Trademarking and educators: Linden Lab responds

As reported yesterday, there’s been some activity around the use of the ‘SL’ trademark, with Australian educator Jokay Wollongong receiving a takedown notice. I shot through a few questions to Linden Lab on the issue, and Pathfinder Linder has formally responded. So as promised, here’s Linden Lab’s full right of reply:

Lowell: What was the impetus for LL tackling Jokay’s Wiki specifically?

Pathfinder: Jokay’s Wiki is a wonderful educational resource for the Second Life community, and Jokay organizes incredibly thoughtful and informative conferences about education in Second Life.

Some Lindens were recently invited to participate in a conference that Jokay was organizing, and we wanted very much to accept and show our support for Jokay and all the amazing work she’s done for the community. We were concerned, though, that the name of her blog is “Second Life in Education” and that her uses of our trademarks do not comply with our policies and create confusion about her blog’s relationship with Linden Lab.

We realize now that we poorly expressed our concerns by sending her an email from our trademark team, and that we should have reached out more personally to such an important contributor to the educational community. I (Pathfinder Linden) did speak to Jokay inworld after we sent her the email to explain to her why it’s so important for Residents to respect our trademark policies. However, in hindsight, this should have been the first step in our process.

Lowell: Does LL see it’s in its interest to issue takedown notices to educators showcasing one of SL’s strengths (i.e. it’s power as en educational platform)?

Pathfinder: We have great respect for the work of Jokay and other educators in Second Life. We’re also committed to increasing awareness of intellectual property, as we said in our recent Content Management Roadmap, through improved policies and outreach to the community. When we get in touch with Residents about improper uses of intellectual property – whether it be the intellectual property of other Residents, companies outside of Second Life, or Linden Lab itself – it’s nothing personal. It’s simply what we must do to help protect intellectual property.

Lowell: How much confidence should educators have that further trademarks won’t be registered, leading to a further change of landscape that can’t be forseen?

Pathfinder: When choosing a brand name or name for your website or domain name, it’s good practice to check that you are not using another person’s trademark or brand name. Trademarks do not need to be registered – so it’s best to search the web as well as trademark office records, and to consult a trademark attorney if you’re uncertain. This good practice is called “trademark clearance,” and it protects against your having to make a name change down the road.

Pathfinder: In this case, both Second Life and SL have been Linden Lab trademarks since we first started using them for our virtual world many years ago. To help promote awareness about proper use of our trademarks, especially for Residents unfamiliar with trademark clearance, we updated our trademark policies in early 2008, providing additional information and examples. We have also been reaching out to Residents about our trademark policies.

Lowell: How would you respond to claims that actions like this provide further motivation for people to move to other grids or platforms outside of SL?

Pathfinder: Intellectual property rights are part of what makes Second Life unique and compelling, and we’re committed to supporting a community that respects each other’s intellectual property. Although making changes in response to intellectual property complaints can be frustrating, it ultimately makes our community stronger, more aware and respectful of each other’s intellectual property, and a more desirable place for content creators and content consumers alike.


Over to you – is Linden Lab’s position a reasonable part of protecting intellectual property rights or an example of brand protection at the expense of community?

Update: Tateru Nino at Massively has a follow-up piece with some views of educators on Linden Lab’s response to the issue.

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