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Taser International Sues Second Life Creator Over Virtual Replicas

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the wait-what dept.

The Courts 119

Massively is reporting on a lawsuit filed by Taser International against Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, over in-game sales of virtual replicas of Taser's products. Quoting: "Basically, a few people in Second Life make some digital replicas of Taser's products that do not have the same function as Taser's products, or props that have the Taser name, but do not have any functions or resemblance similar to Taser products. Some of these content creators also manufacture/sell material that Taser describes as pornographic, or offensive, and they feel that their brand is being linked with these prurient materials, and that they're losing business and sales to Linden Lab. ... Normally you'd just have the content creators named as defendants. Taser's complaint doesn't show much (if any) understanding of what's going on, but it does seem as if they have inadvertently hit a nail on the head. Since Linden Lab's acquisition of Xstreet SL, the Lab is no longer mediating transactions between buyers and sellers. Xstreet SL arguably retails on behalf of sellers, and takes a commission. It's going to be difficult to argue that the Lab/Xstreet SL is not selling these items. That potentially places the Lab in the liability loop."

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119 comments

second life? (5, Insightful)

Turiko (1259966) | more than 5 years ago | (#27719957)

when you register, linden labs clearly states that what the people make is their work, and linden labs doesn't interfere... so why does taser try this? They need to contact the maker, but of course it's easier to get linden labs.

Re:second life? (5, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720037)

Some nutcase judge is probably going to rule against LL.

Judicial ignorance of modern technology is at an all time high these days after all.

Re:second life? (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720199)

when you register, linden labs clearly states that what the people make is their work, and linden labs doesn't interfere... so why does taser try this?

Because having that disclaimer there doesn't (necessarily) mean squat.

If you have a sign in your shop that says "we don't give refunds", and a court orders you to do a refund, then you give a refund.

If you have a sign in your playground that says "enter at own risk. we are not liable if you hurt yourself", and someone hurts themselves, and a court deems that you were negligent, then you will be liable.

Forget about the "right thing" here because Taser don't care.

They need to contact the maker, but of course it's easier to get linden labs.

I think you've answered your own question there. Not just because it's easier, but because it's more likely to succeed.

It could be an interesting court case though...

Taser: Someone is making Taser branded dildo's in your game. Make them stop and give us some money for damaging the image of our products.
Linden: You can't sue us, you have to sue the person playing the game who is responsible for infringing on your trademark.
Taser: Okay then, who is that?
Linden: We're not going to tell you, without a court order.

time passes...

Taser: Here's a court order, give up the details
Linden: Hmmm... all we seem to have is a name "I. P. Freely" and a post office box in Sweden. Maybe you should contact their ISP?
Taser: What is their ISP?
Linden: We can't give you that information without a court order

and so on.

Re:second life? (5, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720209)

Taser: Someone is making Taser branded dildo's in your game.

Actually instead of suing, maybe Taser should start making them in real life?

Taser - Electrify your love life!

Re:second life? (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722233)

I'd be shocked. SHOCKED, I tell you!

Re:second life? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720593)

However AFAIK the DMCA absolves providers of services that allow user uploads of legal trouble as long as they obey the whole DMCA claim/counterclaim procedure.

Re:second life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720631)

In this case Linden Lab is a seller, not just a service provider.

Re:second life? (1)

Hellershanks (1315357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720717)

Wrong They are a host of content created by a user. Much like youtube They make a little bit of money off the sale through the website of SLX but that would be the only real damages Taser could go after (all of maybe 100 bucks us) Taser still needs to follow the usual DCMA procedures that even the RIAA follows when they go after a youtube video

Re:second life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720807)

They used to be. Now they retail it as well.

Re:second life? (1)

Hellershanks (1315357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721271)

Nope, they are no more the retailer than the classified section of a newspaper

Re:second life? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27724975)

Nope, they are no more the retailer than the classified section of a newspaper

Perhaps a better analogy would be a consignment store. When you sell stuff on consignment, the liability might be different, depending on the terms of the consignment agreement. How much do you want to bet that there's a "you agree to hold Linden Labs, its' assignees, blah blah blah harmless and indemnify them for any and all claims and damages" in the agreement?

Re:second life? (2, Informative)

Hellershanks (1315357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27725605)

well it's in the ToS for SL and SLX

Plus it's not LL/SLX's job to look for possible infringement, that is the burden that rests on the owners of said rights.

There is a button on every SLX item that allows them to be reported for infringement, like when a ton of NFL content showed up (and you think Taser is evil... you ain't seen nothing compared to the NFL's trademark lawyers... and yet all they did was report it and get it removed.)

Re:second life? (2, Insightful)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721321)

This is trademark infringement, not copyright infringement. The DMCA doesn't apply at all, trademark law does.

There would be little to no case if the items hadn't been branded "Taser". I believe there are cases for trademark infringement on the design of the device, if the original is distinct enough and the immitator is close enough.

If it were a copyright case it would be pretty open and shut - Taser doesn't sell a digital version of their device, so recreating the device in the game is fair use. Selling it should even be fine, as long as you don't brand it Taser or pretend you are from Taser, cause that's trademark infringement. Hence, this case. ;)

Re:second life? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722553)

DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This issue relates to Trademarks.

The only issue here is whether or not Taser's trademark extends to virtual gadgets in online games. Different people can own the same trademark in different product lines. Lotus for example is a range of software sold by IBM, a range of Sports cars, a range of shoes, and a type of fruit.

Re:second life? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723659)

How relevant is that to these idiotic claims from the article?

and that they're losing business and sales to Linden Lab. ...

It's going to be difficult to argue that the Lab/Xstreet SL is not selling these items. That potentially places the Lab in the liability loop."

Who cares? These are virtual products, right? So, if I buy a virtual Tesla, I can drive it in real life? And my virtual taser will work too?

It's not loss of sales, it's exposure of their product - which will doubtfully be harmful in any way.

Not even by their "Gee, some of these places also sell pornographic or obscene stuff" - so does my local gas station. I've never felt a connection between the fact that they sell gas, and porno mags/DVDs and eggs and such. Nor do I create some imaginary relationship between the porn and the Fix-A-Flat(R) that they sell. If I see the months worth of issues of Hustler on the shelf, I dont automatically assume (nor try to make a connection via some idiotic stretch of the imagination) that the Fix-A-Flat brand endorses it simply because they are both sold in the same little convenience store owned by the gas station.

Re:second life? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723703)

Honestly, think about it, if someone cant tell the difference between a taser, a dildo, and a carton of eggs - or create some imaginary relationship between the various companies that make the above; then they are definitely not people we want buying a taser anyway.

Linden Labs Response to Suit, as text (-1, Redundant)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720359)

Don't taze me, Bro!

Re:Linden Labs Response to Suit, as text (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721269)

Perhaps we should virtually taze the mods.

Hmmm. Hey 'Taco! Think slashcode could support anything like this. Perhaps with subscriber points?

Re:second life? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721729)

They are only trying to get free commercial time on TV for their products.

This is a case where all publicity is good publicity - even if the case fails in court it may be cheaper than buying commercial time on TV.

Lawyers (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721749)

Well, some lawyer needs to justify his retainer and outrageous salary to Taser International. Remember, there's (almost) nothing stopping you from filing a lawsuit just because you feel like it. And quite often, just filing a lawsuit is just like winning one: all it takes is to make contesting the lawsuit more expensive than just caving in.

Re:second life? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722209)

Because

- It's easier to do that than to try to find out who actually sold the goods.
- Judges don't know the difference either.

In a nutshell, they just sue someone and hope for an incompetent judge. Experience tells us it works far too well.

Re:second life? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722797)

    That, and most other disclaimers are completely worthless.

    What if you had signs around the perimeter of your property at 6' intervals, written in a dozen languages to help insure it can be read by anyone, which says "Warning: Trespassers will be shot."? When someone walks past the sign, you can't just shoot them. Well, you can. You will also go to jail for premeditated manslaughter, to which you provided the evidence for.

    Prosecution: So you had planned to murder the victim when he walked onto your property?

    You: No.

    Prosecution: When you purchased your firearm, as we've heard the dealer testify earlier to, you said "I am buying this gun to shoot anyone who comes onto my property."

    You: But, I didn't mean I would.

    Prosecution: ... and you put up sign indicating to all neighbors and passers by that you intended to murder anyone who passed beyond the perimeter of your property.

    You: But....

    Prosecution: So you finally shot a person who accidentally walked past the border of your property.

    You: I never intended.

    Prosecution: You bought a gun to kill with. You made statements to the effect that you wanted to kill. You put up signs advertising that you wanted to kill. How can this be misconstrued to believe you weren't looking for someone to murder?

    You: but...

    Prosecution: So when little 12 year old Billy walked up the side of your property calling "Puppy, where are you puppy", obviously looking for his dog, you believed you were well within your rights to shoot him dead?

    You: He was trespassing. He was warned.

    Prosecution: With the testimony and evidence provided, we have no more questions for this witness.

    See, just because you put a sign up doesn't protect you from doing bad things. Otherwise, I'll set up an exotic drugs lab, and just put signs around the perimeter saying "Anything happening on this property is fully compliant with all applicable laws. No unauthorized individuals allowed beyond this point.", and signs on the transport vehicles "All items inside this vehicle are legal. Search of this vehicle and driver are forbidden"

Re:second life? (1)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723165)

when you register, linden labs clearly states that what the people make is their work, and linden labs doesn't interfere... so why does taser try this? They need to contact the maker, but of course it's easier to get linden labs.

You're missing the point... Linden is $worth$ $going$ $after$, the (probably) tweenage kid selling these things on 2nd Life isn't.

Tazers? (0, Offtopic)

malkir (1031750) | more than 5 years ago | (#27719973)

Hell yea! [youtube.com]

Trademark Scope (4, Interesting)

maroberts (15852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27719981)

Trademark scope is narrowly defined and may not be recognised in a virtual world...

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720273)

Trademark scope is narrowly defined and may not be recognised in a virtual world.

Duh. Has anyone ever got in jail for killing someone in WoW? Why should trademark work differently?

LL should put up a splash screen saying "This is not the U.S. Its laws do not apply here, motherfucker". Then again, most Americans wouldn't understand it, and everyone else already knows.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720887)

LL should put up a splash screen saying "This is not the U.S. Its laws do not apply here, motherfucker". Then again, most Americans wouldn't understand it, and everyone else already knows.

They'd need to move the servers to another country to be able to do that ...

It is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721671)

It is copied across to the UK so that USians can be spied on by the US government by proxy.

And it's not the US. It's in a virtual reality. Not a real one.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721189)

Duh. Has anyone ever got in jail for killing someone in WoW? Why should trademark work differently?

Because there may be some slight difference between criminal law and tort law? How about this for a better analogy: has anyone ever got in trouble for selling online copies of books that they didn't write or publish? Uh, yeah.

LL should put up a splash screen saying "This is not the U.S. Its laws do not apply here, motherfucker". Then again, most Americans wouldn't understand it, and everyone else already knows.

Linden Labs is in the US. Its servers are in the US. I think most Americans would agree that that puts them under American law, even if you don't understand that. The rest of us realize that virtual worlds aren't real.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721633)

LL should put up a splash screen saying "This is not the U.S. Its laws do not apply here, motherfucker". Then again, most Americans wouldn't understand it, and everyone else already knows.

Linden Labs is in the US. Its servers are in the US. I think most Americans would agree that that puts them under American law, even if you don't understand that. The rest of us realize that virtual worlds aren't real.

Virtual worlds aren't outside reality; they are contained within it. The content of the Second Life grid is digital like everything else on the internet...are you claiming the internet isn't "real"?

Possibly the important question here is...is a SL Taser a protected form of expression; is it "fair use"? If I write a story in which a Taser is a prop, must I call it something else? I don't think so. But a number of people have been shut-down in world for using characters and other elements from copyrighted works [blogs.com] .

By the way, I've heard rumors that LL wants to locate a datacenter in the UK. There's currently a huge kerfluffle in-world [secondlifeherald.com] about a recent move by LL to add an additional rating "adults-only" to the existing "PG" "Mature" scheme. (Under 18 users are already segregared to a completely separate virtual world. [secondlife.com]

Some folks believe (me included) that the recent "extreme pornography" provisions of the UK Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 [wikipedia.org] is one reason for the tighter content controls. Certainly fear of procecution under the UK's draconian pedophilia laws was related to the similar kerfluffle a year ago about age play in-world.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

Venerable Vegetable (1003177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722105)

Duh. Has anyone ever got in jail for killing someone in WoW? Why should trademark work differently? LL should put up a splash screen saying "This is not the U.S. Its laws do not apply here, motherfucker". Then again, most Americans wouldn't understand it, and everyone else already knows.

Uhhh. I don't think you really understand how this works. There is dividing line between offline (real) life and online (virtual) life. Virtual worlds are part of the real world and have to obey the same laws. This can get confusing at times, with virtual property and virtual identities which are not the same as their real life counterparts. basically you can easily get confused by word games. It also gets difficult because of the easily crossed borders and anonymity.

A virtual person is not the same as a real person. That's why you don't go to jail for killing someone in WOW. If you infringe on a trademark you can get in trouble, no matter in what way (using what medium) you did it.

You can't make an online country either and say that laws don't apply there. Online characters don't perform crimes, the real persons controlling them do. Anyone has to obey the laws of the country they're residing in, no matter whether they perform their activities online or any other way.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723803)

A virtual person is not the same as a real person. That's why you don't go to jail for killing someone in WOW. If you infringe on a trademark you can get in trouble, no matter in what way (using what medium) you did it.

I don't think anyone would argue w/ the accuracy of that statement, but it's interesting to note that we consider some virtual actions "real" and others "fake". If selling a Taser branded torture device online is considered harmful to an entity, you're already making a ton of assumptions on the nature of virtual reality AND beginning an (IMO) irreversible trend in granting legal recognition to silicon real estate. I doubt that there would be any concern if these guys sold a 'choose-your-own-adventure' style book wherein you might buy a Taser, and I wonder where the difference really lies.

I don't know whether or not this is a good thing, but I do know it certainly hasn't been discussed publicly or really thought through in any manner. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Re:Trademark Scope (3, Interesting)

julesh (229690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720443)

Trademark scope is narrowly defined and may not be recognised in a virtual world...

Forget for a moment the entire virtual world aspect of this, as its legal ramifications are (at present) totally unknown.

Ignoring that, what we have is a company (Linden Labs) selling data which when loaded into software that runs on client PCs causes that screen to display an image of something that looks like one of Taser's products. When selling this data, they are explicitly stating that it is modelled on one of Taser's products.

Frankly, I don't see the difference here to somebody selling a stock photo of one of Taser's products [corbis.com] , for example. What Corbis are selling in that link has no significant differences that I can see from what Linden are selling. Except that Corbis's looks better, while Linden's is more useful because you can view it from any angle.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721213)

Frankly, I don't see the difference here to somebody selling a stock photo of one of Taser's products [corbis.com] , for example. What Corbis are selling in that link has no significant differences that I can see from what Linden are selling. Except that Corbis's looks better, while Linden's is more useful because you can view it from any angle.

Yes, and depending on how you use that picture, you could be infringing the trademark. If you use it for educational purposes, as you have here, you're fine. If you use it along with a news article, you're fine. If you use it as marketing materials for selling your taser-knock off... then you're engaging in unfair competition and trademark infringement. It's your use that's the issue, not the mere fact that Corbis sells a picture. Trademark infringement isn't about using the mark itself - I could put up a website with lots of pictures of Tasers and I'd have no problem. It's when you start using the trademark to take advantage of the association in a consumer's mind between taser and Taser International to redirect that to taser and Knockoff Co. in Second Life. That's infringement.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721485)

A Taser in SL is - well, not real - in any sense of the word. It's like a cartoon. The ONLY claim Taser has is trademark, and about the only thing they could do is get an order for LL and content creators in SL to stop using the Taser name. It will be nearly impossible to show that they were financially or reputation damaged, in any way.
Cartoon people role play with these fake cartoon devices. They are not selling a "Taser Knockoff" since it is not a physical object you can touch.

SL is loaded with people taking pictures of various real products and selling "digital goods", frequently under the recognized brand name of the original product - but we must all keep in mind that these are not real things people are selling on real street corners like a fake Rolex.

The lawyers at Taser need to get a life.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722353)

So here's an off-topic hypothetical for you (not meant as a counter-illustration, I think you're mainly right). What if Taser (or Rolex) decided to sell virtual models of their real products in SL? And to bring things closer to the actual topic, do you think a claim by Taser that they would have greater difficutly entering that virtual market, or in the alternative that the value of their virtual products would suffer because of the dilution of their brand, would have any weight? I don't pretend to have an answer, myself. But I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that courtroom.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722691)

As I said (or implied) I think they do have a right to ask (demand) that their name not be used in someone's cartoon object. As for whether they would have difficulty entering the market, I seriously doubt they would bother when you can only get a dollar or two at the most per sale, and their expenses would be 50 times that.

I would bet that MOST content creators (with a few exceptions) don't make a dime really, or find that their work is valued at something like 5 cents an hour.... A lot of them are just doing it for fun - and it helps cover some of their other expenses (virtual land and other goods.)

Keep in mind that these cartoon "objects" generally are not very accurate representations of their real world counterparts because you are dealing with VERY simple modeling tools, and "keeping it simple" is important for performance reasons (most people don't have an ILM rendering farm at home, and LL's servers are overloaded all the time.) I think someone making a drawing of a taser is probably well within fair use. If I take a picture of my car and post it on the web, Toyota does NOT have a right to tell me to remove my photo.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

rcamans (252182) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721567)

Trademark is about protection from imitators in the real profits world. If LL is doing sales, then trademarks work there.

Re:Trademark Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722061)

Trademarks are protected against unauthorised use. Period. Full stop. Trademark protection is typically /pursued/ for reason of profit naturally, which may be where confusion comes in. But that's not just about sales of imitations, it can be also be the nonprofit use of another's trademark which dilutes the power of the trademark. For example the trademark misuse may cause the trademark to be associated with things the trademark owners do not wish it to be associated with. For another example, widespread misuse can genericize a trademark, removing the trademarks owner's legal recourse against misuse.

And SL makes real world profits. For LL, and for people who sell stuff inside the game. What happens in SL does not stay in SL.

Farther up,

Forget for a moment the entire virtual world aspect of this, as its legal ramifications are (at present) totally unknown.

Are they? I can think of a good many car and plane games that cannot show 'real world' cars and planes because they have not licensed them. If someone would expand that for me, I'd be grateful.

Meanwhile, let's not get hung up on calling SL a "virtual world". That's a handy term for initially explaining the game/playground to people, but that's all. SL is simply a medium, like books are. There's nothing particularly special about digital 3D that sets it beyond the reach of existing legal concepts for things like trademarks.

Re:Trademark Scope (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721753)

There is a difference. Imagine all that you said, but replace Taser with Mercedes. The virtual world part cannot be ignored. What LL is doing is 'selling' something that when combined with the virtual world has the ability to look like someone's product. LL did not create this 'something' nor do they promote it any differently than they promote any other products being virtually sold to virtual people in a virtual world.

The DMCA (w/s)ould apply.

BTW, I can create something that is modeled on anyone's product and sell it. I believe that a great number of artists have done this in the past. There are a great number of watches that you can buy which are recreations of some other watch or are modeled on other watches. This list of things goes on and on. Being modeled after something means nothing. Being an exact replica and being marketed as the copied object... that means something.

In SL there are replicas of a great many things. Should they all be illegal?

Now, if Taser wants to apply the DMCA and start selling their own products in SL the original devices can be renamed "The Shocker" which I'm sure will sell just as well.

I don't think Taser has much, if any, legal grounds here. Regarding the SL market? They have nothing but FAIL. There are a lot of folk on SL that are similar to /b/. Chances of Taser getting anything good out of this now? Zero.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722585)

    Have you ever noticed that in some TV shows, and many B movies, the logos on cars are removed? Pay attention. Usually they are slick about keeping them out of the frame, but sometimes they do really ugly obvious things to hide the logos.

    I saw something on TV a few weeks ago, where the lead character was driving a Mercedes. It was obvious that it was a Mercedes. I had no doubt that it was a Mercedes. But, the grill logo had been removed, and a black blank had been put in it's place. They hadn't acquired rights to use the Mercedes logo in their show.

    I was watching some law enforcement show on the Discovery Channel last night. The cops were driving a Ford SUV. They were driving to arrest someone with a history of making methamphetamines. Hopefully if you really care, that'll help you find the show. Anyways, in the shot, they had the interior lit up so you could see the driver while he was talking. The Ford logo on the steering wheel was removed after filming, so they just had a fuzzy blue circle overlaid where the logo was.

    I've noticed in a lot of B movies, they'll replace the grill of a car with something else, so the logo doesn't show. It's usually done very badly (as with everything in a B movie). The vehicle itself apparently isn't a problem, but the company logos are.

    I didn't see the logo or name used on the Corbis photo, but I didn't look all that carefully. Now, if they're putting the brand name on, they can run into problems. But hey, anyone can sue for anything. It's a matter for the court to decide who wins. But, whoever runs out of money first loses anyways. I suspect Taser may have more money than the kids who make the prop in SL.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

AnotherBrian (319405) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723807)

I think the logo removal is more about keeping viewers from thinking that the company is paying for product placement, especially if another brand is paying them.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

Dreben (220413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723083)

LL is selling a 'gaming experience', not photos and particularly not of photos of TM products. 2nd, I would think some element of 'fair use' would come into play here. At what point will park bench designers, fashion designers, civil engineers, etc., not want a piece of LL's profits? I see a USSC ruling all over this one. Perhaps even a constitutional amendment addressing virtual worlds.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720559)

Not only that:

props that have the Taser name, but do not have any functions or resemblance similar to Taser products.

Taser would be OK with actual Tasers being made and sold in SL?

WTF?

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720731)

What they're complaining about is trademark dilution. They might very well be fine with virtual actual Tasers as that could possibly serve as advertising.

But in this case I really don't see how Taser is wrong, somebody is using their trademark to refer to something that isn't a Taser and apparently doesn't even function in the SL the way that a Taser would in real life.

Re:Trademark Scope (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721061)

If I make a new gun mod for Quake, call the gun McDanks and put a small McDonalds logo on the side because it shoots lard balls instead of Rockets in not was has anything to do with Trademark. Here's why (in laymen terms):

You can call a new product by another companies old product name, so long as there wouldn't be any confusion. For instance, you cannot call your new clothing line by the same name I've given my clothes brand. But you /can/ call your new ice cream the same as my clothing brand -- there is no product recognition confusion possible.

Trademarks are NOT about property (e.g., patents and copyright), but merely to mitigate a circus of companies riding the backs of their competitors successful product names.
To conclude, LL has nothing to worry about... and if the judge decides they do: then he will be rewriting trademark laws (something that hasn't been touched in decades).

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722253)

Brand name and quality association. Think of someone selling low quality Rolex watches. An unsuspecting victim buys one (let's assume not from a "genuine rolex vendor" at some beach, where common sense should tell you you're buying an imitation) and the watch fails to work.

What will the victim think? "Rolex ... big name and shoddy quality".

Taser would probably also prosecute people selling "working" Taser products, maybe they would not (because they don't care and there is no "real" market for them). They are certainly interested, though, in having their product being associated with quality products.

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721155)

Trademark scope is narrowly defined and may not be recognised in a virtual world...

Why not? Trademark is not about the mark itself... Trademark is about the association that it creates in a consumer's mind between the mark and the manufacturer. If I mention "Chicken McNuggets", the strength of the McDonald's trademark is such that the "McFooditem" is instantly associated in your head with the manufacturer. Likewise, if I was to say "Windows for Workgroups", you instantly think of Microsoft.
The fact that I've said both these things on an electronic message board doesn't mean you didn't have the association.

Similarly, if Second Life were to have a McDonald's restaurant, with the golden arches, yellow color scheme, menus with virtual McFoodstuffs on them, etc., they would still create an association in the mind of the user. Therefore, they are valid uses of the trademark. Likewise, if you - not associated with McDonalds - were to open a golden arches-type restaurant in Second Life and sell McCrap, a virtual representation of fresh grilled turds, that would infringe their trademark. If you didn't have a valid defense, such as that you're doing it for satire or political speech reasons, then you'd have a problem.

Here, people are selling representations of Tasers. Taser International is understandably going to have a problem with that.

Re:Trademark Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721373)

Except you missed a lot of the nuances of Trademark law. See my previous post in reply to Hedwards in this particular thread of discussion (sorry about not proofreading before posting).
For one, they aren't selling anything, so the name use in 2nd Life has nothing to do with a product association at all. (Argument Fail 1)
For two, their company name "Taser" is a common english word. If they so much as didn't include the (TM) at the end of Taser in 2nd Life, then they are just refering to it as a common taser as defined by the dictionary. (Argument Fail 2)
Note the 2nd argument failure would be mitigated if their company name were Whackamole Inc. and they made Wachamole's things in 2nd Life that resembled the real Wackamole tasers.

Re:Trademark Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27724591)

I wonder if it can be argued that "taser" has already entered the language as a general description of a particular type of a device rather than solely a trademark?

Certainly "Don't tase me, bro" can be already considered in some small sense a cultural heritage*.

For a given definition of "culture" ;)

Re:Trademark Scope (1)

evilkasper (1292798) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721947)

So obviously Taser's lawyers need to create characters inside the game, and virtually sue the offending persons I'm very surprised they have not already though of this.....

Re:Trademark Scope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722519)

Not to mention the fact that they lost the right to complain when they let people call the products "tasers." In fact, I didn't even know Taser was a brand name. I thought that was just the generic/PC name for a stun gun.

I think it pertinent (4, Interesting)

Starmengau (1367783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27719993)

....that I had absolutely no idea there was such a company, and have thought for at least 15 years that "taser" was a generic term.

Re:I think it pertinent (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720045)

The company itself became famous on slashdot and the internet for attempting to [azcentral.com] influence coroners' reports to suppress theories [slashdot.org] that their products killed people [wikipedia.org]

Re:I think it pertinent (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721085)

Tasers don't kill people. People kill people. :)

Re:I think it pertinent (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722297)

The point here is that their products are marketed as being non-lethal, safe and absolutely only for defense purposes. When you use a gun to defend yourself (or to attack someone), you have no excuse, you can't say you didn't intend to kill the person. At the very least, you accepted the death of your victim as potential collateral damage.

Using a taser, your inhibition threshold is considerably lower. You're not gonna kill him, according to the maker of the item, no matter what. This is especially a problem with law enforcement, who use those alleged nonlethal tools far more easily than they would fire a gun at someone.

Re:I think it pertinent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27723991)

Using a taser, your inhibition threshold is considerably lower. You're not gonna kill him, according to the maker of the item, no matter what. This is especially a problem with law enforcement, who use those alleged nonlethal tools far more easily than they would fire a gun at someone.

Problem: someone is sitting in a tree.

Solution: TASER!!! [msn.com]

Re:I think it pertinent (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27725203)

You're not gonna kill him, according to the maker of the item, no matter what

10% of all tasers tested in this study were found to be defective. [slashdot.org]

And taser, despite what they want to say, has now entered the language as a generic term. It's used not just as a product name, but as a verb ("I will tase you. bro!").

Re:I think it pertinent (1)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720305)

Related to the parent, although not the article, I only recently discovered that Mace [wikipedia.org] is also trademarked.

Re:I think it pertinent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721023)

They didn't even make up the name. Its from a 1920's SF story (Meaning its in public domain) called

(T)homas (A) (S)wift's (E)lectric (R)ifle

Re:I think it pertinent (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722645)

    I haven't read the book, but did they call his electric rifle a TASER, or did Taser International do that themselves?

    I found the relevant information here [wikipedia.org]

Re:I think it pertinent (1)

Blue Stone (582566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721549)

I think it's also pertinent (with regard to the people who run the company) that they'd rather have their product linked - through real-world usage - with torture and abuse, than with boobies and 'prurient materials'.

does not compute (4, Insightful)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720015)

Is it my hangover or is the sentence?

Basically, a few people in Second Life make some digital replicas of Taser's products that do not have the same function as Taser's products, or props that have the Taser name, but do not have any functions or resemblance similar to Taser products.

So... what did those few people do?

Re:does not compute (2, Funny)

asdfx (446164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720137)

I like that the sentence begins with the benignly presupposing phrase, "Basically...", as if the material following it is set to simplify and clarify the content of the article. Then it goes on to make things more incoherent, with poor use, of punctuation, in, the explanation,. comma, comma, period.p

In other words, "blarf grrblle grble, lasne en fragne, rabble rabble rabble, chuck norris."

Re:does not compute (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721083)

The word "basically" is horribly abused, and is generally used at the beginning or end of sentences to indicate that 1. the speaker is really super-intelligent and understands things at a far deeper level than the listener ever will, and 2. the speaker is an insufferable dork. Basically.

Re:does not compute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720283)

From TFA:

[EDIT: There are two kinds of taser-themed items. The first kind look like Taser International's product line, and may have the Taser trademark name, but do not and cannot have similar functions. The second kind just carry the Taser trademark name, but do not have any similar functions and do not visibly resemble Taser International's products]

Re:does not compute (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 5 years ago | (#27723155)

Basically, a few people in Second Life make some digital replicas of Taser's products that do not have the same function as Taser's products, or props that have the Taser name, but do not have any functions or resemblance similar to Taser products.

relevant part in bold

Meanwhile - back in the real world... (-1, Offtopic)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720033)

Can someone re-grammarize that submission so it makes sense on this planet? /Is today 'National fun-with-commas day'?

Re:Meanwhile - back in the real world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720233)

Done.

Link to the book were they got the name and idea (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720061)

Everyone in Second Life is gonna yell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720085)

Don't tase me bro!

Re:Everyone in Second Life is gonna yell (5, Funny)

Barradrewda (1016610) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720135)

Don't sue me bro!

Fixed it for you.

Is that even a valid trademark anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720131)

Don't taze me bro'! Did that guy look if it was a "Tazer" or some other brand of "non-lethal" stun gun?

One man's trademark infringement... (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720165)

...is another man's advertising. I mean, people pay good money to get their brands into games. I wonder how much Taser would have to pay to get an "authorized" virtual product into 2nd life now.

Re:One man's trademark infringement... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720195)

All they would really be is a 3D picture - maybe with some particle effects. You couldn't 'taze' another avatar with one (unless the 'tazee' took positive, prearranged action to make it appear that they had been).

Re:One man's trademark infringement... (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721015)

That is probably the biggest reason that Taser will win. SL is filled with advertisement from actual companies so now you have Taser branded stuff mixed in with that so what is an actual product with approved advertisement and what are fake items.

ORLY? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722665)

SL is filled with advertisement from actual companies

It is?

Re:One man's trademark infringement... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722315)

I'm fairly sure taser would not be so outraged if those items actually worked. If you could get a taser to get rid of a stalker by putting it to him and he's stunned for a minute or ten, I guess they might be happy about the quite nifty ad.

No sweat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27720177)

ummm...payment in L$?

- Ramanujam

Get a life! (0, Troll)

indre1 (1422435) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720221)

Get a life people! You probably only have one.

Re:Get a life! (3, Funny)

Bashae (1250564) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720469)

Yeah, they should give up their second lives and get first lives.

Then they could spend them here on Slashdot like the rest of us.

GTA version is the "Teaser" (4, Interesting)

dohzer (867770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720421)

Just the other day I was wondering why the Taser was called a 'Teaser' in the Nindendo DS game 'GTA: Chinatown Wars'. Now I know. :)
I was thinking it was just a joke.

Re:GTA version is the "Teaser" (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 5 years ago | (#27720805)

Still sounds like a joke to me... are you sure you haven't had any recent trauma to the head that might explain your lacking humor recognition?

Comic Book Evil meets Real Life meets Virtual Life (1)

blackjackshellac (849713) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721053)

Taser International is about as close as you can get to the kind of evil portrayed in SciFi flims without going to the theatre. I hate those pricks.

It's about protecting trademarks & brand ident (2, Insightful)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721137)

This seems pretty cut and dried to me. This is not like Monster Cable suing a mini-golf place. Monster is a word that existed in the English language long before it was ever used to describe cables. Taser on the other hand is an invented word and is therefore trademarkable and should be protected. It no different than somebody trying to pass off a Zune as an iPod, virtual or otherwise.

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721563)

agreed. trademarks are 'defend it or lose it'

Taser has a right to defend their trademark. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if they can defend a word that has become synonymous with stun gun.

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#27725333)

Taser has a right to defend their trademark. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if they can defend a word that has become synonymous with stun gun.

Merriam-Webster gives as a definition:

Function:
        trademark

--used for a gun that fires electrified darts to stun and immobilize a person

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/taser [merriam-webster.com]

Contrast that definition to another (real) common word that has been trademarked (windows). Neither Microsoft nor trademark appear at all.

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (1)

Hellershanks (1315357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27721899)

The problem is they are suing the newspaper for the classified ads (the exchange website) that someone else is using to sell the item that violates their trademark.

And for the record SLX is super fast on responding to trademark violation in removing the item from the listings, and if Taser filed a proper DCMA request LL would respond as well in world.

It's Taser's job to file the proper paperwork and work with the system, since LL does not vet any content the users create. (There does... and look at how well it is going)

This is Taser saying to the new york times : Hey we're going to sue ya because a person is selling knock off stunguns under the taser name in your classified section and you are making a cut from said classifieds. Oh and we are not going to go after them, just you.

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722161)

And for the record SLX is super fast on responding to trademark violation in removing the item from the listings, and if Taser filed a proper DCMA request LL would respond as well in world.

Only this is a trademark issue, which I don't think the DMCA regulates. However, I think that a save haven for service providers over trademark would be a good idea in light of this incident.

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722605)

They can't file a DMCA notice because they don't own the copyright. The creator of the virtual taser owns the copyright.

They own the trademark, and that's what this complaint is about.

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (1)

Hellershanks (1315357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722743)

Same thing, really. file a trademark complaint and SLX pulls it in a hearbeat. they did it for Ford, Jeep, NFL, etc...

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27725279)

Somehow I think that the Taser legal team doesn't spend a whole lot of time surfing for Second Life stuff. My guess is that it was brought to their attention from outside the company and they're taking the action of not wanting their brand being associated with unflattering uses. Imagine if Xerox were in danger of becoming only known for body part artwork. I'd think they'd sue an entity that was promoting such activity using the Xerox name. In addition to which, if the New York Times was advertising some guy selling ripped DVDs, they'd probably not run it and if they did, they could be made an accessory to criminal activity. The Pirate Bay is experiencing this now and so did Napster a while back. Plus there's the added component of people exchanging money for virtual stuff in Second Life.

Re:It's about protecting trademarks & brand id (2, Informative)

Hellershanks (1315357) | more than 5 years ago | (#27725569)

Here is the thing: It is more akin to youtube than the classifieds

If someone on youtube uses trademark or copyright materials, youtube as a corporate entity knows nothing about it because they do not vet or veto any content uploads.

They have no hand in the content creation at all (unlike say There where everything has to go through corporate governance)

So till the corporation brings it to LL/SLX's attention they can't act because they know nothing about it (a good example was during the superbowl there was a ton of NFL related merchandise put up on SLX, but was taken down swiftly both there as soon as the NFL contacted SLX with the links to the content.)

The links on SLX include report item button, for just such issues.

It is not LL or SLX that has to look out for the infringement, it is the legal team of the corporation that holds said rights.

The real news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27721475)

The real news story here is that people still play Second Life.

16 million users and counting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27722549)

The real news story here is that people still play Second Life.

Nope, it's not a news story at all, since Second Life growth hasn't stopped --- they're now at 16,785,531 users, and growth continues unabated.

The fact that you said "PLAY Second Life" just shoes that you don't get the idea of virtual worlds at all though, so it's no surprise that you can't figure out what holds peoples' interest. Since you've got this "play" thing in your mind, consider that 16+ million is a LOT more than WoW.

You won't understand the following at all, but people don't go to Second Life to "play" anything, unless one calls physical life "play" as well.

Re:16 million users and counting (1)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722847)

16,785,531 registered users is not even remotely the same as 16,785,531 active players. That only means that 16 million accounts have been created. Nothing else.

The number of people who are actively playing SL is much, much lower -and is decreasing every day.

Re:16 million users and counting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27725235)

... is decreasing every day.

Source? This blog post [secondlife.com] seems to indicate otherwise, assuming active users is at least somewhat related to total user hours.

So Laws In This World Now Extend To Other Worlds (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722603)

Long-Arm statutes were bad enough when they let one state reach into another state. Or one country into another country. Now they're trying to extend this to whole new worlds - and not even real worlds, no less. This is not a good direction to be going because it means all our current problems are just going to be ported into any new worlds we find, create, or discover.

Making the RIAA look like wimps... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722653)

I mean, the RIAA only go after ISPs to get the *identity* of violators. This is like the RIAA suing TWC and SWB to recover the money from file sharers.

In other news (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27722913)

Someone took my idea for a red colored car! I'm suing the state of washington for providing the roads they drive it on!
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