Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

I smell a cease-and-desist letter

Have you seen MsDewey.com? It’s an odd, somewhat diverting “search engine,” with terrible results, but featuring a funny—and hot, albeit scary-hot—actress who flirts with you, insults you and generally hams it up to the questions you give her. Play around, but ones like “Kiss me!,” “How old are you?” and anything mentioning Bush have specific responses. The calculator to the right came out in order to insult my manhood!

Anyway, I’ll eat my socks if this thing doesn’t go down in a jiffy. Dewey is a registered trademark of OCLC, and trademarks—unlike patents and copyrights—must be actively defended if they are to remain valid. If OCLC doesn’t act, the Dewey Decimal System* could end up like the “elevator” trademark. Notably, OCLC sued the Library Hotel (OCLC Press Release), for daring to decorate and number its rooms by Dewey, citing the need for trademarks to be “vigorously defended.” After a public-relations debacle—OCLC sued them for three-times profits!—the parties settled.**

From a WhoIs search it appears the site as put together by San Francisco-based EVB. Searching some more, I discover that Microsoft has confessed to sponsoring the site, writing:

“Who says search can’t be fun? At Windows Live we are constantly exploring new and creative ways to promote our search offering and deliver relevant information in an interesting and engaging way. The Ms. Dewey website is just one example of these efforts.”

I’m AMAZED Microsoft would make a legal blunder like this. And if OCLC approved it, there’d be a ® symbol somewhere, don’t you think?

*I object on principle to the trademark, and to the IP issues generally. Melvil Dewey died in 1931. The core of the system long since passed into the public domain everywhere. You want more bitching? See here.
**Their press release quotes the hotel as saying:

“We do not believe that our use of the Dewey® trademarks in our beautiful boutique hotel near the New York Public Library infringes OCLC’s Dewey® trademarks. … But acknowledging OCLC’s Dewey® trademarks and making a charitable contribution to promote reading by children, rather than spending money litigating, seems to be a reasonable way to resolve this matter.”

Considering that everyone says that you only need to use the ® symbol once, having them use it three times in a row looks a tad forced.

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