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As my fellow conference organizer (and yes, it was a Web 2.0 conference) Rob Hyndman notes in his latest post, we’ve had a bit of a debate going among the mesh gang about the whole O’Reilly trademark thing — and not just because we have kind of an interest in whether conferences can use the term. From a philosophical point of view, Stuart believes that O’Reilly should be able to trademark the term, since they were the ones to popularize it and build a conference business around it. As he put it, why should they not be allowed to somehow protect the value that they created?

My point is not just that it’s stretching things to say they “created” value in any meaningful sense by using the term Web 2.0 — although, as a commenter on the O’Reilly Radar blog notes, the term was used in a widely-publicized sense as early as 1999 — but more that I don’t see the point in trying to “protect” it, or how that benefits O’Reilly’s business. If anything, in fact, trying to protect that value by sending cease-and-desist letters to a non-profit group in Ireland has damaged O’Reilly’s brand, in the sense that it has got people re-thinking their commitment to the company. That just doesn’t seem very smart in a whole bunch of ways.

Now people are even starting to mutter about how there has been little or no response from the “FOO” camp, or friends of O’Reilly — and what response there has been, including the recent post from Cory “freedom fighter” Doctorow at BoingBoing, seems particularly mealy-mouthed and disingenuous at best. In the end, however, I think Cory seems to be making the same point I am trying to (although he dances around it), which is that it’s better for O’Reilly to be known as the pre-eminent Web 2.0 conference holder than it is to be known as the lawyer-mongering owner of that trademark. Way better, in fact.

Are people going to stop going to O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 conferences just because some non-profit group in Ireland uses the term? Hardly. But there might be people out there reconsidering their attendance as a result of all this ham-handed trademark bullshit. That’s the real issue for O’Reilly, it seems to me. Chris Messina was right in what he said in a comment on one of my previous posts: O’Reilly should make Web 2.0 a “community mark” — a Creative Commons-style public trademark — and put all this to rest.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

13 Responses to “The O’Reilly Web 2.0 debacle continues”
  1. issue for O’Reilly, it seems to me. Chris Messina was right in what he said in a comment on one of my previous posts: O’Reilly should make Web 2.0 a “community mark” — a Creative Commons-style public trademark — and put all this to rest.http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2006/05/27/the-oreilly-web-20-debacle-continues/

  2. Mathew, Mark, Stuart, and Rob’s posts on this, sure and the ton of other’s too (metric or Imperial ton, you choose).  I didn’t really have much to add to the discussion, except thinking, oh some lawyers stepped in it this time.

  3. of their identifying symbols (aka logos and wordmarks), and in effect, squashed nascent community-based efforts to do the work of more costly PR firms. The Community Mark was a prediction of the kind ofongoing community tarring happening to O’Reilly. This is, after all, what happens when you try to take away the language or symbols by which a community identifies itself and serves as a warning for what could happen to Mozilla if they stepped up and stopped

  4. forces that lead to the decline of the traditional newspaper (primarily the fact that people won’t pay to read online content and that there’s nothing other than ads to sell) will find their way to the blog as a business arena. Now comes CMP Mediatrying to trademark the slogan “Web 2.0” for conferences purposes. Are you kidding me? First of all, there is evidence that the slogan was used prior to the O’Reilly conferences in question. Secondly, as Cory Doctorow points out

  5. issue for O’Reilly, it seems to me. Chris Messina was right in what he said in a comment on one of my previous posts: O’Reilly should make Web 2.0 a “community mark” — a Creative Commons-style public trademark — and put all this to rest.http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2006/05/27/the-oreilly-web-20-debacle-continues/

  6. Me ha quedado dando vueltas en la cabeza este lío, que no sólo tiene que ver con aspectos legales, sino que también con varios de tipo filosófico. Leyendo el blog de Mathew Ingram, coincido con la idea de hacer del término Web 2.0 una marca bajo licencia Creative Commons cuya propiedad sea de O’Reilly pero la utilización de esta pueda estar permitida a la comunidad en general.

  7. […] Update: Legal niceties of CC’ing TM’s aside, as usual Mathew breathes good sense in this whole affair. Related Posts […]

  8. The NEXT Internet Revolution (Web 3.0)

    Since Web 2.0 has been defined to death, and just about everyone under the sun has had a good old time debating what it means, I’ve decided to leave it alone and let it die. In fact, I don’t really

  9. […] http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2006/05/27/the-oreilly-web-20-debacle-continues/ Share and Enjoy:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  10. […] The Community Mark was a prediction of the kind of ongoing community tarring happening to O’Reilly. This is, after all, what happens when you try to take away the language or symbols by which a community identifies itself and serves as a warning for what could happen to Mozilla if they stepped up and stopped community projects from cropping up. Or what would happen if anyone tries to trademark BarCamp or use it for purposes that the community does not sanction or endorse. […]

  11. […] The O’Reilly Web 2.0 debacle continues […]

  12. […] Tim O’Reilly handles it well — almost » mathewingram.com/work I hope Tim O’Reilly’s houseboating trip on Lake Powell was relaxing, because he came back to a boatload of stress as a result of his company’s association with a “cease and desist” letter that CMP Media sent to a (non-profit) IT group in Ireland for using the term Web 2.0 in relation to a conference. There’s more on the history of it all here if you’re interested. Tim has now posted a long dissertation on what happened and what he thinks of both the Web 2.0 trademark (which wasn’t his idea) and the blogosphere’s “pile-on” response. […]

  13. […] I’m going to call it Web 3.0 just for the sake of talking about this concept more efficiently.  I had originally titled this post "Web 3.0", until I took a look at Tech.Meme and saw the firestorm around O’Reilly trademarking the "Web 2.0" term.  What a mess, they are going to lose a ton of credibility over this.  What’s the point, are they really hurting so bad for money that they have to resort to trademark squatting?  Do we really need more bottom-feeding lawsuits on the Internet?  Do we really need a bazillion MORE pointless blog posts debating this term that’s already been beaten to death like a rented mule?  Shame on you O’Reilly, you just made me waste 2 minutes of my time ranting about this and re-titling my post.  I wonder how much of the world’s collective time this idiocy will waste in total.  Anyway, I digress. […]

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