How old are you?" and anything mentioning Bush have specific responses. The calculator to the right came out in order to insult my manhood!

Anyway, I'll eat my socks if this thing doesn't go down in a jiffy. Dewey is a registered trademark of OCLC, and trademarks—unlike patents and copyrights—must be actively defended if they are to remain valid. If OCLC doesn't act, the Dewey Decimal System* could end up like the "elevator" trademark. Notably, OCLC sued the Library Hotel (OCLC Press Release), for daring to decorate and number its rooms by Dewey, citing the need for trademarks to be "vigorously defended." After a public-relations debacle—OCLC sued them for three-times profits!—the parties settled.**

From a WhoIs search it appears the site as put together by San Francisco-based EVB. Searching some more, I discover that Microsoft has confessed to sponsoring the site, writing:
"Who says search can’t be fun? At Windows Live we are constantly exploring new and creative ways to promote our search offering and deliver relevant information in an interesting and engaging way. The Ms. Dewey website is just one example of these efforts."
I'm AMAZED Microsoft would make a legal blunder like this. And if OCLC approved it, there'd be a ® symbol somewhere, don't you think?

*I object on principle to the trademark, and to the IP issues generally. Melvil Dewey died in 1931. The core of the system long since passed into the public domain everywhere. You want more bitching? See here.
**Their press release quotes the hotel as saying:
“We do not believe that our use of the Dewey® trademarks in our beautiful boutique hotel near the New York Public Library infringes OCLC's Dewey® trademarks. ... But acknowledging OCLC's Dewey® trademarks and making a charitable contribution to promote reading by children, rather than spending money litigating, seems to be a reasonable way to resolve this matter.”
Considering that everyone says that you only need to use the ® symbol once, having them use it three times in a row looks a tad forced.

9 Comments:

Anonymous thebiblioholic said...

Does OCLC have a lock on the name "Dewey" or just the Dewey Decimal System? The hotel lawsuit was about unlicensed use of the numbering system. Isn't Dewey just the name of a man?

I don't pretend to understand how any of these lawsuits make any sense. I stumbled upon one where Nissan Motors was suing the business using nissan.com, even though the claim is that Mr. Nissan (of nissan.com) named his business after himself about 30 years ago, back when Nissan was Datsun.

10/26/2006 1:32 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

No, they've got Dewey too.

http://www.llrx.com/features/deweyoclc.htm

The trademark is "for periodical publication, electronically recorded on compact discs, featuring an index relating to a system of classifying the field of human knowledge." But the argument would be based on its tendency to devalue that trademark.

In my book the worst case was the International Olympic committee going after Greek Pizza shops with "Olympic" in their name. If you can make Greek people not name their pizza after a Greek mountain or some 2300-year old Greek games, you can do anything!

10/26/2006 1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seems that as long as they claimed they were using an old edition of Dewey that was out of copyright, they should have been ok - thats crazy...

10/26/2006 10:14 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

No, trademarks don't expire like copyright. There are 19c. trademarks that still have teeth.

10/26/2006 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Dewey from Unshelved?

10/26/2006 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about parody (since, you know, the thing is FUNNY, and parody plus lack of profit will help a "fair use" judgment)?

10/26/2006 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, I've stayed at the Library Hotel, I think on the "history" section floor (though I have to admit I don't remember the Dewey number). I understand the whole issue of copyright, but this seems like a stretch... Good that it was settled

10/27/2006 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this mean that Dewey (one of Donald Ducks nephews) has to change his name? Huey, Louie, and ****.

10/27/2006 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't ask her anything and she acts irritated and bored. Ask her if she's a librarian and she'll bring out her whip. This is a little more creepy than funny although I guess it depends on your sensitivity to librarian stereotypes. Personally it reminds me of the Microsoft paperclip that purported to be helpful instead of irritating. I think it will provide a quick laugh and then die a quick death because as a parody it might work once, but as a search tool it is completely useless.

10/27/2006 4:15 PM  

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