a question for you Law minded folks

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Richard Travale, Nov 12, 2003.

  1. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

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    Hey all, I have a question about what I guess would be copyright infringement.
    Can anyone tell me what would happen if I were to, say, start a baseball pool and invite all of my fellow posters from this forum to participate, including Ron and Packy(but they declined)? Then I made a webpage to make the pool more enjoyable and because we are all members of this forum and because we all love it here so much, decided to call this pool the "Unofficial Home Theater Forum Baseball Pool"?
    In that situation, what have I done wrong and what recourse would Ron and Packy have against me as owner of the pool site?

    *Edit* In case you're wondering, No, I haven't done this.
     
  2. brentl

    brentl Cinematographer

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    While they may not want to participate, I wouldn't think they'd care.

    As long a you ask them about the use of the HTF first.

    Just ask em!

    Brent
     
  3. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

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    Actually, I was just using the HTF as an example. I have a friend (no really, it's a friend) who runs a pool(no $$$ involved, just for fun) and a site to help regulate this pool. Well he used the name of the message board where he met all of his fellow poolies without contacting the owner of the board. He called his site "The Unofficial So & So League" Well, now the owner of the original message board is threatening legal action.
     
  4. Steve_Tk

    Steve_Tk Cinematographer

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    Why not call it the the unofficial HTF pool? That way it's name is in acronym form and the only people that will know what it is is us anyway. Plus you could say HTF could stand for a number of things.
     
  5. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

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    The HTF was just an example because that's where we are right now. Said message forum has a name that cannot be confused with anything else.
     
  6. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    I'm no lawyer, Richard, but my gut instinct is that there's probably not much that they can do. Look at all the unofficial fan websites for all sorts of music groups, actors, etc. One would think every last one would have gotten sued into oblivion if it was that easy.

    Perhaps instead of integrating the name of the forum into the name of the pool site, the guy names it something else, then just says on the page "for members of xyz forum". If their name isn't in his site's name, I don't think he can get sued for merely mentioning the their name.
     
  7. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    It's not so much a copyright issue, rather trademark, or passing off. If the name of the forum is a registered trademark, then prima facie you can't use it at all in connection with anything for which the trademark is registered. Even if unregistered, there may still be proprietary rights in the name.

    Passing off is if one party tries to fool people into thinking his goods are those of another party. Probably doesn't apply here, with the "Unofficial" tag, but still a possibility.

    Of course, all this is based on intellectual property law generally, there may be specific clauses in Title 17 I am not familiar with (I'm not a US attorney) which might cover the specific situation you're talking about and have more specific prohibitions or consequences.
     
  8. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Yeah, it's a trademark (or more specifically a service mark) issue. There are really two closely related issues here: likelihood of confusion and dilution. You're probably covered on the first one since the Unofficial pretty well makes it clear that You are not Them. [​IMG] The second is much trickier, since it rests on value judgments as to whether you're affecting the value of their mark.

    But the big question is, do they have enough money to sue you for it? They can sputter and complain for free, but to actually take you to court on a trademark infringement case costs money. If you think they might possibly be serious, talk to an intellectual property attorney. It's a specialty so don't just call a guy who does wills.
     
  9. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

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    Cool, thanks for the help guys. It appears the owner of the original site was just puffing out his chest trying to look big.
     
  10. Jason Boucher

    Jason Boucher Stunt Coordinator

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    My friend was sued by major universities for operating unofficial sites named after the sport teams logos. Trademark infringement. He backed down. Likelihood of confusion is the test and I don't think putting "Unofficial" in front of the moniker matters. Opening an Unofficial McDonalds Hamburger joint wouldn't get you far in court. But, you can have fair use parody sites.
     

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