Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Second Life: Trademark and IP Infringement

A few pointers from Csven to the discussion about SL residents using real-world trademarks:

-- Resident complains he (she?) was approached by a Linden employee and asked to remove cars modeled after Nissan and Toyota and sporting respective logos (SL Forums thread).

-- Linden Lab says any use of a real-life logo without permission is an IP infringement as is considered abuse under the terms of service (SL Forums post).

-- Clickable Culture: Second Life is rampant with intellectual-property infringements--it's just ignored (blog post).

The examples of residents using RL brands without (most likely) not having any legal right to do so abound and some of them are documented here. Some branded products (Coke from the vending machine) are given away for free, others (iPods at iPod store) are sold for money. There are two sides of the issue. On the one hand, these products and activities seem to be clear cases of IP infringement. On the other hand (as a recent C3 paper explains in detail), the companies abstain from twich reaction to every instance of illegal use / fan production as in some cases the benefit to the brand outweighs the cost of losing control.

Yet on the other (third?) hand, SL residents who market products under their own brand may view illegal exploitation of RL brand goodwill as unfair competition.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, it's that last item that appears to have gotten Linden Lab considering the issue more seriously.

    After the public announcement that content creation was paramount, during a series of "Hotline" posts I asked about IP issues - specifically wrt Trademark (there is no longer a "Hotline" section on the forum; it's in the Archives now). Linden Lab was extraordinarily evasive (understandably so) but in the end they made it clear, iirc, that Trademarks were a separate issue from other IP that fell under the DMCA. I suspect it was my pointing out the catch-22 in their handling of Trademark infringement as that sort of unfair competition adversely impacted content creation which they desperately desired and claimed was necessary for Second Life's success. In the end, the guidance was that residents could "Abuse Report" a RL Trademark infringement. I don't recall any such previous guidance being officially stated.

    In fact, up until that time, there was little to no guidance on this issue. Since then I've noticed the Terms of Service is updated frequently (usually tied to a new version release).

    If you would like to read more, you can search the forums for "trademark" using my avatar name and then cull the returns for those posted in the "Hotline" section. It's tedious reading, so I'll apologize in advance.

    You might also want to read a couple of my posts on the situation:

    - http://blog.rebang.com/?p=234
    - http://blog.rebang.com/?p=344