WordPress Trademark Scammers?

WordPress Trademark Update: 10th September 2010

Ownership of the WordPress Trademark has been transferred to the WordPress foundation, and there is evidence that this also will increase the scope of what is covered.

It is not just domains but also products.

Update: 15th November 2006

WordPress Tutorials I believe have come to a level of understanding with the guys at Automattic. For full details please read about it @ WordPress Tutorials (business as usual)
I have also changed the tagging of this post such that it doesn’t appear as a related post to other WordPress posts on this blog

Original Post

First of all a general overview of the current WordPress Trademark discussion, and then my own theory as to why Automattic have selectively approached 2 legitimate services to stop using the WordPress Trademark.

Current Discussion on WordPress Trademark

A month ago I voluntarily changed the domain name due to the WordPress Trademark for my WordPress Plugins site, so that the domain being used did not include the word “WordPress”.

I believe they have a right to defend their trademark, and that it was good for the longterm nature of my business to support their wishes.
Over the last few days there have been many reports about Toni, a representitive of WordPress / Automattic writing an email to website owners using WordPress in their domain name.

Here are a whole list of sites discussing this problem:-

Andy Wibbels first posted about the trademark emails

Blogging Pro made some mistakes assuming WordPress was a registered trademark, a mistake not made by Toni the Automattic representitive.

Kenneth Stein goes into some of the issues and questions Lorelle on WordPress involvement (Matt quickly cleared up any misconception in the Automattic relationship with Lorelle)
Matt has been portraying a “squeeky clean” image of WordPress and Automattic since the small incident last year.

Denis has a post on this subject at Semiologic

The biggest problem is that WordPress for at least the last year have been very slow in providing official information and “terms of service” for their products.

When WordPress.com was in beta, and even after launch, there were no terms of service available.

I had a WordPress.com blog I was testing with BlogAutoPublisher, especially some errors in xml-rpc (not the fault of BlogAutoPublisher). I had made 4 original posts, and had grabbed 4 WordPress related articles from one of my niche sites that happened to also have some text link advertising inserted in the middle of the articles.

My blog was shut down with no notice, reason, or notification

Now there is the domain name issue. I think Andy Wibbels summed up my thoughts on this extremely well.

“Spammy Sites” using the WordPress Trademark?

Here is one quote from Matt (from the Blogging Pro post)

The only folks we’ve sent any notes to is products I consider spammy that we don’t want associated or using the name, whether we had a trademark or not. If someone asks me before starting something, I point them to the page on WP.org, and I’ve even offered to pay for a new domain if they’ve already registered one.

This isn’t a new problem, as this long thread on the issue back in March proves

But here is a quote from Toni (from Andi Wibbels’ post)

And then there are few out there that are making money from reselling WordPress or selling SEO packages. We’ve contacted those to stop using WordPress as part of their domain because they are commercial ventures that are in no way connected to WordPress or Automattic.

And following on

BTW, here’s an example of the type of site that I’ve contacted: wordpressvideos.com

WordPress Wank also have a new post on the subject

There we get another great quote from Matt in the comments

There is no campaign, and only TWO sites have been sent notes like the above since this entire policy started months ago – wordpresstutorials.com and wordpressvideos.com.

So the current targets are Brandon Hongs WordPressVideos.com which has been online for well over one year. Brandon provides over 100 training Videos for WordPress.

Sherman Hu’s WordPresstutorials.com is a similar site, but in this case is a subscription service constantly adding new content, with what I have heard is a vibrant members community.

Sure these sites are making a living from providing a service to WordPress users, but they are not “spammy sites” – they are commercial sites providing a service that Automattic don’t offer… yet

The WordPress support forums are actually quite an intimidating place for a newbie, as are many online forums. The Wiki is very imformative, but still quite disconcerting for a newbie.

Thus there is a need for sites such as these that provide a relatively cheap service, often to people running online businesses.

I am sure the cost is far cheaper than purchasing corporate consulting services from companies that specialise in providing such services for WordPress.

That is actually the way many Open Source projets such as WordPress are funded. Provide the free software, and monetise it with corporate services. That is how the core development of WordPress is funded, both by Automattic and some of the other core developers.

A Question of Competition

Note these are my personal views, not based on any fact, but this is what I would do personally if it (“WordPress”) was my business. This will probably be looked on by many as some kind of WordPress conspiracy theory heavily denied, but it makes in my opinion serious business sense, and the founders of Automattic are highly intelligent, and have commercial and legal advisors.

There are over 100 domain names registered with the word “WordPress”. Many of those domains might be for more “spammy” services or tools. (though note a tool is a tool, and can be used in many cases in a none spammy way, just like WordPress)

Thus why these 2 sites?

I think it might be, at least partially because they offer a service that competes with services that WordPress or Automattic might want to offer in the future. It would be very easy to add a paid support area to one of the WordPress sites, that included video versions of lots of tutorial information.

Obviously it also reduces the market for higher end professional services.

These two sites have proven that there is a viable market for such a service, and obviously a service like this officially endorsed by WordPress would generate significantly more income than the very good 3rd party efforts.

The information provided would most likely be different, unless WordPress hired an affiliate marketing expert, and a few SEO experts to go along with the WordPress core training and support.

Conservatively there is a significant 6 or possibly 7 figure (projecting growth) monthly income possible from such a service on the official site.

It should be noted that Matt specifically stated “spammy products” and not “spammy use of domain name”. Those 2 sites are not “spammy products”. I don’t want to get into the legalities of this, but Matt might have just created a loophole.
I am not affiliated with either of the sites so far approached to change their domain name, but I do respect their services and believe them to be legitimate.
It is also important to note that I will soon be launching my own WordPress based membership service. There might be some cross-over in content, but my own service is primarily based on Custom WordPress plugins, possibly some unique themes, etc.

Update 1st November 2006

(for my fellow Internet/Niche Marketers/Bloggers)

I don’t normally return to posts and add content a few days after the original post, especially a post that has received so many comments. Obviously I make factual corrections when pointed out.As of now, this post has 29 comments, many of them from respected experts within the internet marketing community.

Not only have members of the internet marketing community (rather than blogging community) been singled out, but the whole ethics of internet marketing has been called into question.

Do you believe you are a “snake oil salesman” simply by trying to improve your sales of a product?

You could just read this post, read all the comments from people you respect, and decide you have nothing else to add, so you won’t comment, and noone will know you cared.

If you do care there is however something you can do.

  • Write about this situation and link to this page. You won’t be alone in writing about this. As an example Michael Campbell wrote about it on his Internet Marketing Secrets Blog just yesterday. I am actually in shock – Michael even used a link without “no follow” :)
  • Mention in your emails – many marketers mention their blog posts in their email letters. Michael Campbell has just mentioned this at the bottom of his weekly mailing.
  • Social Networking, Bookmarking, Forums (I think you all know the drill)

Last time I looked John Reese had about 300 comments on his secret blog with a green blob on it. I believe that was mainly from his own list.

I am sure we can do much better than that here

So make your voice heard!

  • if you post on your blog, and use trackback, it will give you a real backlink
  • if you don’t have access to trackback, make sure you leave a comment with a link to your blog, or the post you made
  • if you use a bookmarking service, leave a comment on the service as well. A site that gets 500 Diggs and no comments doesn’t show how much you really care about this

Whatever you do, do not use any form of spam

But only if you care… ?

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Comments

  1. says

    Andy, thanks for carrying on the conversation. I’ll be certain to ask Matt in the email interview I’m conducting to define “spammy products.”
    If Automattic’s exit strategy is to be acquired,they might consider trademarks and servicemarks as central pieces of intellectual property.
    Ken

  2. says

    First off, I consider BlogAutoPublisher a spammy tool and that’s 100% of what we’ve seen it used for on WordPress.com. I’m sorry if your blog got shut down, it was probably reported by another member.

    Automattic is not in the smallest bit funded by corporate consulting.

    “unless WordPress hired an affiliate marketing expert, and a few SEO experts”

    I find most affiliate marketing quite distasteful, and we have not even though of hiring anyone in those or SEO fields, or offering training for any of the above.

    When we do documentation or videos, it’s free to everybody.

    If Sherman Hu or Brandon Hong had spent their time contributing to the Codex or support forums instead of trying to sell WP snake oil and taking advantage of a lack of good documentation in Open Source community software, I bet they would have made a lot more honest money by now.

  3. says

    It’s too bad that Sherman is considered in that light. He is very professional and has given a ton of help to his customers that they would not have been able to easily obtain from the development/support community either due to the lax/unfriendly documentation or simply not knowing how to ask for the help they need.

    I’ve been doing the same with TypePad for years now and they have only just now started adding seminars and support for their clients and customers.

    I think it is due to the many consultants like Sherman and myself that have helped spread awareness of the WordPress project well beyond the geekerati. Now, people ask about WordPress because they know it is something they know they should know they should know more about… And that brand awareness only further strengthens the software, the project and Automattic’s trademark.

  4. Andy Beard says

    So maybe Toni was making a false claim.

    WordPress currently don’t provide videos and have no intention of providing help with things like SEO and affiliate marketing with WordPress blogs.

    The WordPress support forum and codex are not a support service, they are a venue where users of the software can support each other. It is certainly not “training” or “tutorials”.

    You probably can’t claim prior use of the word “WordPress” in regards a support service.
    As far as I have seen, “Automattic” is the trademark that is used for commercial support, and that doesn’t cover things like SEO and Affiliate marketing.

    Thus in my opinion you don’t have a trademark to defend in relation to providing support and training for WordPress products, let alone a registered trademark.

    My personal opinion is that:-

    Brandon Hong has a defendable trademark in “WordPress Videos”

    Sherman Hu has a defendable trademark in “WordPress Tutorials”

    Both guys also have a professional reputation and business to defend, thus this could get extremely interesting.

    Sherman does do direct consulting, but the membership site provides an avenue to help more people at a far lower cost.

    At a guess you get 3 months of paid support for less than the cost of a 1 hour support ticket with most consultants.
    Sounds like a good deal for none corporate customers.

  5. says

    Hi Andy,

    This is definitely not about Automattic wanting to get into the videos or tutorials business. It’s about protecting a trademark. If someone ran excelvideos.com to sell training videos for Excel, Microsoft would ask them to stop. Actually, Microsoft’s lawyers would. In our case, we’ve approached people directly instead of involving lawyers. We will approach anyone who actively uses WordPress in their domain, product or company name. Guys like word-press.net, wordpressvideos.com, etc were the first ones brought to our attention.

  6. Andy Beard says

    Hi Toni

    I support Wordpess defending their trademark for “downloadable software” and related terms.

    I think in these 2 cases I don’t.

    1. They are not spammy products, or snake oil. Lots of people in the community know that.

    2. I think the WordPress claim to the trademark related to other services is extremely weak. The codex is a venue of user provided self help.

    Here is a fun example link
    http://wordpress.org/docs/tutorials/

    The main training section is “WordPress Lessons”, but that isn’t being used as a trademark.

    Microsoft isn’t a great example, as they have probably tied up most conceivable uses of the brand name.

    You might be able to get away with the “Microsoft Banana Facecream” that reduces pore size and makes your skin soft.

    As I have noted, this is going to be interesting. I don’t think it is clear cut by any means.

    You really should think about adding a paid support service.

  7. Tony says

    I’d have to agree with Andy Wibbels when he says, “It’s too bad that Sherman is considered in that light.”

    You know it really is to bad, but Matt is probably the only one with that opinion. I feel certain that Sherman’s services have caused many to embrace the use of WordPress rather than abandon it because of, as Matt put it, “lack of good documentation”.

    Also Matt this statement may be considered libelous:

    “If Sherman Hu or Brandon Hong had spent their time contributing to the Codex or support forums instead of trying to sell WP snake oil”

    Matt, nobody is saying that you shouldn’t
    care about your trademarks but I bet if you dig real deep you will find that tasteless statements such as the one you directed toward Sherman Hu and Brandon Hong were both unprofessional and well as completely unnecessary.

  8. Becca White says

    I agree with both Andy’s and Tony on this one. Sherman Hu is a stand up guy (can’t speak for Brandon though) and he surely doesn’t sell “WP snake oil”.

    I love WordPress, but seeing such a statement come from you, Matt, leaves a disgusting taste in my mouth. Maybe you should take a moment and talk to Sherman. Get to know him, and maybe review his product for yourself.

    I have access to them, and they are light-years beyond what a newbie (like me, at one time) could get in the support forums or Codex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the support forums or Codex suck or anything near that; it’s awesome when you have at least a little experience under your belt.

    From a consumer standpoint, I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars for the service Sherman has provided — a service I cannot get from the support forums or Codex. He put a lot of time, attention, and detail into his product. He even continues to put his valuable time into it by helping his customers, usually on an individual basis.

    Sherman caters to a different demographic, not the geekerati (I like that word) and the geekerati should have some respect for that. Not everyone is born with a microchip in their brain.

    And if he were to offer it up for free, it would probably be wasted, because it would end up buried in the deluge of information in both the support forums and Codex (which is in sore need of some cohesion and organization); what good is it to anyone if they can’t even find it?

    And, Matt, as for affiliate marketing, most of which you consider “distasteful”, you obviously have no or very little knowledge of the practice or concept, otherwise you would realize not all affiliate marketers are spammers. Actually, very few are, but you only see the spammers because they’re the most visible.

    Maybe you should take the time to learn about what you’re rebelling against, lest you become the pot calling the kettle black.

  9. says

    I am not an active poster on many issues. However I must state something here. I have over 15 dedicated servers running WordPress. When ever a client asks about a blog I recommend WordPress first. And yet, this conversion to WordPress from mambo came about only because of Sherman. If it wasn’t for him and his tutorial site (and yes i have paid for a corporate membership there – money well spent) I may never have switched. If WordPress feels they have to protect their trademark that is their prerogative, but remember it is people like Sherman that have built their brand for them. Without him and others like him they may not have had anything worth defending…
    Ray Philip – COO – Empowered Media Group

  10. says

    I know Sherman Hu personally
    and consider him a person of integrity and class. He’s 100% professional, goes out of his way to help folks, and takes the high road.

    I’m blessed to have him as a friend.

    I think WordPress owes Sherman a debt of gratitude. Heck, if it weren’t for him,
    I’d have scrapped WordPress a long time ago!

  11. David Ridge says

    Hey Matt,

    You said:
    “If Sherman Hu or Brandon Hong had spent their time contributing to the Codex or support forums instead of trying to sell WP snake oil and taking advantage of a lack of good documentation in Open Source community software, I bet they would have made a lot more honest money by now.”

    First, I cannot speak for Brandon Hong, I don’t know him. But I can speak for Sherman Hu. Your statement is not only totally inaccurate and unfounded, it is also a cheap shot.
    Sherman has provided a service that keeps many would be defectors clinging to WordPress. Perhaps you just can’t deal with the fact that support for the WordPress platform comes from third party sites because you have either ignored the need or are not capable enough to provide effective support.

    In either case, your comments reinforce the fact that (at best), you come across as ignorant, or worse, you are assuming others are ignorant.

    It isn’t Sherman’s problem that there is a huge vaccum in WordPress support, it’s yours! In the opinion of many folks, you should be thanking Sherman! After all, he could have chosen to use his skills and talents with a different platform.

    For your information, Sherman has provided access to many tutorial videos FREE of charge. Yes, there is a subscription level at his site, and the quality of what Sherman brings to the table merits the cost and more. Sherman teaches much more than WordPress, he teaches folks how to create quality sites on the web. He just happens to prefer using the WordPress platform. Sherman is a professional and a stand-up guy.

    Have you taken the time to contact him? I doubt it. If I were a betting man, I would bet that you haven’t.

    Your attitude and “cheap-shot” approach will go a long way toward alienating top notch people like Sherman Hu from the WordPress community.

    And that is really smart Matt… it should fit perfectly with the micro-vision you have publicly associated with WordPress.

  12. says

    I fear that we’re getting sidetracked defending Sherman and dissecting what Matt’s written, rather than focusing on the central topic, which is: does Automattic / WordPress have a legal obligation to defend its trademark? The answer is YES.

    So that’s a first important realization, just as Microsoft is going to defend Excel and, from personal experience, Porsche is going to defend its own brand name (I own Porschecountry.info, but only after negotiating with their attorneys and explaining why I wanted it), they are required to defend the WordPress trademark, so that it continues to be a viable trademark at all.

    The question, then, is whether Matt and his group are prosecuting potentially offending domain and company names *fairly* or not, and from what I can tell, he is not.

    By a nice coincidence of timing, Matt and I had dinner together in Seattle just a few nights ago, and I asked him about this issue. He told me what you’ve read on this page, that he just doesn’t like these two companies and feels that they’re spammy or otherwise not true to the spirit of his entire effort.

    Is that fair? Well, Sherman’s not a spammer or hustler, in my experience. Is it legal for one or two violators to be singled out in the first phase of prosecuting trademark violators? It sure is, as far as I know. Is it a smart strategy? Probably not, but Matt really is a brilliant, gentle sort of guy so I can completely understand his desire to keep everything free, open and public, even if that’s really not how a capitalist system works.

    So for what it’s worth, I think that the problem here isn’t that Matt is pursuing these two companies, but that his company needs to be simultaneously pursuing every company that’s in violation of their trademark. Or, if that’s too big a job (in which case the trademark might already be ready to be discarded by the USPTO) then perhaps every firm that’s *profiting* from WordPress.

  13. says

    For a critical topic such as this, this is a very “civilized” discussion. I admire that, so I will attempt to keep my temper in check.

    First, I am appalled that an organization like Automattic would single out only 2 sites – ironically probably the two most profitable sites – and contact only them about trademark infringement. Coincidence? I think not! There is definitely an agenda here. With the MANY truly spammy sites available, it’s not just chance that brought these two sites to their attention.

    Second, this is a bit after the horse has been let out of the barn. If you’re serious about defending your trademark, you do so when the domain is registered – not more than a year later. Just try to register a domain with ebay in it and see how quickly they send you a cease and desist. Takes about 24 hours. At least they have the courtesy to do so BEFORE you build a profitable business on the domain. If you’re truly serious about defending a brand, then you do it right – and not “casually” when you find out someone is making more money than you are.

    Third, any online businessman who does not recognize the value of having an active affiliate force immediately identifies himself as short-sighted and not truly in a business to make money. There is no more effective method for selling a product (online or offline) than having a sales force that is paid on performance. eBay, Sears, Target – every major retailer recognizes the value of an affiliate program – and active affiliate marketers. Surely Automattic doesn’t know something they all have ignored that makes affiliate marketing “distasteful.”

    Finally, this appears to be a personal attack on Brandon and Sherman – because they are the most successful and visible. Neither sells snake oil. Both have provided a good solid product that has brought hundreds of people to a level of success with WordPress that could not have been achieved without them.

    I’ve known Sherman personally for over three years – and he has gone over and above in order to help others. In fact he is known for his “over-delivery” in his work with others – both paid and voluntary. He would never do anything to endanger his reputation or integrity – or anything that would reflect poorly on his family.

    This whole issue appears to stem from several problems:
    1 – Automattic woke up one day and realized they had not been diligent in protecting their brand
    2 – Automattic realized that WordPress could be worth a fortune – if they had a defensible brand
    3 – Automattic decided to “do something” and picked the two highest profile sites they could find – easy pickings, so to speak. And of course, if it makes news and much discussion, then so much the better. It will save them having to tell others to cease and desist, since word will get around.

    The problem arises with the manner in which the attack was carried out – VERY unprofessionally it would appear.

    May I suggest that Automattic figure out a way to “license” the right to use WordPress – and that they have certified vendors. It would be better to support success than to attack it.

    Jeanette S Cates, PhD
    CEO, TechTamers

  14. says

    Sherman Hu is the most enthusiastic cheerleader that WordPress will find on the planet and one of the most ethical Internet marketers I know.

    For crying out loud, WP should put him in charge of their PR Department.

    Joan Stewart
    The Publicity Hound

  15. Kay says

    Hello,

    I was just wondering if Matt has interacted with Sherman Hu or checked out his offerings further. It would appear from his comment that he has not.

    Sherman is all about giving and providing quality products and service. For those of you unfamiliar with Sherman’s offerings, please do not let negative comments, such as Matt’s keep you from checking out his valuable service.

  16. Andy Beard says

    @ Dave

    they are required to defend the WordPress trademark, so that it continues to be a viable trademark at all.

    The trademark application is for downloadable software, not training services.

    Oreily have a trademark on Web2.0 for Conferences, but you are allowed to use it on a book I believe, even though they coined the phrase.

    @ Jean
    For a critical topic such as this, this is a very “civilized” discussion. I admire that, so I will attempt to keep my temper in check.

    One of the reasons for that is that many people have invested a huge amount into WordPress.

    Even if all you do is use WordPress to create sites, you have still invested time in learning to use it, customization etc. Most people with any regular readership have mentioned WordPress in blog posts, or maybe seconded someone elses opinion in a forum post.

    @ Joan
    For crying out loud, WP should put him in charge of their PR Department.

    I recently suggested to John Reese that he should stop thinking about $1M days and start thinking about how to create $1B days.
    If he became an angel investor/advisor in a few well chosen startups anything is possible.

  17. says

    In reponse to Matthew Mullenweg…

    1. I use WordPress not because of the brilliance of the programming, but because Sherman Hu recommended it to me and I know I can get support from him when I need it.

    2. How on earth is it “taking advantage” or “selling snake oil” to provide documentation and training for a product that is poorly supported by its creators?

    3. I know Sherman to be a serious and dedicated educator.

    I say this having been involved in Internet education since 1993 and having had the chance to see the work of hundreds of Internet educators up close.

    Sherman’s work is first rate. Your comments about him are inaccurate and unfair in the extreme. I think you owe him (and probably Brandon too though I don’t know his work) a public apology.

    4. Your claim that these two individuals are infringing on your trademarket is entirely without legal merit.

    I assume you have an attorney who can educate you on these matters. Otherwise, here goes…

    The USPTO granted you a trademark for the term “WordPress” for use in the marketing of “software” and “software solutions” only.

    Had you wanted broader use – one that specifically covered training and training materials – you could have applied for these additional Classes and paid the additional fees. You didn’t.

    If you want to have a basis for your cease and desist letters, you need to persuade the USPTO to grant you Class 9 and Class 41 designations to cover training materials and training services.

    Unfortunately, your application for these Classes can be challenged because Sherman (and presumably Brandon) can assert first use.

    Lacking trademark registration for training and training materials for the term WordPress, I’d say that your e-mails to Sherman and Brandon are spam of the worst kind: an attempt to deprive someone of their property using inaccurate information.

    Do you see how complicated the law can be?

    I recommend you take a good look at Sherman and Brandon’s work and consider working with them since they are, in fact, significantly assisting your business.

    There is no reason on earth for you to be anything but allies.

    And here’s another reason why you might want to rethink your approach to this:

    By publishing inaccurate and derogatory information about Sherman and Brandon you’ve not only commited an act of libel, you’re also engaged in tortious interference. The case can be made that the libelous comments you’ve published are damaging not only to their personal reputations, but also to their existing business relationships.

    In other words, while you have absolutely no claim against them, they, as a result of your comments about them, have real claims against you.

  18. says

    Years before I switched to working from home, I worked in the software training industry. We created training manuals, flyers and brochures for our classes – complete with product names and logos.

    We were never approached as infringing upon or degrading the brand – nor were we publicly defamed the way Sherman and Brandon have been.

    On the contrary! Microsoft and Corel would often send us corporate-wear as ‘thanks’ for supporting their brand.

    In past years I have thought of Matt as a class act – for the power he’s given me through his donation-ware WordPress, but also for the personal thank you emails he sends whenever I’ve PayPal’d a few dollars. Yet THIS situation just smacks of low-class and low-blows.

    If anyone at Automattic dared to take the time and watch Sherman Hu’s videos they would eat their words. Those videos have helped more hard-working people fast-track the learning curve of WordPress than anything I’ve seen after hours of trolling the geeky, sometimes very rude, WordPress support forum.

    If anyone is damaging WP’s reputation it’s Automattic first – not just by their attacks on enterprising entrepreneurs who are merely filling a need, but by their lousy support system. (Don’t believe me? Just head over to http://www.wordpress.org/support and read some of the very rude responses from moderators, to some honest questions in some of those posts. I’d personally like to take every one of those frustrated users by the hand and say “You want answers? Watch Sherman’s videos.”)

    After 2 years of working with WordPress I hold the program in the highest regard, but the support of the blogging community and tutorials such as Brandon’s and Sherman’s were as essential to my success as the software itself.

    I think this mess is quite unfortunate for all involved. It definitely could have been handled with a lot more grace and style on Automattic’s part.

  19. says

    Before this thread I had no idea who Sherman or Brandon were, and I certainly didn’t single them out. We have a list of about 10 domains that have crossed our radar, these guys happen to be the first two we contacted.

    Whether they are spammy or not, their sites look *exactly* like the people selling “mass posting” to “thousands of niche WordPress and Blogspot blogs” software, which is spam.

    These guys are also perfectly able to continue making money, doing their thing, etc, all we’re asking is that they take “WordPress” out of their domains. If their product is as great as you all say I’m sure they will succeed just fine with a less infringing domain name.

  20. says

    Dear WordPress,

    Why on earth would you want to shut down someone who shows how to use WordPress? Why threaten one of your biggest fans and all the traffic they refer? Just because “one day” you might want to make your own how-to videos? How lame is that?

    Have you heard the old proverb of biting the hand that feeds? Or how about, you don’t muzzle the ox while it’s treading your grain?

    Well, I’m no lawyer, but it sounds like fair use of the name to me. Since it is a proper noun and it is the name of the service, calling a book, private site, or video series WordPress Tutorials or WordPress whatever is probably fair use.

    As for use of the trademark in the domain, you may have a case, if the trademark was identified as such at all times, with the proper symbols, or was approved before people started using WordPress in their domain names. But if there is proof, that no terms of service existed prior to others using the name, the case won’t just get tossed, it probably won’t even be heard.

    Sherman Hu of WordPressTutorials.com is a man of honor and conscience. He’s an excellent father, good Christian, professional educator and well respected member of the internet marketing community. He has helped thousands of people start using WordPress.

    He is – and should be treated as – one of WordPress.com’s best friends. To call his WordPress Tutorials “snake oil” or “spammy” willfully in public is slanderous, malicious, libelous and discriminatory.

    A public apology at this point may not be enough, the damage has been done. I not only think you should apologize to Sherman, but you owe him. You might even consider “officially endorsing” his training videos and featuring them prominently on the WordPress home page.

    Yes, Sherman makes a little money from the videos. But are you going to try and deny him the right to make a living? The Bible has some pretty harsh words regarding that. How about another proverb… Do unto others…

    What if the Internet Marketing Community decided to do the same to you WordPress? What if I told my 35,000 readers to avoid WordPress based on their treatment of people who helped put them on the map. And what if my friends got behind me, with their combined five million readers?

    I was considering switching my blog to WordPress… but the buck stops here and now. I’ve got two words for you WordPress… click off.

  21. Andy Beard says

    @ Ken
    I mentioned a “loophole” that had been potentially been created, but didn’t have the legal savvy to spell it out… thanks

    @ Laura
    I have sold Excel training products as well, though I wasn’t using their domain name, and it was in Poland so very below the radar.

    @ Matt
    I know more than 10 domains that sell wordpress related content that might be a legitimate infringement. They are not competing against you.
    Whether the products are spammy or not is down to how they are used.

    As an example I purchased a copy of the WordPress Elite script. I liked the script, so I promoted the product using tried and tested affiliate marketing techniques. I bought a similar domain name to cloak my affiliate link.
    Wordpress Elite could be looked on as spammy, it allows me to setup niche blogs much faster.
    But it is much more than that, because it allows me to update WordPress on all my domains automatically. It allows me to update plugins, or themes on the fly.

    I actually own 2 such scripts, and have even thought about buying other similar scripts, just to compare and make a small time saving, or gain an extra feature. There is even a free service using something similar that also uses the WordPress name in its domain.

    I also own copies of what might be legitimately called spammy “black hat” or “grey hat” products. They can also in the main be used in more legitimate ways.

    Lets give you a big name example of a major brand allowing the use of their trademark for training product.

    Toni used to work for Yahoo, so they are an obvious example.

    I know someone who provides training for people using Yahoo Store, Andy Jenkins.

    http://www.yahoo-store-builder.com

    Andy Jenkins states this in his legal disclaimer.

    All products and or logos are copyrights and trademarks of their respective owners and/or the trademark owner, in particular “Yahoo!” is a registered trademark of Yahoo! Inc., a Delaware Corporation headquartered in Sunnyvale, Ca. USA Yahoo! Inc. is not the author of this book and in no way represents the views or opinions of Yahoo! Inc., or any Yahoo! Inc. personnel or affiliates Yahoo! Inc’s. mark is used in the title and content of this book only because the subject of this book is otherwise not readily identifiable.

    The Yahoo registered trademark is not used with Yahoo permission. The site has been around for a good few (4?) years.

    Andy Jenkins runs an internet marketing business with a turnover of $10M+ per year. In the last few months he has probably added another $5M (recurring) with his StomperNet training program with partner Brad Fallon.

    I think where you are going wrong is your whole understanding of sales techniques.

    Your idea of a “sales” page is a list of features. What sells products are “benefits”.
    There are good ways of showing benefits, such as testimonials.

    Unfortunately “snake oil” salesmen also know a litle bit about direct marketing, they have to, thus their sales pages sometimes look similar to those of legitimate people trying to sell their products.

    A legitimate salesman has to sell his product as effectively as possible, because he has an unwritten obligation to his existing customers to stay in business for continued support of the brand and technology.

    It is one of the many reasons we have VHS now instead of Betamax, nothing to do with technology, but how the technology was sold.

    I honestly want WordPress to be successful, because like 1000s of others not only do I like the product, I also have a lot of time invested in it. To switch to another platform at this time for many would be a disaster.

    Matt, you are cutting your plant off at the roots. You couldn’t buy a product evangelist as good as Sherman unless you made him a major shareholder.

    I am sure you are happy providing exclusive support for corporate customers @ $5K per contact per year with loads of exclusion terms.

    Sometimes corporate service agreements cointain a lot of oil too.

    @ Michael

    Do continue to think about WordPress as a good blogging platform, especially for your mininet sites.

    You might be interested in this post
    Revenge of the Mininet | 3rd Party content | Blog Comments | No Follow

    I gave a few more hints at what is possible at the end of this other post.

    Disclosure Policy Generator

    It is possible to create “dynamic dynamic linking” with WordPress, for want of a better phrase, controlling your linking structure on autopilot.

  22. says

    Matt,

    I can’t say it better than Ken’s post, and you should read it again. Slowly and carefully.

    As far as I know, none of the companies in question have teams of lawyers on retainer at this point. To spend lots of time fighting and brawling when you should really find a way to either work together or work separately in peace would be a waste of energy and money for everyone involved.

    Just because someone uses a sell page that “looks like” something you find offensive doesn’t mean the product is. If I have a “blue light” flashing on my web page it doesn’t make my prices any cheaper a la the K-Mart blue light special.

    The reason this is an issue is simple: When you have become known as an expert in something, the name is logically tied to you because you’re teaching people how to use the product.

    It may seem easy to just change the domain name and leave everything else the same. What you’re missing is that the demographic these services are provided to are not as technically savvy and that could cause a serious decline in business.

    You cannot assume everyone’s customers are as tech-savvy as you or the know-it-alls I’ve had chance to meet in the support forums are.

    It needs to stay the same for the good of the community that spends their time there. It’s not just the website owner that will be impacted negatively regarding these decisions. The thousands of people that have been taught in a clear, simple, effective way (by Sherman, I don’t know Brandon) how to use WordPress will be the ones who pay for your misguided, libelous statements and thuggery.

  23. says

    I was under the impression that the WordPress “trademark” would have been registered to the “WordPress Foundation” which Matt was registering at one stage.

    One thing I’m finding amusing is do the other co-founders of the WordPress fork have any “rights” to the WordPress “trademark”?

  24. Andy Beard says

    Matt I assume you intend to shut down or force domain name change on sites like http://www.wordpress-fr.net/ as well.

    As far as I can tell they are not owned by Automattic, they are heavily using WordPress trademarks, and don’t even mention they are your trademarks on the site.

    You might argue that they are providing a service that is more understandable to their marketplace, providing information and a forum in French.

    they don’t appear to be a registered charity, and have donation buttons, so it is a commercial undertaking, no matter how profitable. Maybe the founders do additional paid consulting too.

    Unfortunately “tech speak” (we won’t call it geek), is also a foreign language to lots of people, which in many cases is what the WordPress forums and codex represent.

    Also they are public forums. Business people are less likely to give out “nuggets” of useful information related to business in a totally open forum. There are great benefits to closed communities and mastermind groups.

  25. says

    I must preface this entry with IANAL, but from what I’ve read and understand, the WordPress trademark would cover the software and not any training material. Automattic, Inc. would need to file a separate application for such. Brandon or Sherman would be able to file their own trademark application for using WordPress in their training/education materials.

    Whether they are spammy or not, their sites look *exactly* like the people selling “mass posting” to “thousands of niche WordPress and Blogspot blogs” software, which is spam.

    Matt

    It seems you’re targeting various websites based on your own misconceptions. If you took a moment to contact Sherman and discuss the product he’s providing, or even asking to review it, you’d quickly find it’s the exact opposite of your assumptions. It doesn’t sell “‘mass posting’ to ‘thousands of niche WordPress and Blogspot blogs’ software” and isn’t spam. Though I can’t speak for Brandon, as long as I’ve known Sherman, he’s not condoned spam nor does he promote/teach anything spammy.

    As for using ‘wordpress’ in the domain name, that’s a toss up, but Andy raises a very good point in asking if you’d ask the various other WP community sites to remove ‘wordpress’ from their domain names. If you were vigoriously defending your trademark, logic dictates you would.

    Echoing Dave Taylor’s comment, your targeting of specific domains based on how they look is unfair and biased — something that may play against you in the long run. If you plan to defend the trademark of WordPress and request websites not use ‘wordpress’ in their domain names, you should target all domains using WordPress (a lot more than 10), including the off-shoot community sites like WordPress Plugins, WordPress Themes, and WordPress Brasil, WordPress France et al — not just a handful you feel look spammy. How a site looks is subjective, the law is objective.

    I hope this situation can be resolved amicably by all parties involved.

  26. says

    I’m a radio host who wanted to learn about blogging and both Andy Wibbels and Sherman Hu have been instrumental in my decision to use Word Press. I have been so amazed by Sherman’s help, that I now tell all my clients to get set up with wordpress…

    WordPress, you should be paying Sherman!

    I don’t find many people in this internet business that I like, but I called Sherman a friend after only 2 minutes on the phone…he really cares about people!

    This is really too bad. Stand tall Sherman, your fans will follow you!
    Wayne Kelly

  27. says

    This won’t be a long message but it is definitely a very sincere one. I consider my self honoured to know Sherman Hu as a friend. We met online thruogh his wordpresstutorial site. Since then, we’ve invited him and his wonderful family into our home. He is about as far from “spammy” and “snake oil” as you can get. Keep up the great work Sherman. You are an amazing and incredibly generous person!

  28. says

    Trademark thought after many TRADES/ Blessing in Disguise:
    Wordpress had the enviable luck which is not usual for many products that are available in the market. Sherman Hu has professionally created video tutorials which are so easy to understand from installation to using of the product. Any software/product, if understanding them is made is easy, all the more better for the product which is quite evident in this case. Sherman did help the blog community which uses WordPress through his tutorials. I feel, WordPress should be thankful for his tutorial which made WordPress popular over Mambo.

    Shanker Velu – Managing Director, Empowered Marketer

  29. says

    I find it revolting to find Sherman Hu or his video tutorials associated with dishonesty or snake oil. He’s doing a great job at delivering much needed tutorials for small business owners.

    As highlighted by Ken, the case for defending the WordPress trademark in this specific case is a lost one. The appropriate thing to do is to acknowledge this fact, to issue a proper apology for the defamation, and to endorse the video tutorials on wordpress.org.

  30. says

    So, according to WordPress’ logic, the whole “For Dummies” series of books would also be an infringement. “Windows XP For Dummies,” “Microsoft Excel For Dummies,” and the like.

    It’s fair use. And since WordPress may have wanted to create their own tutorials, and therefore attempting to stop the competition using extortion under the guise of “legality” or “trademark misuse,” tell me, who is the real “scammy” person, here?

    Sorry, WordPress, but what you are doing is completely wrong.

  31. Andy Beard says

    In the comments over on WordPress Wank it has wrongly been suggested by Matt that:-

    I’d rather not give these guys any more publicity, they’re obviously trying to leverage this into more exposure for their products, and some blogs are playing right into their hands.

    I have responded on the thread, but that leaves me with some added complications in continuing the development of this blog, without monetizing this post.

    Additional Disclaimer: After all the amazing testimonials from people I respect in our community in this thread, I am now a member of WordPressTutorials.com

    Whilst that does entitle me to become a member of their closed affiliate program, the links on this page will remain direct links to the site.

    Preventing this page from being monetized is going to be an interesting and technical challenge.

  32. says

    It’s so sad that WordPress chooses to bite the hand that feeds it, the community.

    Even Apple doesn’t shut down IpodmyBaby because they understand good products are good for their image. Both these products are good and without them there’d probably be a few less WP users.

    Get over it and focus on making WordPress awesome and not some stupid corporate-like BRAT!

  33. says

    WordPress is a great script Matt but like most people here, I have to disagree with the way you’re handling the issue of protecting your trademark.

    You want Sherman and Brandon to change their domains because you think their sites resemble spam sites and you don’t want to be associated with spam.

    It’s obvious that you don’t know a thing about marketing. The only thing you know is how to write good code. Without these marketers who create ‘spammy’ looking sites, you wouldn’t have near the number of WordPress users as there are.

    If your gripe is with the spammers then I suggest you do a little more research so you don’t mislabel honest entrepreneurs such as Sherman and Brandon.

    If you put a little effort into working with these guys to help promote WordPress even more, you’ll see just how effective online marketing can be to spread your image.

    On the other hand, upset these guys and their loyal fans and you’ll deal with repercussions that are worse than a few silly spammy sites can do to you.

  34. says

    Ken McCarthy nailed it. Methinx there is no legal basis for infringement here.

    This adversarial posture would best be transformed into one of mutually beneficial alliance, IMHO.

    Matt is a visionary, brilliant coder.

    Sherman Hu is a very effective educator and stellar promoter with a heart of gold. He’s seen as a near-saintly figure by folks who know him and his work. He offers legit ..educational aids, not auto-blog-poster software.

    Singling him out as a target for public attack is an unwise move, methinx… And at this point, a public apology and endorsement may save the WP brand from future, reputational damage. That’s what I’d do…

    If there is a legally defensible infringement, then gently and respectfully pursue it through legal protocols.

    Otherwise find ways to collaborate for the highest good of all concerned.

    Ya don’t shoot the cheerleader, baby… If ya do, the fans hate you, AND then YOU have to fill that slot yourself in a superior manner.

    “There is no such thing as a wrong note,” said jazzman Art Tatum. In improvisation, you use everything for your advancement. Sherman is getting a standing ovation, and so is Matt. So in my world, it ain’t a time to sling mud. It’s time to start a band, baby…

  35. says

    I’m not surprised WordPress finally did what’s been mentioned. I sympathize with Sherman and that other guy (Brandon Hong, I think) because it had to come to this when this could’ve been resolved sooner.

    Let’s not ignore some things, though:

    1. Trademarks arise from usage, not registration. The WordPress people can definitely demonstrate trademark rights to such, especially since they have one.

    2. Having trademark rights to the term in question, the WordPress cast are definitely within their rights to send C&D letters to whoever potentially infringes their rights.

    3. Although their trademark registration covers only certain things, they can still charge Sherman et al for such because they’re commercially riding on WordPress’ trademark.

    Can the WordPress people “take” Sherman’s and Brandon’s word they’re “not scammy” or whatever, just like that? Maybe, but that’s for them to decide in any way they see fit, whether we agree with it or not.

    This is an unfortunate reality: when a party is RAW (Ready, Able, Willing) to demonstrate their trademark rights, you have to be on the lookout. Even though US law doesn’t exactly require one to be aware of trademarks, there’s a big difference between being blissfully ignorant and willingly disregarding.

    I’ve read lots of domain name – trademark dispute decisions (and fortunately learned a valuable lot from veterans) to realize that when 2 parties are in the same area, the complaining one will tend to assume you know about it even if you don’t. Sherman and Brandon probably should’ve realized this if they hadn’t, though I don’t blame them.

    Since some of you question the WordPress’ decision to approach this issue the way they did, try this:

    1. Some people put up scammy sites selling empty promises of riches via WordPress.

    2. Some customers get burned, and WordPress’ name is implanted in their heads.

    3. Some will probably try to press charges first on the people who sold them out, only to find they’re gone.

    Who do you think they’ll go after?

    Now I’ve yet to read anything like what I described above happen…yet. But WordPress probably aren’t waiting for that.

    I actually applaud WordPress for doing what they can to protect their name and every thing along with it. At the same time, I look down on how they approached it.

    Some of us (including me) don’t agree with their assessment of such sites as “scammy snakeoil businesses”. But they don’t have to agree with how we or Sherman or Brandon view it, they can only care about their own position. (which we’re all entitled to, aren’t we?)

    It’s somewhat easy to believe Sherman and Brandon are “scammy snakeoil businessman”, and what WordPress is doing is wrong. But without knowing and understanding fully the issues involved, we tend to jump to the wrong conclusions. (me included, of course. :D)

    I sincerely wish and hope the WordPress people, Sherman, Brandon, and whoever is potentially directly affected by this will talk about it and hopefully find a win-win solution. They all stand to gain on this.

    I hate to say this, though, but Sherman, Brandon, and every one of you have to expect the possibility (and reality) that WordPress has the final say, and be ready to face the consequences if we insist on our respective positions. Or any party for that matter.

  36. Andy Beard says

    Hi Dave

    Thanks for your input.

    I know IAMAL applies for you as well as me, but at least you do work in the domain industry (and your ebook on domain names was facinating).

    Wouldn’t it at least be necessary to claim somewhere on your website that you regard a name as being a trademark?
    That information wasn’t obviously available (and still isn’t)

    WordPress were not the only users of the term when they started using the name. Only .org was available when WordPress was born.

    Under what circumstances would fair use apply? (they are not competing – WordPress is not used in any way for a support service, and I can’t see any financial loss or dilution)

    If the person who came up with the name for the product contributed it as “part of the community”, to a GPL product, who actually owns the IP inherant in the name?

    From my understanding of this, if it goes to arbitration it might cost WP around $800 in the US, slightly less in Europe for a single arbitrator. More if more people are involved. The result would be they get the domain name (if they win)

    $800 x 160 domain names ?

    Can the treatment of different users be looked on as significant during arbitration? “community projects” being allowed even though they are semi-commercial, whilst commercial sites are strongly persued. It is not a case that WP hasn’t got around to persuit of the others, they have implied that they won’t.

  37. says

    Unfortunately some of your questions (like fair use and who actually owns the IP rights) are those only a judge or a mediation panel can eventually decide, based on whatever facts were presented by both sides should it reach that point. I won’t go into that since I don’t exactly know the full story behind WordPress.

    If it goes into arbitration via the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), it can cost at least $1,200 IIRC. The fees are dependent on who among the UDRP-accredited providers will be selected to oversee the dispute.

    If it goes into Court under the US’ Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), the complainant can ask for control of the domain name and up to $100k per name.

    Then again, many domain name-trademark disputes are resolved before reaching either one. I hope this development with WordPress and Sherman will be one of them.

  38. says

    Just a quick thought for folks. All Matt wants is the domains not to contain “wordpress”.

    Given all the references to newbies in this thread it seems to me the reason he might want that would be more obvious. To some number of newbies, the un-initiated, the presence of “wordpress” in the domains on these sites could stand as ownership or at least relationship between wordpress.org and the sites in question.

    That said, Matt, it isn’t real cool calling these guys spammy or scammy when you seem not to really even know what their product is in the first place. Neither of these guys sells automation software on these sites, they sell tutorials for people who can’t understand what they find at the codex and or the forum.

  39. Joe Stewart says

    I had the opportunity to meet Sherman Hu at an internet marketing seminar this past summer. He was part of the faculty at this event and I was both surprised and pleased when he came over and sat at our table for breakfast. He was very nice, approachable and “down to earth”.

    I had been in touch with Sherman on a couple of occasions to see if he could help me with some troubles that I was having learning WordPress. I found him to be very helpful and informative. He actually went above and beyond what I asked him for and at no time did he ever ask me for any money.

    I know that it’s not possible to tell much about a person just by communicating by email, but Sherman’s personality was just as warm and friendly as he came across in his emails. He was very helpful and very willing to take the time to answer any questions that others had, including other faculty members.

    I won’t argue the point of there being people with zero integrity in the affiliate marketing realm. I’ve been in sales and marketing for years and seen it time and again. However, to call Mr. Sherman Hu ANYTHING but honorable is a mistake.

    If you’re accusing Mr. Hu of being a “snake oil salesaman”, then I believe you’ve got him confused with someone else.

    I hope to see you in Chicago again next year Sherman. It was a pleasure.

  40. Nick Teetzel says

    With all due respect to Matt – how can you make judgment of these two men on your assumptions alone?

    Sherman is a man of integrity – and his business ethics are heart-filled and second to anyone that I personal know.

    Just look around at the obvious – there is more emotion behind these posts than most blogs will see in a lifetime.

    If you hear anything in my post, hear this – Sherman is an asset to WordPress, you just haven’t seen it in the right perspective yet.

    There are many brilliant and influential people here that are experts in marketing with the same respect that you know WordPress.

    They also carry the ability to move the masses in an instant.

    I don’t mean that in a bad way – not at all … “I mean this in a good way.”

    By nature Sherman attracts people at this level without overlooking your local family and friends that create blogs for fun.

    Let’s put everything into perspective and forget about the trademark for a moment.

    Sherman is a true professional and would still be the “go-to guy” in his field, with or without WordPress. The loyalty shows and many of the people here have chosen WordPress because of his recommendations alone.

    He has also brought WordPress to “life” in such a way that many of us would have not experienced without his help.

    After seeing the capability and possibilities of WordPress that is “within our reach” – we also tell all of our contacts why they need to start using WordPress right away.

    When the dust settles I think you’ll make the right decisions (at least I hope so) or you’ll be closing the door on a tremendous amount of opportunity.

    ‘Sherman’s tutorials and backstage access have been one of my investments for 2006″

    Sincerely – and to the success of this matter,

    Nick Teetzel

  41. says

    I previously posted but it maybe got lost so here goes again for what it is worth.
    I wouldn’t waste my time learning how to create my website and reading every thing out

    there.and spending hours trying to post something interesting for others to read on a blog if it

    wasn’t going to benefit me in someway why would I?. It takes time long hours and effort.
    So tell me why else would I put my heart and energy into blog posting( among all the

    garbage that is spewed out there) by housebound mindless twits if I didn’t have a chance of

    advertising to the others among the world population who would prove to be a potential sign up

    to my honest affiliate program which would be of mutual benefit?
    There maybe egg heads who think they have great brains with ideas that will save the

    world or others with wild music to drive them mad or some meat head with an axe to grind.
    Let me tell you they are in the minority and if blog blokes running World Press or any

    other blog depend on them they will be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.RE Affiliate

    marketing the net was just made for it and it is here to stay So get used to it.
    Let me just say this ofcourse Word Press have an axe to grind if anyone is going to

    make money off the Word Press trademark , it had better be them.Nobody on the net is going to

    say thank you to anyone who uses their Trademark and says well look I am benefiting you too IF

    THEY USED THEIR TRADEMARK WITHOUT PERMISSION.
    GET REAL.. `

  42. says

    I think people get to stuck on themselves at times and can hardly beleive at times I can not own a domain with a trademark name with it. So lets say I tradmark a company “city street” and i say you can no longer have a domain with city street in it anywhere. Or even better why not go a step further and say anything with “city” or “street” is off limits too. I mean why not. Here’s a good idea. Why not let tehm do it if they put something on there that just lets folks visiting they aren’t associated with that company? That just makes good horse sense.

  43. says

    With the day things are today, more people are getting interested in investing their money to make them grow faster. The problem is, not too many people are willing to take the risk of investing it because of the risks, so some of them just let their money rut in banks. Not that there’s anything wrong with banks, it’s just that they have low rates and the money takes a long time to grow. If you want real money, you have to have the guts to risk it. Making money needs money; risks are always involved if you want to have money fast and big.

  44. says

    I stumbled upon this old article and because right now I’m part of the same problem I’d like to say that Automattic’s intentions regarding the trademark are not that simple and clean as they appear to be.

    Read my post at my weblog to find out more about this issue.

Trackbacks

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