THE TRADEMARK TROLL SAYS: THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU CALL SOMEONE A TRADEMARK TROLL
First let's be clear about one thing. I am the Trademark Troll. The crown rests easily on my head.
But of course there are those pretenders to the throne- Leo Stoller comes most readily to mind. But his efforts to transport patent troll strategies into trademark law seem to have brought him nothing but infamy and bankruptcy.
And this makes sense.
Because America has a use based system of trademark laws. It very difficult to simply register a term as a trademark and use that registration as a lever to either demand large royalty payments or sue a legitimate business that happens to use the same or similar term. Also, unlike a patent, asserting trademark rights does not normally prevent someone from producing the underlyng product- in the worst case they simply change their name and keep right on making and selling stuff.
Recently a lawyer received an enormous amount of well deserved criticism for attempting to claim the term cyberlaw in connection with his legal practice. More recently a Finnish company has gotten some undeserved flack from the gaming/IM/Facebook/under20/web 2.0 community because it has applied to federally register the term PWNAGE for goods and services related to computers.
Now of course you know that PWNAGE is a variant of pwn.( You don't? Well neither did I) Pwn means to own. Etymology uncertain. Probably the result of a typo several years ago. Now part of the lingo. A columnist on the COMPUTERWORLD blog site casually labeled the Finnish company a trademark troll for filing this application. If you've read this far you can guess that I don't agree.
The Finnish company may or may not able to get the support of the legal system in its efforts to use the term PWNAGE for certain goods and services. If it does receive such support all the common uses of the term pwn will be unaffected by any such legal grant. There may be a sense in which the branded products or services suggest an aura of " ownership". But again, the gaming/IM/Facebook/under 20/web 2.0 use of the term pwn should be unaffected. And if the Finnish company is foolhardy enough to think that it pwns the term pwn against the world at large then they too will deserve their own disgrace and infamy.