A company in the U.K. has trademarked the term “Bitcoin” pressing to enforce the trademark’s use which is reported to scare crypto-currency enthusiasts. Is there really a need to be dreaded? Let’s analyse.
The story began with an Etsy (An E-commerce website headed in Brooklyn) seller getting the letter from the lawyer representing the Bitcoin trademark holder in relation to Bitcoin-branded clothing items. It stated the following:
“It has come to our client’s attention that you are offering for sale a variety of clothing bearing the Bitcoin trademark on Etsy.co.uk. [Our Client] has not authorised your use of the Bitcoin trademark on and in relation to clothing. Such use, therefore, amounts to trademark infringement pursuant to s10(1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994,” the letter read.”
But in an act of goodwill, the letter goes on to note that though the trademark holder could take action against the seller but it gave the seller 14 days to remove the infringing goods instead.
Cryptocurrency sites went through a shock over the fact that a company has not only trademarked bitcoin but were also enforcing the trademark, with one site even going as far as saying the trademark holder will “have authority over everything Bitcoin, at least in the U.K.”
The Legal Truth
The truth is not even near to the speculations, as the Trademark law is clear on the point that Trademarks relate to specific goods and services. It is considered as a pre-requisite in Trademark law. Trademark used in the present case, i.e. UK00003279106, registered by a company called A.B.C. IP Holdings South West only covers three classes of goods: U.K. classes 25, 32 and 33, covering clothing, beverages, and alcoholic beverages, respectively.
The Particular trademark only pertains to the above-mentioned classes and the trademark holder has absolutely no authority and effect over anything to do with Trademark of the “Bitcoin” outside the aforementioned classes.
And since it is not something unprecedented, therefore, the owner cannot enforce his right over other classes before obtaining a registration to the same effect. Further, a search of the U.K. Intellectual Property Office trademark registry finds multiple trademark registrations for bitcoin, such as UK00003029238 from 2013 which pertains to “chocolate and confectionary.”
Still a fact for the ‘Cryptocurrency Community’ to worry
A trademark registered with status: WE00001288610, covers a lot of Bitcoin-related services
The protected trademark is registered to Japanese Bitcoin exchange “bitFlyer” and covers the use of bitcoin in six different classes. It covers over a thousand items, however, the most important and disturbing things is that it includes the use of bitcoin in computer programs, advertising, financial services, electronic commerce and much more, all of which are vital parts of bitcoin itself.
There appears to be no record of “bitFlyer” having actually attempted to enforce its trademark in the past, and it’s not clear it ever would. But if the cryptocurrency community wants to get its knickers in a twist over trademarks, this is where people should be looking and not at a two-bit seller, i.e. Etsy, who is engaged in selling T-shirts.