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My Response to the Web 2.0 Service Mark Controversy

There’s been a lot of flak over Tim O’Reilly’s desire to trademark the term “Web 2.0″. The following is my response that I left on his site and expresses (somewhat succinctly) how I feel about it.

According to Wikipedia: Web 2.0 generally refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. In contrast to the first generation, Web 2.0 gives users an experience closer to desktop applications than the traditional static Web pages.”

Web 2.0 is a term often applied to a perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications to end users. Ultimately Web 2.0 services are expected to replace desktop computing applications for many purposes.

To some extent Web 2.0 is a buzzword, incorporating whatever is newly popular on the Web (such as tags and podcasts), and its meaning is still in flux. O’Reilly recently claimed exclusive use of the term for conference names, further muddying the waters.

Given that the term ‘Web 2.0′ is just a “buzzword” for a trend in the World Wide Web, then the question begs to be asked is it reasonable that it could be trademarked any more than the words ‘Internet’, or ‘Blogosphere’ or anything else representing a generic “buzzword” that belongs to the greater public domain?

This is something that I would have expected from Bill Gates, and it would appear to be nothing more than a shameful power grab by certain corporate types that have a need to control things.

For indeed the primary purpose of trademarking anything is “control”. This notion is also indicative of a dangerous trend that is becoming more prevalent within the blogosphere and indeed the entire web.

Yes, as Mr. O’Reilly states a trademark is for preventing confusion within the marketplace or passing off on someone else’s turf, but he also forgets to mention towards what end? As someone who owns several trademarks and having worked in law, I can tell you with some certainty that a trademark is for enforcing exclusive use of a name or product for commercial gain.

So who is zooming who here? If indeed it is not Mr. O’Reilly’s intention to own the exclusive “right to all use of the term Web 2.0″, then he could easily prove that by abandoning this nonsensical enterprise.

Albeit I am impressed with Mr. O’Reilly’s eloquent retort, but unfortunately my gut tells me that it is just smoke and mirrors to smooth over rough waters. For if it is true that the term “Web 2.0″ is going to be trademarked then I recommend that henceforth none of us should even consider using the term.

Of course, Tim could prove me wrong by showing his good faith and publicly denouncing his (or his partners’) desire to trademark the term, and in that respect I highly recommend that he does abandon this ridiculous notion and be satisfied with having been given the honor of coining the term. All kudos will be acknowledged.

Then again, maybe I should be calling my lawyer tomorrow and registering Web 5.0 (Dennis Howlett already owns 4.0). Now there’s an idea.

Sorry to have to disagree with you Tim, but I’m just expressing my right to say what’s on my mind (so long as I still can).

Instead of building walls let’s keep the internet open and available to everyone.

Related links: blog bloke, instabloke, blog, weblog, blogging, web 2.0, internet, computers and internet, technology, tech, web 2.0, web 2, conference trademark, o’reilly

Written May 31st, 2006 by | 5 Comments | Filed under: Blog Tips , ,

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There are 5 Comments so far to “My Response to the Web 2.0 Service Mark Controversy”

  1. Read your comment on O’Reilly Radar (mine is below yours). Well put. He said nothing new.

    The amazing thing is how many of the early comments were praising Tim. I think there was a certain amount of celeb worship going on there.

    I was hoping that Tim would come back and make some really bold announcement. Something like “This runs counter to what I believe in, and I need to get it fixed up with CMP, and get this dropped”. The whole response smacks of 20th century thinking. “Protect your brands, gather your IP”. Fine, we’ll find another term to use.

    He’s completely missing the point, and is way off in terms of what open sourcers believe in.

    The love affair with geeks and O’Reilly is over. They will no longer sell on being part of something, and will not be the default choice.


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  2. You said “exclusive right to all use of the term”, yet the service mark is only for conferences and other live events.

    That seems like a very important difference.

    (Your implicit claim that the sole purpose of a trademark is for commercial gain is likewise difficult to believe.)

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  3. Hi chromatic. Thanks for the comment.

    You have misunderstood me. What I said was “a trademark is for enforcing exclusive use of a name or product for commercial gain”. The fact is the trademark could be allowed under much broader terms than just conferences.

    If however it is allowed only with respect to conferences, in time it is theoretically possible that the exclusivity of the mark could be broadened to include web 2.0 anything. Once the door has been opened theoretically Mr. O’Reilly could end up owning it all.

    What I find hard to believe is that he is only seeking the mark for just conferences. It would be helpful if Mr. O’Reilly made that application public so that we could all read the fine print for ourselves. Then again, that information should be available to the public, or at least to a trademark lawyer with access.

    But as I already stated, even if he is only seeking a mark for web 2 conferences (at this time), that is indeed the catch word for he could later apply for ownership of the web 2 name without exception.That is the danger and also reality.

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  4. Why all the squabble about “web 2.0″? Just buy NEB2.com and get on with business!

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  5. I going for “web” myself. So you can’t have it - it’s mine, all mine, mine, mine…

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