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Sparc Sends SparkFun Electronics C&D Letter

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the overly-litigious dept.

The Courts 219

moogied writes "SparkFun.com, a electronics component provider, has been sent a cease and desist letter by Sparc in response to the lengthy trademark process that SparkFun is participating in. The letter states 'Because the dominant portion of the SparkFun mark, namely, SPARK, is phonetically identical and nearly visually identical to SI's SPARC mark, and because it is used in connection with identical goods, we believe confusion is likely to occur among the relevant purchasing group.' SparkFun.com has provided the entire contents of the letter, with a breakdown of points it feels are most relevant."

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well now (3, Funny)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850667)

guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

Re:well now (4, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850773)

guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

Unless you mean on eBay, I'd say: "Everyone".

Re:well now (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29850895)

What does it say on the inside of a nigger's lips? INFLATE TO 30 PSI.

Just wanted to clear things up for the idiotic mods who thought the parent post was a Troll. Company makes questionable douchebag action, potential customer decides to stop buying from company. What the FUCK is trollish about that? Since you morons seem to have forgotten what a troll post is all about, I thought I'd post a nigger joke for you. You're welcome.

P.S., if you are still unclear about why this is a troll post and the parent post is not, then please for the good of humanity be certain that you never reproduce.

Re:well now (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29851059)

You're asking people with accounts on Slashdot to never reproduce.

I thought it was a given.

Re:well now (1)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851137)

lol. Sure, you post as anonymous coward, but you identify yourself as the parent poster who got modded troll.

Sounds like you need to heed your own advice.

Re:well now (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851363)

Get your Republican jokes out of here. Only 20% of the population that still calls themselves Republicans think that crap is funny.

Re:well now (3, Informative)

Animixer (134376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850927)

guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

Someone who is not interested in supporting Open Source processors?

SPARC is an organization that licenses processor designs (Scalable Processor ARChitecture), provides docs, and even licenses a keyboard interface design (this part is low cost). I'm not sure what they charge, it may be just a fee for making sure your processor conforms to the sparcv9 spec or similar and you can put the SPARC stamp on your box. I have not heard of them being unreasonable before. It's an independent body. Sun and Fujitsu/Siemens happen to be a couple of the companies that use the processor design (modified for thier use). Probably similar to ARM in this case, but I will freely admit I do not know many details about the subject. I do know that one can download the designs and source code for the OpenSPARC T1 and T2 series processors from http://www.opensparc.net./ [www.opensparc.net]

I hear that someone has a design that runs an OpenSPARC on a FPGA (granted, single core, but still cool).

So if you care about having an "Open" CPU design in your system, then you'll be missing out by avoiding SPARC.

Alas I do not have many facts available to back this up. www.sparc.org has been blocked by firefox or my antivirus somehow...perhaps someone is attacking it out of badwill or they got owned independently.

Regards

BTW: I've run gentoo on 'sun4u' SPARC processors, and hear that the kernel has lots of support for the 'Open' T1/T2 line and hypervisor, etc.

Re:well now (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851367)

It helps to read the article. Spark says they use Sparc servers and are down the street from them. I do not doubt however, that they may threaten business or something as a result. Suing your customers (especially via something that won't likely hold water in court) doesn't earn business.

Re:well now (2, Insightful)

Bobb9000 (796960) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851929)

You're right, it does help to read the article. Sparkfun doesn't sell anything that could remotely be considered a competitor to SPARC. They're a hobbyist electronics kit store. Unless you consider something like this [sparkfun.com] to be a competing product to a SPARC server?

Re:well now (1)

Animixer (134376) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851973)

A company must defend their trademark or they lose it.

Re:well now (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851505)

"SPARC is an organization that licenses processor designs (Scalable Processor ARChitecture), "

So let me get this straight - an organization that chose a name so that it could have an acronym that sounded like the word "spark" is now trying to stop someone else from using the word that they imitated?

That's like Protron suing Proton.

Re:well now (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851111)

Wait, don't you mean "Spark" servers?

Headlines read... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851281)

Sparkfun police spoil everything!

Sparc are no fun!

Sparks fly at Sparc!

No more Sparkfun!

Sparc missing from this relationship!

Sparkfun fight begins!

Re:well now (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851393)

guess who won't be buying any more sparc servers?

Good choice. Might I interest you in some SparkFun servers? I know the name looks exactly the same, but it's different if you look closely.

Re:well now (1)

jason.sweet (1272826) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851839)

Might I interest you in some SparkFun servers?

I guess Arduino just kicked it up a notch.

Re:well now (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851937)

No need to look that closely. SparkFun products are only a few inches long and I seriously doubt that you'll be able to install an OS in it, even Linux : )

Re:well now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29851423)

Exactly- who would consider them now - after pulling this crap. I like sparkfun - just bought my first stuff from them a couple weeks ago. \

Just say no - to SPARCs

650.798.6705 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29851435)

Perhaps someone should call the SPARCunfun lawyer, Christine B. Redfield (http://www.klgates.com/professionals/detail.aspx?professional=1665 includes photo) at 650.798.6705 and explain whey this is a mistake and will not cause confusion the part of of /.ers. Please remember that SPARCunfun is paying by the hour so do not spend too much time talking to her or you will run SPARCunfun's bill up.

Happens all the time (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29850693)

In the twisted world of intellectual property. Seems very similar to this ridiculous case involving a teapot [dailymail.co.uk] .

Re:Happens all the time (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850749)

I agree it's stupid. "Spark" is a generic word. "Spike TV" (cable) had a similar problem with Spike Lee, who was kicking around the idea of a cable channel of his own. Didn't MS have a similar hassle with "Windows"?

Re:Happens all the time (3, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851135)

Yep. All you need is one jumped-up shyster snake...er "lawyer"... and we're off to the races again.

If SPARC, or their parent corp Sun Microsystems, wants to be good citizens, the lawyer who sent this should lose his job.

Re:Happens all the time (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#29852007)

When a society actively punishes a behavior, I find it difficult to call that behavior a requirement for being a good citizen.

If the lawyer were dismissed from SPARC's legal team, then this would discourage proactive defense of the SPARC trademark. If the trademark isn't proactively protected, then it will lose legal standing. The legislature has specifically attached negative consequences to the behavior you're suggesting; so no, I don't think that's what SPARC or Sun have to do to be a good citizen.

Trademark is, was, and always will be a thorny issue. Bad policy regarding the relationship of trademarks to domain name management has made things worse. Throw on top of that the many layers of confusion and misinformation that the layperson carries around regarding trademark, and it really is a fine mess.

The wording in the letter - especially about "identical" products - was clearly sloppy. Lawyer is factually wrong on technical matter, film at 11. I'm not 100% sure, but I bet they are considered to be in the same industry for trademark purposes.

As for whether the mark is confusingly similar - well, that's a subjective question by nature. Ideally I suppose you'd poll customers to see if people really are confused. In any case, it's SPARC's lawyer's job to assert that it might be confusing, it's SparkFun's job to assert that it's not, and if they can't reach an agreement then it's the court's job to decide.

If I were on a jury and had to decide based on what I know now, I'd probably side with SparkFun, if for no other reason than because the unique spelling is part of what makes SPARC a distinct mark IMO. But, I don't think SPARC's lawyers acted wrongly.

Ich liebe SparC-fun (2, Informative)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850699)

I love spark-fun. I bought cheap GPS modules from them. They have a nack for bulk-buying cool stuff that inventors need. They also respond to criticism and suggestions. Heck, I should work for them, don't you think?

Re:Ich liebe SparC-fun (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851449)

Heck, I should work for them, don't you think?

Two problems:
First they might get sued :-)

Second, your address is currently <speedup@wikis[ ]dia.org ['pee' in gap]>.

That's just gross.

I guess if I built a Sparcstation from parts (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850719)

I could buy some of the parts from SparkFun, and perhaps some of the PCBs. But that's where the "identical goods" argument ends. Has Sparc ever done a teardown of a Wii controller with analysis of the components? Do they sell solder stations? Is Sparc even around anymore? I must've forgotten about them.

Re:I guess if I built a Sparcstation from parts (1)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850805)

I knew SMI still sold SPARC-based servers and systems, and I'd like to know more about what role Sparc International plays, but Google won't let me into www.sparc.org for fear of malware. Yikes.

Re:I guess if I built a Sparcstation from parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29851251)

the rest of us say eh, that's nice of you Google, but I don't need your protection so please, kindly piss off and stick to what you do best - search results.

you must wait a little while before using this resource. you seem to type faster than 0.001 words per minute and we don't like that sort of thing. please try again later. in an effort to waste your time, we won't tell you when "later" is until you're within 30-60 seconds of it. that's because we enjoy making you want to delete your cookies and use a proxy. have a nice day.

so let me get this straight (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29850743)

Sun named their product line after a natural phenomenon, a spark, and is now going after any one using the natural phenomenon's namesake? yeesh!

Re:so let me get this straight (5, Informative)

A.S.M. (20169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850955)

Sun named their product line after a natural phenomenon, a spark, and is now going after any one using the natural phenomenon's namesake?

No. Sun Microsystems is a member of Sparc International, along with a slew of other companies (TI, Hitachi, Fujitsu, etc, etc -- http://www.sparc.org/members.html [sparc.org] ), but Sparc International != Sun.

Re:so let me get this straight (4, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851217)

Firefox warning; apparently www.sparc.org/index.html has been reported as an attack site. Nice.

Re:so let me get this straight (0)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851395)

Firefox warning; apparently www.sparc.org/index.html has been reported as an attack site. Nice.

That's very funny. I downloaded a copy of the index page like so:

# wget http://www.sparc.org/index.html [sparc.org]

I then opened it in a text editor. Maybe I am missing something, so I refuse to positively say that there is no malware and no "attack" in it. What I can say is that I was unable to find anything remotely suspicious. I suppose it's possible that there are advertisements on the index page and that those are the source of any malware, because I would not see those when looking at the index.html text. But in my mind, I'd like to see a lot more substantiation of any claims about maliciousness.

False positives are not the only reason I disagree with this kind of blacklisting. I wish all of the effort that has ever been invested in malware filters, antispyware products, and blacklists were instead put towards securing Windows and educating its users. Then we might have something better than a useless arms race..

Re:so let me get this straight (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851625)

Arms length can include "by the throat". I'm pretty sure that Sparc International went to Sun (and maybe a few others) to vet this first, just in case it was a life raft for rats scurrying overboard.

Losing the last bit of goodwill is just what Sun needs right now.

And to add to the misery... (5, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850781)

...slashdot readers are bringing SparkFun.com to it's knees as we speak.

Stand back, SPARC, we'll take care of this!

Re:And to add to the misery... (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851311)

Hahah.

Well, at least network mirror [networkmirror.com] can help for those not interested in destroying sparkfun.

Re:And to add to the misery... (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851341)

Perhaps they're running Sparc servers?

Re:And to add to the misery... (1)

PalmKiller (174161) | more than 4 years ago | (#29852033)

I kinda doubt it.

Got a pussy in my panties (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29850783)

She got a pussy in her panties
She wore a pussy thong

Sun should lose (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850785)

Come on, now. They have SPARK in the name; they're an electronics company. The name is a playful moniker and nobody would ever confuse them with Sparc.

When I was in the USAF they called the electricians "spark chasers". ANY electronics company should be able to have "spark" in their name. For Sun to lay claim to a common word that describes the first thing anybody thinks of when they think of electricity (when Sin's is spelled differently) is ludicrous. It's like the ApleFrosting company suing anybody who sells any kind of apple product wit "apple" in the name.

I lost a lot of my esteem for Sun with this. I wonder if it has anything to do with Oracle?

Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (0)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850867)

Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

Yeah, it may be ridiculous, and yeah, a judge may decide that it is indeed ridiculous as well. But they -still- have to go through these claims in order to vigorously defend.

I don't know why these stories keep hitting Slashdot.. are the editors trying to effect change in the legal frameworks surrounding trademarks, or are they *really* just going for all the page views, comments, and thus ad exposures?

( Which they've graciously offered me to disable 'cos I made such positive contributions - but truth be told I enabled AdBlock the moment I saw a flash overlay ad. Sorry - you only get to make that mistake with me once. )

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (3, Insightful)

ngg (193578) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851001)

Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

You can also offer others a license to use your mark for some nominal fee, I believe. From a legal perspective (IANAL, by the way) I think that's probably just as good as litigating it. The problem probably comes from disagreement about what constitutes a reasonable nominal fee, and the licensee's concerns about their ability to control the use of their mark (eg, if someone who doesn't like the licensee tried to "steal" their mark by going through the licensor).

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (5, Informative)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851083)

Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

Yeah, it may be ridiculous, and yeah, a judge may decide that it is indeed ridiculous as well. But they -still- have to go through these claims in order to vigorously defend.

Vigorous defense of one's trademark does not demand that one pursue ridiculous or even questionable claims. All it means is that you can't knowingly allow violation of your trademark, then attempt to enforce it later. Where a case appears legally questionable, or outright stupid, there is absolutely no duty to pursue it. All the normal rules of civil procedure apply, including Rule 11. "Vigorous defense of trademark" is not a defense for filing a claim unsupported by law.

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (4, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851253)

All it means is that you can't knowingly allow violation of your trademark, then attempt to enforce it later. Where a case appears legally questionable, or outright stupid, there is absolutely no duty to pursue it.

That's a very narrow interpretation. If you allow your trademark to be diluted, then you weaken your ability to defend it later, even with more meritorious claims against different infringers.

Failure to defend a trademark can be used to overturn the trademark assignment if contested.

IANAL, obviously. But I've been responsible for trademarks at several employers, and had lengthy conversations with attorneys on the matter -- this is just my understanding based on those conversations. Of course, since they IP attorneys get paid to contest infringing use, they are motivated to ensure I want to vigorously defend my trademarks...

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (1)

gwythaint (35509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851957)

Of course, since they IP attorneys get paid to contest infringing use, they are motivated to ensure I want to vigorously defend my trademarks...

Lawyers tend to take this type of action when the economy goes bad or the competition is whomping them. Case in point: Nokia suing Apple.

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (2, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851271)

"Vigorous defense of trademark" is not a defense for filing a claim unsupported by law.

Here's the issue: the only place where questions of law are settled is a court room. Which in turn means that the only way to find out whether something is unsupported by law is to file a lawsuit and see where the chips fall.

Yes, some cases are highly unlikely to succeed. I doubt Sun would be able to successfully sue the Pope for trademark infringement. But I don't think that anyone here knows enough law to unequivocally state that this claim is unsupported by law.

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (3, Interesting)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851539)

Here's the issue: the only place where questions of law are settled is a court room. Which in turn means that the only way to find out whether something is unsupported by law is to file a lawsuit and see where the chips fall.

That is not a correct conclusion. Questions of law are only settled by the court, but many questions have already been settled. An attorney's job is to research existing law (both statutes and prior cases that have been decided in court) and make a prediction about what should happen if a new case is taken to court. Sometimes it's impossible to reach a conclusion, other times the conclusion is nearly certain; usually it's in between. The rules of ethics and of civil procedure prohibit attorneys from bringing suit when their argument is unsupported by existing law or a reasonable extension of existing law. This is rarely enforced with vigor, because there is often some type of legitimate argument that can be made to support even a very weak case - but not always.

But I don't think that anyone here knows enough law to unequivocally state that this claim is unsupported by law.

Don't be too sure about that. I'm not a trademark attorney, so I wouldn't venture a conclusive opinion about this case without doing some additional research first - but some here may be qualified to do so. With that said, my prior post was not intended to state that this case is meritless. I don't think it is. I think it's weak, but plausible. It's weak on the facts, not the law. If I were SPARC's attorney, I would have discouraged them from pursuing it.

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (3, Insightful)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851149)

I might agree with you, but their trademark is "SPARC", not "Spark".

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (3, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851195)

Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

That doesn't mean you're obligated to make over-reaching claims about your trademark. The obviously correct position would be to send C&D letters to people using 'sparc' without permission. Perhaps even to a company that sold "spark servers". That's all that's needed. Their trademark on "SPARC" would not be weakened at all by the continued existence of "SparkFun".

Re:Aren't you required to vigorously defend... (4, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851365)

Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

If they were genuinely concerned about losing their trademark, while admitting that SparkFun is not at all likely to be confused with Sparc, they could grant SparkFun trademark rights for $1. Basically tell them "we agree not to sue you for infringing what we believe is our rightful trademark, in exchange for consideration".

I'm tired of that damn "the law made me do it!" excuse. No, it didn't. There are plenty of remedies outside the courts that can accomplish the same ends.

Re:Sun should lose (2, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850913)

I swear that typoo was unintentional...

In after some FUD (5, Informative)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850947)

Sun has nothing to do with this. SPARC International owns the trademark, not Sun.

Re:Sun should lose (1)

travisb828 (1002754) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850973)

An electrician is also called a sparky on a construction site.
My grandma had a dog named sparky.
The Spark of Hope gives you +100 spirit
SparkOfHope.org helps disabled children
Sparkles the Clown does birthdays (i hate clowns they should sue him)
Jeff Dunham had a comedy central special called Spark Of Insanity - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epsx2dlQQ6k [youtube.com]

I could go on.

Re:Sun should lose (0)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851373)

The correct analogy is an electronics company called McIntoshFun being sued by Apple Computer Inc. Because it would be ludicrous for a company to lay claim to a common word for an apple variety like that.

Re:Sun should lose (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29852003)

"When I was in the USAF they called the electricians "spark chasers"."

They still do, but Sun isn't likely to sue an outfit with Predator UAVs... :)

"

"Dominant Portion" (2, Insightful)

MarbleMunkey (1495379) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850829)

Sun: "Because the dominant portion of the SparkFun mark, namely, SPARK, is phonetically identical and nearly visually identical to SI's SPARC mark, and because it is used in connection with identical goods, we believe confusion is likely to occur among the relevant purchasing group."

And here I thought that dominant portion of SparkFun was "Fun"!

Re:"Dominant Portion" (1)

Matheus (586080) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851179)

RTFA (heck RTFS)

This has *nothing* to do with Sun. They are the 'other' SPARC that has no bearing on this particular battle (although would have been a better target if it weren't for the fact they've been around WAY longer than the SPARC mark benchmark and have more lawyers)

Re:"Dominant Portion" (1)

MarbleMunkey (1495379) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851347)

Well excuse me for getting your panties in a twist. I did RTFA in point of fact, and while everything mentioned is 'Sparc International', I assumed that they were owned by Sun because:
  • Sun designed the platform.
  • Sun produce(d) UltraSparc, et al..
  • Every corporate entiy is owned by some bigger one any more..

I'd never even heard of Sparc Intl. before and worked for several years on Sun hardware..

No need to be a dick about it..

Re:"Dominant Portion" (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851577)

Sun aren't 'the other SPARC' they, like Fujitsu, use the SPARC trademark under license from SPARC International, a group founded by Sun to promote SPARC chips and to handle licensing of the trademark, designs, and other things related to SPARC chips. SI would not sue Sun for trademark violation because Sun licenses the trademark from SI.

Re:"Dominant Portion" (1)

Mike Rice (626857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851721)

Its dominant because it comes before 'FUN'.

"It is used in connection with identical goods"...

I went to the SPARC International website to see what these 'identical goods' might be.

Ironically, Googles 'Safe' browsing warned me not to visit the place!... it seems to be hosting "12 trojan(s), 8 exploit(s), 6 scripting exploit(s)"

I went there anyway and found that they sell...
'SPARC Architecture License' and 'Type 5 Keyboard Interface License'
And that's it.

I was so disappointed! Because I thought perhaps the site would be a new source of cool experimenter parts, microcontroller development systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Inertial Measuring Units, GPS modules, accelerometers, humidity sensors...

But all SPARC International sells is... paper. (Sorry, they don't actually SELL anything, they License it).

In any event, I don't think that any of SPARC Internationals potential customers could possibly confuse it with "SparkFun" and its offerings.

The word "Spark" is in common usage and has been for what, HUNDREDS of years?
The product line is entirely different... FAR from the claim that they are selling "identical goods". Hell they don't even actually SELL ANYTHING!

I can't wait (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850869)

The counter-suit should be interesting. Hey, maybe SPARC would like to hire Darl to take care of that? I hear he's looking for work now.

I think it just highlights (5, Funny)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850871)

That the dominant part of SPARC is not fun.

Huh....I don't see the resemblance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29850875)

...but then again, I'm really in a hurry here.

-- Moron

FARC (3, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850911)

So when is the FARC [wikipedia.org] going to send Fark.com [fark.com] a C&D?

Re:FARC (1)

gedrin (1423917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851043)

Your suggestion that we participate in your corrupt "Trademark" system is an offense to our revolutionary ideals.

When Will Gulag U.S.A. Send China C & D Letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29851075)

Never, because Gulag U.S.A. is owned by China [youtube.com] .

Yours In Novosibirsk,
Kilgore Trout.

Next thing you know (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850929)

I can't wait for IBM to sue BMW because after all, both of them share the letters "BM" and that might confuse a lot of people. Disney could probably have a go at McDonald's because after all, Donald is the name of a famous Disney character....

      Hopefully Sparkfun won't get a retarded judge, and this will be laughed out of court.

Re:Next thing you know (2, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851289)

Those examples are from different markets. I'd say a better example would be "Al's Restaurant" and "Joe's Restaurant"; they both have "Restaurant", and might confuse people... if the people in question are suffering from dementia.

Re:Next thing you know (1)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851623)

Or better, for PARC to sue SPARC. At least they're the same industry, "sound similar", use all caps in the name, etc. But that's right, it's just easier to go after the little guy.

Re:Next thing you know (1)

Zantac69 (1331461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851917)

You do know that "BM" also stands for "bowel movement," right?

Just checking :)

/snark off

Umm (2, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850961)

IANAL, but Sparc International has a legal obligation to protect its trademark, correct? They may not want to pick on SparkFun but if they don't demonstrably protect their trademark, they can lose it.

How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

Re:Umm (3, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851079)

IANAL, but Sparc International has a legal obligation to protect its trademark, correct? They may not want to pick on SparkFun but if they don't demonstrably protect their trademark, they can lose it.

How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

In my perfect world (I put that in because otherwise some /. smartass will tell me how things really are, thanks) you wouldn't need to "protect" your trademark against obviously non-infringing non-assaults. And also in my perfect world, you would be penalized for sending out frivolous C&Ds when you should have known better. Again, in my ideal world, a panel of people with common sense would decide when you would have known better. Furthermore, in my perfect world, you will all agree with me and get together and take up a collection to buy me a fully functional animatronic Natalie Portman.

Re:Umm (1)

jasonjacks0n (762945) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851977)

in my perfect world, you will all agree with me and get together and take up a collection to buy me a fully functional animatronic Natalie Portman.

Dude, it's your perfect world.. why not just go for the gusto and wish for the actual Natalie Portman?

:-)

Re:Umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29851211)

You are only required to protect your trademark against genuine abuses or generic uses. As far as I know there is no requirement to send out letters where there is little chance of confusion or "passing off".

Having said that (and also IANAL), being able to point to a history of absurdly aggressive lawyering against the world & his dog is useful if there ever was a 'proper' trademark case. It would demonstrate that Sparc still considered the word a very valuable trademark and had not abandoned it to generification, even if none of the C&D letters are followed up much further by the legal department.

Re:Umm (2, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851299)

How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

You can license it, but more importantly, you have to decide what infringes and what doesn't. If the name of the company was "SparkServ" or similar, then the standard of "is likely to create confusion in the marketplace" applies. Additionally, if there are other details in the use of "SparkFun" as a trademark that would cause confusion (ie: ripping off the look and feel of the registered mark) then you have a case.

This is like Darl McBride suing "Scope mouthwash" because the first three letters are "SCO". Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but we should never resist the urge to compare stupidity with Darl's previous actions. ;)

Re:Umm (1)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851489)

I want to see how this plays out. Sparc International and SparkFun aren't direct competitors but they are both in the electronics biz. It's a bit of a stretch but I'd grant that there is the potential for confusion. I'd hope that Sparc sent the letter as a beginning for negotiations and is aiming to sign an agreement with SparkFun that allows both companies to feel that their trademarks are secure for future usage. If it ends with SparkFun being forced to change their name, that will be a pretty big black eye for Sparc.

Re:Umm (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851433)

IANAL, but Sparc International has a legal obligation to protect its trademark, correct? They may not want to pick on SparkFun but if they don't demonstrably protect their trademark, they can lose it.

How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

You can't.

That's why Mattel is so nuts about anyone doing anything with Barbie. Or why McDonald's will sue just about any business that puts 'Mc' in its name.

I think the most aggressive has to be the International Olympic Committee. When the Olympics come around, the IOC goes around and forces business to remove "Olympic" from their names - even if they've been in business for generations.

Re:Umm (1)

akgooseman (632715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29852009)

Or Nissan the car company going after nissan.com

Re:Umm (5, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851465)

How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

Dang - I just posted the answer above. But to recap: you license it. Sell the "offending" party the right to continue using their name for the minimum dollar amount necessary to create a binding contract (which I think is traditionally $1). That way they're in the clear, and in the event that someone else infringes in the future, you can prove that you're aware and have dealt with other infringers in the past.

Re:Umm (2, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851521)

How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

Contact the very nice folks at SparkFun and ask, "Pardon -- could you put a disclaimer on your 'About' page or 'FAQ' stating that you are not associated with Sparc? That way we have our 'You must defend your trademark' ass covered, but we don't have to be dicks about it."

Oh, great... (2, Funny)

kclittle (625128) | more than 4 years ago | (#29850977)

First SparkFun get a stupid cease & desist, *then* it gets slashdotted. Some days, it all just goes downhill from the git-go...

Re:Oh, great... (1)

orsty3001 (1377575) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851093)

Sometimes Slashdot is the next best thing to a bot net. The next story will pop up and the traffic will drop. Also I've gotten tons of these letters and never have they followed through on their threat. You'll probably see this fade away once they realize how silly it is. I've noticed that you see large companies do this and to me it's almost like there is so little going on in the legal department if Joe Lawyer doesn't come up with something fast, he'll find himself facing the "Bobs" and trying to explain why he's here and what he does.

oblig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29851021)

hahahaohwow.jpg

Wait... what? (2, Funny)

TheJodster (212554) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851069)

So SPARC now lays claim to http://www.*sparc*.* as well as http://www.*spark*.*

Does this mean I can't register www.sparccankissmyass.com without getting a C&D letter?

Re:Wait... what? (1)

Onaga (1369777) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851171)

Not at all, unless you sold servers under the sparccankissmyass brand. It's not just similar trademark; it's similar trademark and similar products.

Re:Wait... what? (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851295)

It depends. Do you plan on selling microprocessors?

Re:Wait... what? (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851901)

Let me know when you do and I will help you make processors and servers.

So...Much...Chickenshit... (2, Insightful)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851073)

So SPARC is something like SPARK...

  And some nitwit company that has seen its stock price fall a huge percentage because it spends far too much on psychotic lawyers than it does on R&D is filing a lawsuit about 'Spark' being close to 'sparc'. And this idiot lawyers have convinced someone that they 'own' the word 'spark'.

    Am I reading this correct? Please tell me that this is not Sun Microsystems! Founded by geniuses, creators and leaders in the workstation industry, the true visionary company of the valley.

    You would think that these guys would be too embarrassed to show their faces in the valley again after something as stupid as this.

    These guys have no shame.

    Since the world's population is bursting and there is ...so...much....surplus...talent available, why don't we just put all these dumb fucks out of their (and our) misery. "take out the trash, clean out the crusty, and let them spend the rest of their days walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain."

    What! There's a law against that too? Law or no law, sooner or later, it's going to be cheaper just to kill them all.

    It's a shame that with all their education and vested options, they still don't realize this.

Re:So...Much...Chickenshit... (1)

Leto-II (1509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851509)

Please tell me that this is not Sun Microsystems!

It's not Sun Microsystems, Inc. It's SPARC International, Inc.

Sun is just a member company.

Other sites with better summaries (2, Funny)

odin84gk (1162545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851091)

(Removed by user)

I don't want all of my hacker/maker sites slashdotted at once!

This is great advertising (2, Insightful)

pem (1013437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851119)

SparkFun should be laughing all the way to the bank, once they get past the lawyerly nuisance.

Don't confuse the Electronics Company with... (1)

mujadaddy (1238164) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851239)

...the unrelated but more interesting SpankFun!

Completely and utterly... (1)

ShaunC (203807) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851293)

RE/tarded.

I've ordered from both companies... (3, Interesting)

Buckbeak (591708) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851411)

I've ordered from both companies, but not anymore. I will continue to support SparkFun, even if they are forced to change their name. Sun/Oracle can go to hell.

Do lawyers... (1)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851447)

Do lawyers just not have enough to do or something?

"Hey, what's the legal department up to?"
"Not really all that much right now."
"Well what are we paying them for?! Have them sue someone or something."

and if they were business partners... (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851653)

....like the way The UPS Store and UPS are (two separate companies entirely!), you would never know the difference that they are tow different companies with a good relationship sharing brand recognition.

Madness? . . . (1)

base3 (539820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851701)

THIS IS SPARKFUN!

God help the auto industry.... (3, Funny)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851817)

...what are they going to call sparkplugs now?

anyone with an actual need for (2, Insightful)

alizard (107678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851857)

electronic components has no difficulty differentiating "SPARC" from "SparkFun". While a SPARC CPU is in fact an electronic component, it is one that can only be used if one is building a specialized sort of computer (i.e. one that won't run x86 code and can't run any Windows / OSX apps). If one is going to design an electronic circuit with any hope of functioning, one has to know EXACTLY what components one is designing into it.

The population of actual electronic component customers likely to mistake SPARC for SparkFun is exactly zero. There is NO public likely to be confused by this.

Clan McDonald (2, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851873)

The Guardians of Clan Donald
(Na Dionadairean Clann Dhomhnuill)
By authority of Lord Macdonald,
Premier Clan Chief of Clan Donald.
22 Dunecht Road, Westhill, Aberdeenshire, AB32 6RH.
Tele: 01224 740073

PRESS RELEASE
Lord Macdonald of Macdonald, premier clan chief of Clan Donald, has appointed Ronald W McDonald to be Sergeant-Major at Arms of the Guardians of Clan Donald: the linear descendant of the chief's bodyguard. It will be open to all Macdonalds and their septs, dependents, and descendants, who are in good standing in the community. Successful applicants will be enlisted as Sergeants at Arms and issued with a Warrant in the form of a Certificate which is suitable for framing. The cost of membership is £1 (postal orders please) or £2 sterling for overseas applicants.

The Guardians of Clan Donald aim to uphold and protect the dignity and honour of the ancient and honourable name of Clan Donald by all legal means. One specific aim is to offer moral support to Mary Blair, proprietor of McMunchies, a small sandwich bar in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire, who is being threatened with legal action by McDonald's Restaurants, the fast food chain, for daring to use the prefix "Mc" in the name of her shop. When interviewed in BBC2's "The Money Programme" a top trademark lawyer made it clear that McDonald's have not a legal leg to stand on. Instead they rely on their unlimited financial resources to bully small businesses who cannot afford to fight back.

This type of business ethics might be good practice in the USA but it is singularly un-British. McDonald's have registered most names beginning with 'Mc' as trademarks, not with any intention of using them, but to try and stop anyone of that name setting up a restaurant. Even my own name Ronald McDonald has been registered as one of their trademarks. This is an attack on Scottish culture when even our very names are hijacked.

It has been stated by government ministers that a person is fully entitled to use their own name for business. But McDonald's has grown so large it is supra-national, with an advertising budget bigger than the Gross National Product of many countries. It is time that the government took in hand this matter of bullying of small businesses by companies such as McDonald' s. Perhaps this might be a subject for debate by a future Scottish Parliament.

If McDonald's persists in its action against McMunchies they are disgracing the ancient and honourable name of Macdonald. In the days when a clan chief had the power of pit and gallows the ultimate penalty for shaming the clan name was to be flung over a cliff but it seems unlikely that any executive of McDonald's Restaurants would volunteer for this!

Injustice and bullying are matters that concerns everyone and not just those affiliated to one clan. To this end, the Guardians of Clan Donald have decided to launch a petition calling upon McDonald's Restaurants to drop their action against Mary Blair of McMunchies Sandwich Bar. Petitions should be sent to the Guardians of Clan Donald or direct to McDonald's Restaurants, 11-59 High Road, East Finchley, London N2 8AW. (Fax Number 0181-700 7050 Telephone 0181-700 7000). A personal letter, telephone call or fax to McDonald's condemning their action is also effective.

Any assistance from the media would be much appreciated.

Back to Media Page

Press Index

Wha...? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29851877)

Likely to cause confusion in the minds of purchasers? What are they smoking?

I've bought bits off SparkFun in the past. It never even occurred to me that there was a vague similarity between them and SPARC international until I heard about the C&D letter. Not even a moron would confuse Sparc International and SparkFun. Different logos, only tangentally related markets (they both are involved in the pushing around of electrons, but one designs CPUs, the other has instructions on how to solder tricky packages).

Bah. Remember that SPARC backwards is CRAPS.

SPARK as a Resume spelling mistake (1)

gwythaint (35509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29852001)

Awhile back I established a rule for myself of tossing in the trash basket any resume that claimed work or education experience with SPARK processors or SPARK workstations.

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