This following is a message from Deron Beal, the founder of The
Freecycle Network. In addition, I request any member that is aware
of an experienced probono attorney in the Bay Area, to please contact
Mr. Beal via email at email@example.com
This special notice is not an easy one to write. It relates to our
trademark. But it is also very important for you to have this info.
We have a trademark and have applied for its further registration
with the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Registration of a
trademark strengthens one's legal right to the use of the name and/or
logo. Before a trademark (or TM) becomes an "R," or registered
trademark, it is first published for opposition for a period of one
month by the USPTO. Our trademark for this nonprofit organization has
now been published. As was to be expected, Tim Oey, a former local
volunteer mod in Sunnyvale, is opposing our registration.
In a letter from his legal counsel, he demanded from us as an
organization that we renounce our trademark and allow Mr. Oey to use
it for his own group. If we did not comply with his demands he said
he would oppose our trademark registration. This letter was in
October. Our trademark registration which has been pending for about
1 ½ years was published for opposition two days ago and he is indeed
opposing it. *But* he is also suing us in the US District Court of
Appeals of Northern California (more later on this one).
Now, the opposition of our registration is a case which will go
before the USPTO to determine. This will cost both sides tens of
thousands of dollars. The outcome will either be that the trademark
is registered or that it is declared generic. On the most basic
level, it would mean that countless local and overlapping Yahoo
Groups could then be set up in every community with any methods,
rules or purposes which they like. Whether for monetary gain, for-
sale, items, fees, for-profit interests: all would be fair game. This
would naturally lead to intergroup flaming amongst competing group
members, the splintering of groups, and other messy scenarios, etc.
You get the picture. This would then also mean that the goodwill that
each of you have worked so hard to establish as associated with the
name and the free and volunteer community nature would be lost to any
commercial concern with the investment capital to invest in a
Freecycle.com site. It would be a tragic and singular loss of what is
a movement of caring and compassionate people.
But, well beyond this loss, Mr. Oey also is suing the organization in
the US Federal District Court of Northern California. This is an
entirely separate lawsuit. He is suing for damages resulting
from "trademark infringement" supposedly by us as a nonprofit using
our own name and claiming it as a trademark. This goes well beyond
the USPTO opposition. It also enables Mr. Oey to seek monetary
damages from The Freecycle Network. In other words, if he should win,
he could get anywhere from just legal-related expenses to say a
million dollars in damages. It really doesn't matter what the sum,
because even the lowest end would lead to our bankruptcy as an
organization and, lacking an organization, a legal entity, a right to
the name, it would likely be the final blow to this movement as a
whole. To be clear this goes well beyond his earlier expressed
intent "merely" to oppose our trademark with the USPTO. It is a court
case which would not only cause us to lose the trademark but also to
have to shut our doors as an organization. This is quite serious.
I just found all of this out yesterday. I'll be meeting with our pro
bono lawyers here in Tucson on Monday or Tuesday. But there is little
they can do as this will be a case in northern California in the Bay
Area, not in Arizona and they don't have a license to practice in
California. This means we need to do our darnedest as an organization
to find a really good pro bono lawyer in the Bay Area who is a patent
and trademark specialist and is a litigator. Mr. Oey has a lawyer
with one of the ten largest legal firms in the world which also
specializes in this field. If you have any leads on finding such a
lawyer, please let me know personally at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Obviously this situation will dramatically hinder current projects
which take time or funding, such as the current website design
project. All bets are off until we are able to deal with this legal
issue. We'll need every penny we can get. From here forward for the
coming months, my time will also be extremely limited as you can
Sorry about the bad news. I'll let you know as I learn more. This
will not be fun, but is extremely critical to our survival to pursue
our legal defense as best we possibly can.
What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, right?