Ever since the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto created the world’s first digital currency in 2009, the term “Bitcoin” has always been widely considered as public domain. However, last month, a company in the U.K successfully acquired the trademark for the name “Bitcoin” and has recently launched a lawsuit against a smaller business for using the name on their merchandise.
The owner of the business posted about this incident on the Bitcoin subreddit on Friday, claiming that he received a cease-and-desist letter from the larger corporation for the use of the word “BITCOIN” in his products. The company, an “A.B.C. IPHOLDINGS SOUTH WEST LLC”, demanded that the business owner remove all Bitcoin-related products from his Etsy store, recall all the items that have been sold, and send them to the trademark owner instead. If he fails to comply, A.B.C. threatens to launch a trademark infringement lawsuit against him and his company.
An excerpt of the cease-and-desist letter. SOURCE
The business owner, who goes by the username AlarmingAdhesiveness on Reddit, expressed his disbelief regarding this lawsuit.
“I didn’t believe it at first since I knew that bitcoin and the bitcoin logo are public domain, and even a similar trademark application in the US failed.”
However, to his dismay, a trademark has indeed been filed and registered in the U.K.’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) database. According to the official records, the trademark was filed late last year on December 22, 2017, and was registered just over a month ago on April 13, 2018. Furthermore, the trademark was set to last for ten years, and therefore will only expire on December 22, 2027.
According to the owner, since this trademark was registered with the U.K.’s IPO, “anyone in the UK that puts the word bitcoin on any type of clothing or even a drink, can be sued.”
Trademark Infringement Lawsuit Unenforceable?
Nevertheless, it is still unclear whether the suing company will actually follow through with its threats, or if the trademark infringement lawsuit will actually work. According to another Reddit user who commented on the post, the claim is “unenforceable” since the term “Bitcoin” is way too generic.
“basically its unenforcable [sic], mt.gox had it trademarked years ago (for “safety” so they said) in the UK, but even that was unenforcable [sic] as the name “Bitcoin” is far too generic to be trade marked like that (i did personally check years ago)”
The suing company also holds a trademark on the word “WESTWORLD”, which could be due to the word’s association with the HBO show of the same name.