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AOL Sues Over "You've Got Male"

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the stupid-law-suits dept.

America Online 173

A reader sent us today's stupid lawsuit. AOL is suing a Denver-area woman to get her to stop using the phrase "You've Got Male" in her book to online dating. *sigh* Put your own pithy comment about stupid lawsuits here.

cancel ×

173 comments

Re:There's no way they can win (1)

rc-flyer (20492) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664719)

Yes, AT&T was using the phrase, and AOL sued them. AOL lost, because the phrase was ruled to be a common phrase (I think that was the reason).

If the lawyer for this woman is any good he will reference the AT&T lawsuit, and possibly counter-sue AOL for a frivilous lawsuit

Parody? (1)

Octos (68453) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664720)

Standard "I'm not a lawyer" disclaimer here.

Could the book title possibly fall under the protection of parody? I remember when 2 Live Crew took this to the supreme court. I don't know all the details, but since it's not derogetory of AOL, I'd think it has a chance.

Re:This screams out... (2)

funkman (13736) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664721)

1) Unix has said "You have mail" for a long time.
Unix states "You have mail" or "You have new mail". AOL says "You got mail" if you have new mail. "You got mail" is a catch phrase recognized by millions with AOL. I have used UNIX for the past 4+ years and it took some time to remember that association. I have never used AOL in my life and instantly think of AOL when I here the phrase "You got mail".

2) AOL has never gone after the people who parody them on The Simpsons, etc.
That is called freedon of speech. Simpsons are protected by the first amendment.

3) As usual in these cases (such as WB against their FANS), AOL is trying to sue someone for parody
This is not a case of parody. This is not making fun of AOL. This is using AOL's brand name to be able to obtain easier recognition so more books can be sold. If no disclaimer is by the phrase "You got male", believe it or not, one can believe there is an association with the AOL brand name. AOL is a highly recognized brand name among the general population. (General population, not the techies folks)

To me this "small potatoes" bookwriter is not worth their time.
It is if they are profiting off of a brand name. This is a book about internet dating. AOL is largest ISP in the World. Millions of people chat on AOL and people meet or discover new people using AOL.

They should both stop using it! (1)

Zerbey (15536) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664732)

AOL's BLOODY ANNOYING "Hello! You've got Mail!" chirp is one of the most annoying things in the world and I thank Tux I don't have to listen to it.


Now we have a film using the BLOODY ANNOYING phrase and some lady using a modification of said BLOODY ANNOYING phrase.


AOL: Don't be silly she isn't going to hurt you, honest.
Lady: Think up something more original


Film, I believe this was Tom Hanks who has been in some good films so I'll let him off this time ...:)

Trademark "You Have Mail" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664733)

Companies that use common words or phrases for ad campaigns or products shouldn't be allowed to trademark the phrases in the first place. As far as I'm concerned, anyone ought to be able to use the phrase "you've got mail" without fear of being sued.

Re:Annoying lawsuits (1)

geocajun (11733) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664734)

If you have ever seen the movie "a murder of crows" it tells a lot of interesting facts about lawyers.. My favorite quote from that movie is "If it wasn't for lawyers, we wouldn't need lawyers."

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

vrt3 (62368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664735)

Break the contraction apart into it's component words, and the phrase becomes "You have got mail."

Back in school we learned that "You have got [whatever]" indeed is the way to express possession. As in "You have got a nice car". Or is it in the context of mail not a case of possesion?

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

bonehead (6382) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664736)

Are you sure? "You have a nice car" sounds more correct to me. I could be wrong, though. After all, there's 10 good years of beer drinking between me and my last English class. :)

IANAET

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664737)

sorry, but

'You've got mail' is correct. it means

You have got mail. Doesnt mean you've got any new mail...if they want to have a phrase to say you've got new mail..and not old junk in yer box, then it should be

'You've got new mail'

pretty straightforward.

you've got...bad english (1)

heh2k (84254) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664738)

/me -pedantic "you've got mail"

"you've" is a contraction of "you have", so this statement evaluates to "you have got mail", which is poor english. the correct phrases are:

you've gotten mail (you have recieved mail in the past)

or

you've mail (you have mail)

Re:You've got ale. (1)

jmcmurry (3759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664739)

You'd lose. You'd do better to register it as a trademark, since your phrase is not a created work.

Even then, you'd lose. You can't show that your phrase would cause confusion among consumers in a common marketplace, or that you'd used it prior to AOL's use of the similar phrase "You've got mail."

Not that AOL wouldn't fight you "tooth and nail", which sounds suspiciously similar to...



-jm

Yada, yada (Re:You've got ale.) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664740)

You've got {bail, bale, dale, fail, hail, kale, nail, pail, sail, tail, quail, rail, vale, whale, wail, Yale, ale, frail, grail, stale, trail}. Any questions? :)

Re:Oh please! (2)

Fortissimo (45876) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664741)

Exactly. Exactly! This is amazing coming from a company whose only claim to fame is setting up modems around the country and dumbing down technology to a point where even the previous kings in that arena, M$, could never compete. Most people I know who use AOL are so dopey that they can't even say the NAME right, calling it "American On Line". Then they buys a truly innovative company like Netscape and corrode it slowly from within. What's gone wrong with the world? I need sedation.

-F

Suing... For What? (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664745)

I thought AOL had already lost its bid to protect the phrase "You've Got Mail"...?

--Z.

Zontar The Mindless,

Annoying lawsuits (1)

Scutter (18425) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664747)

Did you know that the US has like 4% of the world's population but over 50% of the world's lawyers? Everybody wants their chance to roll the dice.

What is it with sue-happy americans?
(Yes, I'm an american and I'm shamed by this garbage)

Trademark law (3)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664749)

To be fair if you have a trademark you legaly
have to defend it every time. Or it stops being a
trademark. So it is atleast part the fault of a
dumb system.

This is perilously close to common English. (2)

Sun Tzu (41522) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664751)

"We believe when people hear that phrase they think of AOL." -Jim Whitney, AOL

Close, Jim. Now when people hear that phrase they will think "AOL sucks". Is that what you want? ;)

Snigger (3)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664753)

"When people hear that phrase we believe they think of AOL."
Looks like we better all be careful about using the phrase 'frivolous lawsuit'.

You've got ale. (2)

DoorFrame (22108) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664755)

I'm copyrighting you've got ale... I'm suing AOL.

Catch phrases (2)

DGregory (74435) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664757)

I seem to recall a court case from business legal studies course, where Johnny Carson sued a port-a-potty company for calling the company "Here's Johnny!" (get it, ha ha) Well the port-a-potty company eventually lost, and had to change their name since the average person would think it's referring to Johnny Carson and think that he's endorsing the port-a-potty company.

I think that should this go to court, that AOL has a chance of winning, on the same grounds. On the other hand, I'm just a computer geek, not a lawyer, so they could think up something totally different and AOL will lose (since they couldn't trademark their IM and "You've got Mail"...)

Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (3)

Raul Acevedo (15878) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664759)

The concept of AOL suing someone over use of a trademark is not stupid. They have every right to do that. And yes, this includes something that closely resembles their trademark. In this case, the woman is purposefully using the phrase's association with AOL to sell her book, so from that point of view the lawsuit is completely with merit.

What is stupid is the trademark over the phrase "You've got mail". That's such a common phrase---or at least close enough to the grammatically correct version---that it's amazing that AOL can have a trademark on it. Gee, why don't I just trademark "what's up" or "see you later"? Anyone more familiar with trademark law know about any possible restrictions on trademarking common terms?

And oh yeah, how AOL can be so high on itself about protecting a phrase that is so grammatically incorrect is beyond me. We all make mistakes, but a company with AOL's millions should at least be able to have the grammar capacity of a ten year old.
----------

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

migmog (40610) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664761)

There's a different grammar between US and real English. 'You have' and 'You've got' are equivalent in real English, whereas Americans turn up their nose at it, which is a bit ironic considering the amount of language butchering that goes on in the USofA.. 'momentarily' and 'alternate' spring to mind

I whould argue that AOL has lost it's Trademark. (1)

The Creator (4611) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664762)

Since the phrase is so common(That's what the laur says anyway).

LINUX stands for: Linux Inux Nux Ux X

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (2)

Demandred (13894) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664763)

The phrase You got mail is ok because it states that in the past you received mail. In fact You got mail is similar to You received mail. The phrase you have gotten is not a phrase of possesion, but a phrase stating that in the past you recieved mail. The correct way to express possesion is with "have". "Get" and "Got" express the present and past actions of retrieval, not possesion.

You've got Ads! (1)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664764)

When I hear "You've got Mail" I think "Sleepless in Seattle", but then again I think all sorts of strange things.

She could always change the sound to.... (1)

sqrlbait5 (67782) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664765)

"You're a freakin' moron"

But hey, that's almost too obvious.

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

Cuthalion (65550) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664766)

I think that this is probably a result of you being taught (this part of) the language the way it is spoken rather than the way prescriptive grammarians think it should be spoken. This is good - one of the problems with learning a foreign language is mastering the way it's casually spoken and not sounding too formal or proper, just because that's the only way you know how to say things.

Re:Trademark law (1)

substrate (2628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664767)

"You've got mail" shouldn't be a registered trademark though. I was biffed by that every time I logged in to my university account on my unix cluster which predates AOL (not by much, but biff itself does).

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (2)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664768)

> Break the contraction apart into it's component words...

And you get:

"Break the contraction apart into it is component words..."

See also Those Pesky Apostrophe's [spinnwebe.com]

Funny how all grammar flames contain grammatical errors.

Lawyers are like shoplifters... (2)

Wah (30840) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664769)

They basically steal because they know the law and cause the price of everything else to go up. They are the single biggest factor in limiting freedom in this (US) country, as well as representing the rich and repressing the poor. (if I can afford someone to bend the law for me and you can't, I win). Oh yeah, most politicians are lawyers, so there ya go.

Re:This screams out... (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664780)

> I have never used AOL in my life and instantly think of AOL when I here the phrase "You got mail".

Interesting, considering the phrase they actually use is "You've got mail"...

You've got to be kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664781)

(Trademarked by me, Anonymous Coward, but you can use it freely provided to remove AOL from your computer system. The first time I ever associated "You've got mail" with that ridiculous organization is when I read this slashdot article. That could be because I use a real ISP and not the Always off Line service (AOL) - tradmark that bozos!

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

jmcmurry (3759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664782)

Use "have" when you hold possession of something:

"You have a red wagon."

Use "got" when you gain possession of something:

"You got a red wagon yesterday."

Using this, it seems like the best phrase would be "You have mail." As in, "There is some mail in your inbox of which I would like you to be aware."

But it could be argued that you don't "have" the mail until you login to AOL and read it. In this case, maybe it's best to use "You got mail." As in, "New mail has just arrived at in the inbox on your computer, by virtue of you logging in."

If your mind assumes the mail's been there for a while, then hearing "You got mail" when you log in sounds like slang. ("Yeeeh boyeee, you gotz phat mailzzz!") AOL probably wanted to avoid that.

I think that AOL just wanted a catchy, ambiguous phrase to make you happy that you decided to log in, but didn't assume much about the way you think about your e-mail. "You've got mail" does that pretty well, even if it is questionable grammar. Like the previous decade's "Think Different."

Of course, they may have never thought about it at all.

just not true (3)

hawk (1151) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664783)

>Did you know that the US has like 4% of the
>world's population but over 50% of the world's
>lawyers?

This and similar figures just aren't true. To take one where I've seen the actual figures, it's commonly repeated and believed that there are less lawyers in Japan than the U.S. Maybe in absolute numbers, but not on a per capita bases. Japan has roughly the same proportion being trained as lawyers, but the majority do not become licensed for the courtroom and general practice, but instead work in-house. In the U.S., virtually all of us take bar examinations and receive general licenses, and work for ourselves, prosecuting authorities, or law firms. (But then, I knew one who graduated from Stanford and never took the bar, instead teaching high school math [independently wealthy, though], and two more who became housewives after a few years of practice. And I closed most of my practice and picked up a Ph.D.)

hawk, esq.

Re:Oh please! (1)

jmcmurry (3759) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664784)

Guess what? If you had heard that guy saying "You've Got Mail!" every time you used your computer in the past ten years, AOL would be the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase.

Non-AOL users don't understand this, I think.

Re:Yada, yada (Re:You've got ale.) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664785)

Gotya! YOu've got inHALEd

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

joost (87285) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664786)

In Holland, KPN Telecom has trademarked the phrase 'Het Net'. Meaning: The Net. Yes, 'Het Net' is an ISP.

They have won a lawsuit about this too. Not because they're right, but because they have virtually unlimited funds and more lawyers than some people have hairs on their head...

On a side note: they have also trademarked their company color (the most ugly green you've ever seen) and gotten away with it. No company in Benelux can ever paint their vans that color any more. Sad, but true.

Re:Oh please! (1)

Phil Wilkins (5921) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664787)

Surely 'Americans On Line', which, as an unreconstructed brit, I'd consider fair warning...;)

Ever heard of..Parody law? (1)

mad_ian (28771) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664788)

That case will NEVER stand up in a US court.

If she's useing "You've Got Male", it is classed as a parody of AOL's "You've got Mail" trademark...and thus she is protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has made rulings about this sort of thing...

Re:You've got Ads! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664789)

Speaking of Ads... did you hear about AOL's latest practice? After being online for a while, a screen pops up and says something to the effect: "You've been working for a while... it's time to take a break"... and then they show ads! Reeeeediculous. -Rick

Re:This screams out... (2)

Yarn (75) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664796)

I have never used AOL in my life and instantly think of AOL when I here the phrase "You got mail".

I've never used AOL in my life and I instantly think of AOL when I hear the phrase "Stupid Lawsuit"

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

Yarn (75) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664797)

Thats punctuation :)

Funny how punctuation flames have speelung errors.

Letter to AOL (0)

r39525 (11111) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664798)

Dear Sir,

It has come to my attention that you have issued a "cease and desist" letter to the author/publisher
Madeline Sabol for the use of the phrase "You've Got Mail" in the title.

I thought you should know that there is a much more blatant usage of your phrase that is likely to
cause much more confusion. It is vary likely to confuse users not only on the web but in video stores
as well. After all if I go to Blcokbuster and rent "You've Got Mail" from Warner Brothers I would
expect to see the story of AOL not the sad story of two spoiled yuppies in love.

It would only be fair that you issue a "cease and desist" letter to them as well. You must vigorously
defend your trademark. In fact if you don't, won't that compromise your case against Sabol?

Please let me know if you have asked Warner Brothers to stop using your trademark? Inquiring
minds want to know (tm National Inquirer).

Best regards,

Robert Shaver
rshaverNOSPAM@austin.rr.com

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

blazer1024 (72405) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664799)

But it could be argued that you don't "have" the mail until you login to AOL and read it. In this case, maybe it's best to use "You got mail." As in, "New mail has just arrived at in the inbox on your computer, by virtue of you logging in."

Sounds like Schrödinger's Cat. Makes you wonder, does AOL not exist until you log on?

"Uh oh..." (1)

knodi (93913) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664800)

Actually, I have a friend in Hollywood whotold me that the original title of the movie was going to be "Uh oh", after the common ICQ sound effect, except that AOL offered 5.7 million if they would help give them some GOOD press for a change.

how about? (2)

Yarn (75) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664801)

ewe goat gnu male
(I should put this in my mutt)

A bit offtopic, so what? (1)

ushirageri (80820) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664802)

What's brown and black and looks good on a Lawyer?

A pair of Dobermans

Just for fun, Please don't moderate me down

Bad rammar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664803)

Anonye else notice that this really should be: you have mail. Or for that matter Apple's : Think Different should be: Think Differently

*shiver* (0)

Boolean (15853) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664804)

I don't know what's scarier, the fact that we're gonna have to face the Krull invasion after bothering them with our Mars probes (obviously they're pissed, the stole our latest orbiter) or this. Hmmm... I think I'd rather be an alien slave than use AOL, so hail Krull invaders!!! Hail!!! I better get in my bombshelter.

Bad grammar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664805)

Grammatically, this really should be: You have mail. Or for that matter Apple's : Think Different should really be: Think Differently.

It is about 'brand protection' or 'trade dress' (2)

mr (88570) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664806)

This suit is about brand protection.

Just like Apple suing anyone who sells a computer in blue/white translucent computers.

Or if Corel releases binaries of GPLed code. The GPL contract *MUST* be defended.

Otherwise, the contract becomes less enforceable. Just like the 'iMac look' or the phrase 'youve got mail'.


Face it: As the economy changes from physical things like steel formulation, tool design, etc la to electronic information and products are 'the same' (except for the brand on the box), these kinds of lawsuits will continue.

This is just one of the many problems of the electronic world we are forging. And, you, the consumer, are what give the brands power buy buying them and making them WORTH defending. So deal with it.

Netscape AOL Instant Mess... (1)

dylan_- (1661) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664808)


That icon on the desktop says it all. :-)

dylan_-


--

Just Sue Everbody!!! (4)

blizzard (22837) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664815)

I used to be a cab driver and I used the phrase "Where do you want to go Today?" a lot. Way before Microsoft started using it. If AOL can sue so can I.

Cab drivers of the world unite. We could start a class action suit against Microsoft.

Re:you've got...bad english (1)

palop (80846) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664816)

but
Get \Get\ (g[e^]t), v. t. [imp. Got (g[o^]t) (Obs. Gat (g[a^]t)); p. p. Got (Obsolescent Gotten
(g[o^]t"t'n)); p. pr. & vb. n. Getting.],
so "you've got mail" is just as good/bad as "you've gotten mail"

palop the superlurker

Beat AOL down (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664817)

Since it's already been ruled that AOL has no right to the phrase "You've got mail," she should counter-sue for frivolous prosecution and demand punative damages of at least 10% of AOL's monthly income.

Hello, you've got male-pattern-baldness (1)

ddebrito (33316) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664818)

"Hello, you've got male-pattern-baldness!"
I pretty much say this every morning
when looking in the mirror. I'm suprised the
peddlers of hair restorers haven't used
the above slogan.

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664819)

Uh-oh... looks like we've got a meta-flame war going on. Or should I say "We have a meta-flame war going on."

I'm so confused....


Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664820)

> Any way you slice it, "You've got mail" is just plain wrong.

No it's correct. Compare e.g. with "You've lost mail"...

Parody *is* protected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664821)

AOL doesn't go after people who parody them because parody is recognized as excercise of a key 1st Amendment value: the right to criticize those with power.

While the suit is heinous, "You've Got Male" does not in any way constitute parody. However, unless the book is subtitled "How to get laid on the internet", it would be rather hard to believe that this is confusing people. And even that is only plausible because AOL consists largely of lonely divorcees looking for a date and porno spam in your mailbox. But what's really apalling is the attempt to trademark plain (if not good) English.

God Bless You (tm)
Take care! (tm)
Rock On! (tm)
Eat my shorts! (tm)

How lame.. (1)

drwiii (434) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664823)

AOL's trying to ban someone from using a common phrase? Oh, please. Next thing you know we'll be seeing MP3s [min.net] of the AOL catch phrase popping up everywhere.

People have been using that phrase for longer than AOL has been in existance. It'd be interesting if they tried to trademark the phrase "AOL Sucks". At that point I guess we wouldn't be able to say that in public without getting sued, either.

Languages and Proper Grammar (1)

Glytch (4881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664826)

I've always believed that languages should adapt themselves to common usage, not the other way around. A language that doesn't change fast becomes a dead language. Latin, anybody? I like the way that many languages today are becoming more tolerant of this, especially French and Japanese. The rate that these two languages import technical and business terms from other languages is very healthy in the long run.

Sure, "You've got mail" is a really dumb catchphrase, but when you hear it you know exactly what it means. Meaning by context is far more important than some arbitrary ironclad description of "proper grammar".

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664828)

While I was also taught the "have got" combination was the correct way to express possesssion in grade school, this fallacy was corrected when I took a University writing course.

The problem with "You have got a nice car" is that the "got" is extraneous - posession of the car is indicated with "have." This also works in the case of the incorrect "You've got mail." "You have mail" or "You got mail" are gramatically correct without redundant words.

To go on, in "You have got mail", "got" implies direct first person action in the present tense. "Gotten" would work better as you are not currently receiving mail. It even sounds better:

"You have got mail"
"You have gotten mail"

See? :-)

Re:Annoying lawsuits (1)

.pentai. (37595) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664835)

What is it with sue-happy americans?

Well, as a fellow American I share your shame, but the answer is simple...why work for a living when faking a back injury, or claiming someone caused your cat permanent psychological damage will bring in the money?

It's another way for lazy-Americans (read: 95% of Americans that I know atleast...) to try avoiding work...

Re:This is perilously close to common English. (1)

sonoffreak (60226) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664836)

Oh wait doesn't that mean that the book is one big advertisement. Let's sue 'em.


Oh please! (2)

Kitsune Sushi (87987) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664837)

Thankfully AOL is about the /last/ damn thing I think about when I hear the phrase "you've got mail".. Usually what comes to mind is a) I've got bills or b) I've got a letter from my favorite girl or c) something I ordered from Amazon just arrived. That's such a bland and generic "trademark" I want to scream at them for even thinking they could protect it, or register it, or anything else. I think we should go back to public beatings. Take the entire AOL legal department, their CEO, and all of their networking "gurus".. and beat them senseless. Well, no not really.. but I do wish Americans would stop using their horrible service and switch over to a /real/ ISP so we can be rid of these idiots.

Trademark infringement? (2)

Mur! (19589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664838)

The article says that this is SOP when they find someone infringing on their trademark. And that they think that whenever someone hears that phrase, they think of AOL. But I have to wonder -
Yes, when I *hear* 'You've got mail(male)', I think of the silly AOL thingie that pops up to tell you that mail has just arrived in your in-box. However, this is a *book*. It is *obvious* that it is not 'mail', but 'male' (I mean, duh, it's right there in print). Yes, the woman is obviously making a play on a trademarked phrase, but she's *not* using the phrase! And instead of thinking, "Oh, this must be AOL!", people will think, "Wow, that's a cute turn of a phrase! I must have this book!" which is what I would assume is what she intended.

Will this 'trademark infringement' idea hold up in court? If it was a look-and-feel copyright case (like the iMac clone idea which I personally don't think has much of a leg to stand on anyway if it doesn't actually run MacOS), I can see them having a case ("well, it's a homophone, and so it *sounds* the same, even if it's not the same word! Therefore it has the same 'look-and-feel' of our trademarked phrase!"). But in this case? I'm not a lawyer, but it sounds to me like AOL has no sense of humor.

Besides, isn't 'You've Got Mail' as generic nowadays as 'Kotex' or 'Xerox' or 'Kleenex'? I mean, if I bring the snail mail in from the mailbox, I'd like to think I can call through the house, "Honey! You've got mail!' without AOL suing.

Allowable under patent law (2)

Sorklin (88002) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664839)

Didn't you know that AOL patented the phonemes for "you got mail"? So also out are the phrases "Ewe got male" and "U Gought Mehl." Sorry.

Stupid Journalism (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664840)

Why does /. fall into the same lame journalism that Television news does? There is no reason to bring out an inane lawsuit to the attention of the public with the assumption that its socialy important or is represtative of any sane person.

There are probably 100 wacky lawsuits filed a day. Why? Mainly because there are too many lawyers from your local dim-witted law school dying to make SUV payments.

This *MIGHT* have been news if AOL won the suit after losing its "You've got mail" rights. You guys even recognize it as being less than flame/troll bait but post it anyways.


I'm still waiting for the 'I wanna patent my daughter's virginity' lawsuit. Hillbillies of the world don't let me down!

This screams out... (4)

angelo (21182) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664841)

This screams stupidity yet again. Do we remember this? [slashdot.org]

1) Unix has said "You have mail" for a long time.
2) AOL has never gone after the people who parody them on The Simpsons, etc.
3) As usual in these cases (such as WB against their FANS), AOL is trying to sue someone for parody.

The problem isn't whether this woman meant it to cause harm to AOL or not, but whether AOL has a right to restrict the use of a phrase they don't even own! Since the words "mail" and "male" are completely different, and merely homonyms, this lends me to believe AOL's assertation will be this book serves to "confuse the public" or somesuch. Such confusion would be hard to find:

1) The book will be in the "self help" section.
2) Books about AOL are not.
3) Any 1st grader knows the difference between "mail" and "male"

To me this "small potatoes" bookwriter is not worth their time.

Re:Headline... For What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664842)

I think the only reason this "news" was picked up was that someone thought it was so damn clever to use 'male' instead of 'mail'.... *sigh*

AOL needs to learn.. (1)

ToOn (56014) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664843)

Ok, you have a trademark that more people then common sense should allow, hear on a daily basis. DUH, THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE FUN OF IT, OR CHANGE IT TO MEET WHAT EVER NEEDS THEY HAVE FOR IT TO BE USED FOR PROFIT~!

Wait, they are AOL, they never learn...

give it up! (1)

Rick Razzano (76194) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664844)

If AOL lost the right to keep others from using "You've got mail" for the exact same business purpose that they use it, how can they expect to have the right to keep others from using it for purposes unrelated to their busines?

Also, could "You've got male" be considered parody and under fair use? Would anyone be fooled into thinking it had anything to do with AOL?

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (2)

scrytch (9198) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664845)

"have got" is one of those grammatical constructions that is becoming "acceptable use" but hasn't quite arrived at that status yet. Give it a couple more generations, and english teachers won't even blink at it.

The common its/it's confusion isn't likely to become acceptable for a long time, since the two spellings actually impart different meanings, as opposed to "have got" which is just redundant.

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

xTown (94562) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664846)

You can in fact trademark common-language terms for specific use, such as advertising slogans and corporate presence. For example, Nike, with "Just Do It", and Microsoft, with "Where Do You Want To Go Today", did just that. In practical terms, it doesn't mean that you owe those companies a buck if you use the phrase in conversation--but you're prohibited from using it in advertising or corporate presence. To use AOL as an example, my local ISP can't distribute a custom e.mail client that burbles "You've got mail!" when you get a piece of e.mail, because that's part of AOL's corporate presence and thus is protected. (And by the way, according to what I've read, AOL was not allowed to claim protection on the similar-but-not-identical "You have mail"--they do protect "You've got mail".)

And it is the sad truth, as pointed out elsewhere, that AOL *has* to sue this woman, because if they don't and this happens again in a different context later, they will be vulnerable on the "non-protection" issue. Even if the suit is ultimately thrown out, they have to make the attempt.

Re:There's no way they can win (2)

scrytch (9198) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664847)

IANAL, but AFAIK, you can't countersue for frivolous lawsuits unless they constitute a pattern of harrassment. One suit don't do it. You can challenge the suit as being without merit, but that's for the judge to decide, and to the defendant, every suit is without merit.

Re:Alright, now I'm confused... (1)

challen (89545) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664848)

This movie was largely underwritten by AOL. It had the effect of turning a dull, tepid movie into a dull, tepid commercial, a trend that hopefully will die a silent death. If not, look for things like "'Just Do It!' the story of a May-December romance between a lonely marathon runner and an aging power walker.' Complete with Nike swooshes in every scene.

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

pigpogm (70382) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664849)

Colors can be trademarked here in the UK, too.

Heinz has just trademarked the color of their bean tins, and Cadburys has trademarked their shade of purple.

AOL... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664850)

..."You've gotten stale!"

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

Anm (18575) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664852)

And oh yeah, how AOL can be so high on itself about protecting a phrase that is so grammatically incorrect is beyond me. And you think Apple is going to reconsider "Think different." on place of something more grammatically correct?

Re:Own-leee een amerika comrade... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664854)

Freedom's pretty tough

Mirriam-Webster (1)

challen (89545) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664855)

Sounds a lot like AOL's legal team saw the same "3rd Rock" rerun that I did. Dick is insanely jealous of an author friend of Jane Curtin's, so he barges into the booksigning. "This man is a fraud! Every word of this book has been published before! Perhaps you've heard of...(thumping a large tome on the desk with a righteous flourish) The Dictionary!"

Improper grammar (1)

junk (33527) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664858)

Know what? I don't think AOL has any right to the phrase "You've got mail." Millions of stupid little kids have been saying it around 2:00, when the Mailman comes and drops off his goodies. Since when does AOL get to be the owner of a poorly constructed phrase?
I still remember my grandfather bitching about it every day. "Every time I hear that, it makes me cringe." Lucky for him, it's just a .wav file installed with the AOL software and I showed him how to chenge it. I think that every AOL user should do something along those lines, change their AOL to a much more intellectual version. We already have enough public schools contributing to the dumbing down of America, ISPs shouldn't be doing it too.

"Drugs are like education; the more you hvae, the better off you are." -junk ($me)

Re:Trademark law (2)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664865)

Yeah, but a federal judge has already ruled that "You've Got Mail" is not a protected trademark. Of course, AOL is probably appealing this ruling, so they have to keep up appearances.
^. .^
( @ )
^. .^

Own-leee een amerika comrade... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664866)

Thank god I live in a country where people don't even *THINK* to bring stupid cases to court, let alone are actually *ALLOWED* to do so.

Get Rich Quick: The amerikan dream.

Go spill some coffee, aOL.

ALA to sue AOL (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664867)

The American Lawers Association (ALA) is to sue AOL for making such a mockery of lawsuits filed in america. In this [slashdot.org] unprecedented comment, and ALA spokesperson said "We dont need AOL to demonstrate how far money-grabbing lawyers will go just to get their cut, we are quite capable of doing that ourselves."

Alright, now I'm confused... (2)

theGnome (93737) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664868)

Wasn't there a movie a little while ago called 'You've Got Mail'? Now, why is AOL going after this one little person when they can go for the real money and try to kick a major movie production company in the teeth? Hell, they can try going after all kinds of people in that regard... =) Wouldn't mind seeing that... -- - dom
- dom

Stupid Lawsuits (1)

tim_m (27065) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664869)

You know, if judges would just stop listening to stupid lawsuits, they'd stop being filed. It's only because they keep getting press, keep getting heard, and keep thinking that the lawsuits make sense, that people, corporations, etc. think they can make such lawsuits and get away with it. Sad thing is, they usually do get away with it. How much damage to AOL is really going to be done by this lady using "You've Got Male"? Most likely, none. They just have to make a point, but lawsuits are really a stupid way to just make a point. The judge should throw the case out without even hearing it, or even punish AOL for making such a lawsuit to discourage these kinds of things in the future.

Yes, there are legitimate times when lawsuits are necessary. This isn't one of them.

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

Demandred (13894) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664870)

That may be all good if the woman was using a legitimate Trademark like "AOL", but the phrase You've got mail has been used by postal carriers for years before AOL ever existed, at any rate, didn't AOL lose a lawsuit to AT&T over the same thing. It seems that AOL has realized that it can't win against the big players like AT&T and has decided to pick on someone little instead.

Re:Stupid Journalism (2)

El Volio (40489) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664871)

Reason?

"News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters."

Now, while whether or not it matters is open to debate, it is definitely "news for nerds". As for whether it matters, given that a lot of the stories are for fun, I would submit that while it's not as important as an earthquake or school shooting, it's probably something of interest to the average /.er. Including myself.

There's no way they can win (3)

brennanw (5761) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664872)

Didn't the courts already rule that AOL can't own the phrase "You've got mail"? I seem to recall reading that here in /.

If that's true, then there's no way they can sue someone for using a phrase that is derived from something they don't have the right to enforce as a trademark.

So I think that in return, the lady being sued should countersue for a whopping big sum of money. Seems fair to me.

You're all missing the point. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664873)

That is a really, really stupid line. Somebody should put a stop to it, and I applaud AOL for stepping forward and saying, "We will not let this obnoxiously stupid pun go unchallenged!"

Bravo, Mr. Case.

Re:Trademark law (1)

rjreb (30733) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664874)

Granted AOL lost to AT&T re: this but AT&T has lots of lawyers too. Bet this author doesn't.

If at first you don't succeed...

Re:Suing... For What? (1)

dkm (42942) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664885)

I though I heard this too. A couple weeks ago wasn't it?

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (1)

vrt3 (62368) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664886)

... "You've got mail". ... And oh yeah, how AOL can be so high on itself about protecting a phrase that is so grammatically incorrect is beyond me. We all make mistakes, but a company with AOL's millions should at least be able to have the grammar capacity of a ten year old.

Can someone explain to me why it's not correct? I'm from Belgium and my mother tongue is not English but Dutch, but from what we learned in school it seems perfectly OK to me.

Can we have laywer/sue category? (1)

jonr (1130) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664887)

So I can happily put that on my slasdot ignore list along with other no-news?
Maybe I should file a feature request...

Jon

Re:Alright, now I'm confused... (2)

Felix Da Rat (93827) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664888)

If I recall correctly, AOL pitched in a fair chunck of change to get that movie made.

Besideds, a love story staring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan tends to give a bit better press to online relationships (i.e. people online - more ad revinue) than the tale of a woman who things didn't work out for.

Maybe...

That Author is Lucky (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1664889)

I would think that most authors would kill for that type of publicity--free media coverage all over the place. If she loses, then she loses some of her royalties and gets the free publicity. If she wins, she keeps her royalties and the publicity. Signed, MEEPT fan

Re:Stupid Journalism (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664890)

I wasn't suggesting that only the murders of yuppie teenagers and the constant shifting of the earth's surface deserve press.

This falls so below the threshold of common sense and reality that there's no reason to post it. I'm sure we are all aware the there are stupid lawsuits in the US.

You think this story is for fun? Next time read
what Hemos wrote, not to mention the comments. No one's laughing, its just more "*GRUMBLE* Evil american lawyers!" I say No shit and quit Jenny Jonsing up Slashdot.

I don't care what self styled "Nerds" think, or your opinion of what they think is "News" but most intelligent people just roll their collective eyes at the obiqitious stupidity of cashing-in lawsuits like this one.

Re:Lawsuit isn't stupid, phrase is (2)

bonehead (6382) | more than 14 years ago | (#1664891)

Break the contraction apart into it's component words, and the phrase becomes "You have got mail."

The correct grammar would be "You have mail."

Actually, "You got mail" would also be correct in the right context, but not in the context of telling someone that they have mail waiting in their inbox.

Or, "You have gotten mail" could work, but again, probably not the best choice for the context they're using it in.

Any way you slice it, "You've got mail" is just plain wrong.
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