Author Topic: So now, stealing a name is okay.  (Read 5170 times)

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BatCity

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So now, stealing a name is okay.
« on: May 20, 2013, 12:00:07 PM »
This one takes the cake, but let's start with the normal disclaimer about the legalities being a no-no on this board. This is mostly about jaw-dropping snowflakiness.

My brother has an unusual name, let's say it's Spiffy Spifferson.  Spiffy is a pretty successful guy. He has a couple of businesses registered in his name, although he's never registered it as a domain name.  He is very well known in his community. He recently purchased Very Desirable Car (VDC), a process that involved a lot of interaction with the VDC factory. He keeps meticulous notes, including several conversations with "Bob Boringname", an employee at VDC.

Well, sometime in the last few months, Bob Boringname left VDC to launch a brand of, let's say, special widgets for spiffy people. Remembering my brother's name, he went online and registered SpiffySpifferson.com. He then started a Kickstarter campaign to make and sell spiffy widgets. He even made a video saying the widgets are designed and made by Spiffy Spifferson.

Well, one of my brother's friends saw it and of course, called him and said, "Spiffy, I didn't know you're making widgets now!"

It didn't take much sleuthing for Spiffy to put two and two together. He contacted Bob, who admitted in an email that he took the name because he liked it. Spiffy very politely informed him that he couldn't use his name without his permission, but that if he was willing to give him some control over the widgets, he would not only allow him to use the name, but he would also sell them at one of the stores that he owns. Pretty good deal, right?

Bob's response: "I don't know, I'll think about it".

I'll give you two guesses as to what my brother's response was. And maybe a couple of days before SpiffySpifferson.com is no longer available.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 10:27:37 AM by BatCity »

VorFemme

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2013, 12:39:52 PM »
I can understand Spiffy Spifferson's reaction being that Bob Boringname is not only rude but is going to be legally restricted from access to a "stolen" (or at least borrowed without permission) name, under the circumstances.

Because he is implying that your brother (or someone with the same legal name) is part of the new company and thus supports it with his good reputation - that goes beyond rude and into SS behavior of the Blizzard of the Decade variety (and also has more repercussions than just etiquette - but even "just the etiquette" is pretty bad).   There are some things that you DO ask permission to use.....someone's good name as a reference of any kind is one of them.

Modified because I see an etiquette angle to this as well as the legal one - Bob never asked Spiffy about being a part of the widget business - and it sounds like Spiffy might actually have had something to bring to the contract table about setting up some kind of limited partnership - contacts, a good reputation, and possibly expertise in other areas.  Since Bob was so rude as to attempt to use the name without consulting the owner of the name (apparently Spiffy may be the ONLY person with that name in a country - possibly an even larger area - it might be a stretch to say that Spiffy is the only owner of that name on the planet......but there are some unusual names that would be rare enough to stand out). 

Note - I am not an IP person - I do have a spouse who got a bad contract with respect to intellectual property.  The company ceased doing business for a while and then restarted with one of the original owners under a modified name - probably not using the same IP that spouse worked on as the standards in that field have changed.......due to the time that has passed and the difficulty of sorting out what tiny percentage of a not very large business's product might still be using it, he decided that (for him) it wasn't worth either legal or etiquette hassles.  We no longer live in that area.  He no longer works in that field.  He doesn't worry about it.  His name is no longer attached to the enterprise.  He no longer lists it on his resume (except in the most general terms) due to how long ago it was.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2013, 01:02:34 PM by VorFemme »
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gollymolly2

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2013, 12:43:09 PM »
I can understand Spiffy Spifferson's reaction being that Bob Boringname is not only rude but is going to be legally restricted from access to a "stolen" name, under the circumstances.

Because he is implying that your brother (or someone with the same legal name) is part of the new company and supports it with his good reputation.

When the real Spiffy barely knows Bob from any other male human being on the planet of about the same height, weight, and coloring......

We should refrain from weighing in on the legalities. I'm guessing you're not an IP lawyer.

It was pretty ballsy of Bob to use your brother's name.  He's certainly not obigated to agree to your brothers offer but it does sound like a pretty good compromise.

sweetonsno

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2013, 03:29:27 PM »
This is an interesting problem, because people create characters for business all the time. Betty Crocker and Mavis Beacon, for instance, aren't real people and never actually existed. They are simply personas designed to sell products. I see this mostly as an instance of that: someone picked a name that they thought fit their product and ran with it. Who knows whether or not there is or was a real Betty Crocker/Mavis Beacon or the person who "created" them once knew someone who had that name in real life (or perhaps had overheard it or something).

I don't think it is rude to create a character to sell a product, even if that character happens to share a name with a real person. However, the ethical and etiquette dilemmas do exist when someone uses a real person to try and sell a problem. It's definitely rude to claim a closer association with someone than you actually have or pretend that you have a particular person on board with your company when you don't.

I think it boils down to this: is Bob using Spiffy's name or Spiffy's identity? If he is using just the name to go with a corporate persona/mascot/etc, then I think he's in the clear. However, if Bob is using Spiffy's identity and pretending to be affiliated with Spiffy the actual person, he's overstepped.

Hillia

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2013, 04:02:19 PM »
The difference is that Betty Crocker and Mavis Beacon don't and never did exist.  Spiffy does exist, and Bob not only knows of his existence, he has a professional relationship with Spiffy from Spiffy's car purchase.  If he had just accidentally made up the name, it would be a different story (etiquette wise, anyway).

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sparksals

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2013, 04:25:18 PM »
If your brother didn't register his name as a domain, then that is his problem.  This happens all the time.  The guy owns the domain.  If your brother wants it, he can buy from him. 


As for saying your brother is involved, that is wrong. 


ETA:  IIRC this happened to American Idol.  They didn't register the domains of contestant names and then normal everyday people did.  They had to pay big bucks to the people who purchased the domains.  Now, they register the domains when they know the contestants.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2013, 04:28:59 PM by sparksals »

Slartibartfast

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2013, 05:39:47 PM »
If your brother didn't register his name as a domain, then that is his problem.  This happens all the time.  The guy owns the domain.  If your brother wants it, he can buy from him. 


As for saying your brother is involved, that is wrong. 


ETA:  IIRC this happened to American Idol.  They didn't register the domains of contestant names and then normal everyday people did.  They had to pay big bucks to the people who purchased the domains.  Now, they register the domains when they know the contestants.

Not to get into legalities, but this isn't strictly true.  Cyber squatters bank on getting big bucks for domain names rich companies miss, of course, but I can't just jump on Disney.com (assuming they were stupid enough to let the domain expire) and then hold it for ransom - a judge would say that Disney had more right to the name than I did and force me to hand it over.  Look up the saga of Mike Rowe Soft, who registered a domain in his own name and lost it  :-\

DottyG

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2013, 05:55:40 PM »
Quote
If your brother didn't register his name as a domain, then that is his problem.  This happens all the time.  The guy owns the domain.  If your brother wants it, he can buy from him.

My thought as well.


jpcher

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2013, 07:30:36 PM »
This is difficult to respond to without involving legalities.

I just think that Bob Boringname was rude to not ask your brother about using his name as a step-ladder to fame. However, Bob came up with the idea of using the unregistered name and thought "Why should I pay royalties when I can get all the monies myself?"

However . . . oh, yeah, legalities again. Nevermind.


PastryGoddess

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2013, 08:56:50 PM »
Yeah this is all legal and has nothing to do with etiquette.
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lmyrs

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay.
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2013, 02:21:53 PM »
This kind of thing played out in the political arena in Canada in 2005 when a liberal Member of Parliament had his name registered by a right-wing group and, after he complained about it in the House, a conservative Member of Parilament called him ignorant for not registering his own name himself. The problem was that the conservative member had neglected to register the .org domain of his name and a well-known liberal political comedian registered it and started sending it to very left-wing websites.

http://rickmercer.blogspot.ca/2005/06/jason-kenney-marxist-leninist.html

The lesson there (and that was 8 years ago), was register your name. It was wrong for Mr. Boring to claim that Mr. Spiffy supported the venture when he didn't. That's a no-brainer. But the www is up for grabs and people don't own names. I can't register my domain name because a famous person shares my name. Does that make me less worthy of it if I had gotten it first? And, there was an example recently in a small town nearby where a 17-year old kid who shares a name with a famous NFL player sold him his Twitter handle.

This kind of thing is pretty common. Semi-famous people with reputations to protect, really need to get in front of this kind of thing.


Shoo

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay.
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2013, 02:25:03 PM »
I think it's rude to register for a domain name you have no intention of using, just to extort money from the person who *should* have it.  I think that's REALLY rude.

Cutenoob

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay.
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2013, 07:21:32 PM »
Bob was ballsy for using name(s) without permissions, but very stupid adding a person's name as part of a business without them being involved.
Don't associate me with those widgets please. *mine are better any ways nyah nyah*

Very uber rude for the disregard for Spiffy's name and reputation consequences.

JeanFromBNA

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay.
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2013, 07:51:13 PM »
Sometimes, the most polite, firm letters are from lawyers who know all about the subject.  I would also contact a social media specialist to discuss strategies.  This may not apply to your brother at all, but sometimes, it's better not to call attention to the matter.  Just ask anyone who's been spoofed on South Park

If he's using crowdfunding to get this thing going, he probably doesn't have much money, and it sounds like your brother does.  Time to get all over him like a wet rag.

ACBNYC

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Re: So now, stealing a name is okay. Epic, but worth the read.
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2013, 09:03:47 PM »
If your brother didn't register his name as a domain, then that is his problem.  This happens all the time.  The guy owns the domain.  If your brother wants it, he can buy from him. 


As for saying your brother is involved, that is wrong. 


ETA:  IIRC this happened to American Idol.  They didn't register the domains of contestant names and then normal everyday people did.  They had to pay big bucks to the people who purchased the domains.  Now, they register the domains when they know the contestants.

Not to get into legalities, but this isn't strictly true.  Cyber squatters bank on getting big bucks for domain names rich companies miss, of course, but I can't just jump on Disney.com (assuming they were stupid enough to let the domain expire) and then hold it for ransom - a judge would say that Disney had more right to the name than I did and force me to hand it over.  Look up the saga of Mike Rowe Soft, who registered a domain in his own name and lost it  :-\

His name was Mike Rowe, not Mike Rowe Soft....