WordPress belongs to the community

Highlight — Some WordPress community members are receiving cease and desist emails from Toni of Automattic Inc. for trademark infringement:

I work for Automattic Inc. We run wordpress.com and we own the WordPress trademark. We have noticed that you are using the WordPress name in your [domainname.com] domain and product without our permission. We are asking you to stop using our trademark to market your [services]. Please let us know how long it will take you to change the name of your site and product.

I initially bumped into one of these when a friend of mine asked for a tip. I’ve been reading about the issue since on Andy Wibbel’s blog and on Kenneth Stein’s blog.

I end up wondering on what grounds a privately owned company should regulate a name that has been used by an open source community for years before it was ever registered as a Trademark.

Matt Mullenweg suggests they’re only hunting down spammy looking products. This sounds wonderful on paper, but it’s not always easy to decide what spam is. And you may lose a trademark’s protection if you enforce it inconsistently.

Moreover, it remains to be seen if they’d get their way in court. Consider the Taubman Sucks case (condensed version). In particular, the act related to enforcing trademarks in domain names. The full report suggests that the case for enforcing trademarks in domain names is slim in the US. It may be even slimmer in China.

I’d like to join Andy’s call for clarifications. The case is strong for a trademark to prevent abuse, dilution or confusion. The case is even stronger for a boilerplate disclaimer to use on relevant pages and products.