Clickable Culture   Official Research Blog of Phantom Compass
  ‘Second Life’ Trademark Infringement Quantified  
Posted 2007-05-04 by Tony Walsh
In 2005, I wrote that Second Life intellectual-property infringements were rampant, but were largely unrecognized due to the virtual world's barriers to entry and separation from the web. In 2006, I noted that aside from the dramatic increase of outside businesses entering the virtual world, "Basically, the only thing that's really changed here is that the stakes are higher."

Today, Virtually Blind posted an unintentional follow-up, entitled "Rampant Trademark Infringment in Second Life Costs Millions Yearly, Undermines Future Enforcement." In the post, the virtual world's "dirty little legal secret" is quantified. After providing some examples of infringement, intellectual property attorney Benjamin Duranske finds that well over 1% ("probably closer to 3-5%") of in-world merchandise carries unlicensed trademarks--about 115,000 items in March, 2007, or about $2M USD in counterfeit transactions at a conservative estimate of $1.50 per item. Duranske notes that "businesses will need to begin paying close attention to the problem of trademark infringement in virtual spaces much sooner than they think, if they wish to avoid legal and practical difficulties later." Glad he added some numbers and simple examples in the mix, it illustrates the problem quite well--hop over to Virtually Blind for a read.
  ... share via email digg bloglines fark reddit newsvine simpy blogmarks magnolia  
Comment posted by Ordinal Malaprop
May 4, 2007 @ 6:12 pm
Is this actually a _problem_, though? Surely it is a minor issue for a tiny subset of very rich people who don't even go on the grid anyway and wouldn't notice unless their strategists told them it interfered with their plans to sell micropaid content.
Comment posted by wa
May 4, 2007 @ 6:30 pm

Comment posted by Ordinal Malaprop
May 4, 2007 @ 6:33 pm
I hope that wasn't down to me; I would hate to think that I had cost you a subscriber, Mr Walsh.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
May 4, 2007 @ 8:48 pm
I don't know wa from Adam. I don't regret losing what I never knew I had :)

Moving on...

Is "rampant trademark infringement" actually a problem? I think it is, but I'm not a lawyer, so I could be wrong. My understanding is that trademark dilution is a problem for trademark-holders, who don't usually stand for such things in the real world.

If there really are hundreds of thousands of counterfeit items per month being sold in Second Life, how long will the trademark holders stay idle? Since trademark owners are obligated to defend their marks or risk losing them, it stands to reason that they should be sending out hundreds of thousands of cease-and-desist letters or Abuse Reports monthly. Obviously that's not happening, and it's not likely to. I can see two main options here. One is for a group of industry leaders to sue Linden Lab for making software which facilitates the sale of counterfeit goods. Another is for a single trademark holder to sue either a single resident, or a series of infringing residents, and/or Linden Lab.

I think it hurts Linden Lab that it semi-polices trademark infringements. The fact that LL polices even slightly suggests [to me] that the company is liable for how its service is used. The whole reporting mechanism for trademark infringement makes it difficult to seek resolution. File an Abuse Report for trademark infringement? It hasn't worked for me, and I've pointed out some completely blatant cases. The situation will be even worse with Estate-Level Governance, making Estate owners responsible for dealing with Abuse Reports on a territorial basis (if I understand correctly). Who is responsible for policing trademark abuse? Who is responsible for removing counterfeit brands? Linden Lab? Estate owners? Content creators? Trademark holders? Strangely, trademark holders are the least-equipped to get swift resolution, and I think that in itself is a problem.
Comment posted by Secureplay
May 5, 2007 @ 12:22 am
Thanks for the follow up. I think a lot of people don't understand how trademarks work.

Trademarks only stand if you enforce them. Companies (small as well as large) use them to protect their businesses. The burden is on the trademark holder to act to protect their mark, so this is serious. If you don't act to protect a trademark, you lose it.

Second Life's ambiguous stand on this (and many other issues) creates problems for the service. Is Second Life / Linden Lab a carrier like a telco or ISP or more than that?

Of course, if LL renounces its claims to IP developed and posted in the Second Life service, it would make things clearer (and support their intermittent argument that they are a carrier/information service with limited responsibility for the acts of their customers).

Even so, Google, Yahoo, and most ISPs act quickly when given a take-down notice.

There are no virtual worlds, just information services in the real world - get over it!
Comment posted by csven
May 5, 2007 @ 11:15 am
Yep. It's an issue. And personally I'll side with the corporations on this one.

There are two ways to look at it that spin it differently than how I assume most people think:

1) using someone else's trademark is bad for the little guy and bad for everyone in general (except the offenders). At a time when virtual marketplaces are growing and opportunities open up for smaller players, trademark theft is nothing but a selfish effort to capitalize not just by using a big corporate brand, but by gaining an unfair advantage over other smaller players; it's the start-ups which are hurt the worst. Consequently, it's bad for the Second Life economy, and if any of my arguments with LL got through re: trademark, I suspect it was this one that struck home.

2) if we're going to hold corporations accountable for less than charitable activities (and I'm all for doing that), then I don't want some greedy bastard muddying the water. If someone illegally appropriates a trademark and does something as a result that offends the greater community, then a) the corporation is incorrectly held accountable and b) the real offender remains effectively anonymous so that they can appropriate another brand name and pull the same stunt all over again. If a corporation does something bad, I don't want their behavior put in relief against someone with no Reputation to protect whose behavior may be more outrageous. And I want to know exactly who to blame.

The sooner average people realize that trademark theft affects them as much as it does the brand owners, the better off we'll all be imo.
[ Detailed Search ]
Clickable Conversation
on 4159 entries

Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'

yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please

Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool

Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please

It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy? get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?

Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock

Clickable Culture Feeds:

RSS 2.0 ATOM 1.0 ALL



Clickable Culture
Copyright (c)1999-2007 in whole or in part Tony Walsh.

Trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments owned by the Poster. Shop as usual, and avoid panic buying.