Isn’t it time the WordPress foundation started protecting the trademark in domain names? I think yes… and here’s how we can help!

On September 9th 2010 the WordPress Foundation accepted the donation, from Automattic, of the ‘WordPress’ trademark so that they could:

preserve and protect the trademark in the years ahead

In order, as Matt Mullenweg put it, that the:

[WordPress] brand will continue to be a beacon of open source freedom

Which was a widely applauded, and significant move.

As not only would it protect the WordPress brand, but it would also protect all the legitimate, open source, trademark abiding companies that work in the WordPress space from being subject to unfair competition from spammy, trademark abusing sites that can much more easily climb the Google rankings as a result!

But, has that happened? Let’s check the evidence.

Now I’m guessing that ‘WordPress Themes’ is an even more popular search term than ‘Free WordPress Themes’ which as Siobhan pointed out not only is full of scary code, but also is topped by two trademark-breaking sites (which illustrates the power of using the TM in a domain name), so let’s take a look at that:

Guess what, suffuse with domains that literally shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

Imagine how much damage that is doing to legitimate, quality theme providers.

And, as the Foundation is the only organization that can regulate them, I reckon the community needs to call on the foundation to sort this out!

Howabout another common search term closer to my heart (especially as we provide the number one free membership plugin on wordpress.org!

Yep, that’s right, number 1 and 5… not that great really :/

And, for the sake of argument, lets checkout the ecommerce space too:

OK, not that awful, but still bloody significant.

And of course all the keyword manipulations you can think of are SEO’d to death in these sites, so that I bet you could come across many, many more if you just looked a little.

In fact, I bet you already have!

And it needs to stop… and that’s the responsibility of the foundation to do so… and as we can’t do anything, they need to act!

And I have a suggestion for how that could be achieved :)

Here’s the thing, commercial companies, like WPMU DEV, care a great deal about this (I know I do) and we also care a great deal about, as Matt said, keeping WordPress as a beacon of good practice.

So, howabout the foundation lets us [commercial providers] donate $$$s to sponsor the removal of domains infringing on the WordPress Trademark?

This way we benefit from seeing illegal and unfair competition being removed, the foundation benefits from donations and most of all WordPress benefits!

Like this idea? Share it around, or your variation of it, the more noise we can make, the higher the chance of us getting this mess sorted out… WordPress needs you!

[Ahem, disclaimer: In my salad days I actually did purchase a couple of trademarked domain names but long ago since removed them and offered them all to the foundation... just so you know :)]

Comments (23)

  1. I really think instead of the suggestion of commercial providers spending $$$ on removal of the domains, it would be wiser to spend that much on search engine optimization and marketing.

    Just because sometimes, you do not get your way does not mean you have to take down something.

  2. @Harish I couldn’t disagree more:

    a. It’s pretty much (see c.) impossible to compete against these guys as google sees ‘wordpress’ and spits it out top

    b. My argument isn’t about commercial benefit, so spending it elsewhere is irrelevant, it’s about whats best for wordpress, the importance of the TM and simple illegalities!

    c. If it was about commercial benefits, that still would make no sense… how much would it cost to file a TM dispute with a registrar… maybe a few hundred, how much would it cost to market / SEO yourself to the top of google for something like wordpress themes, let’s start at 6 figures I reckon.

    It’s not about ‘getting my way’, these guys need to be sat on for the good of the entire community of legitimate wordpress providers.

    Lame comment fella, come back with something of more substance!

  3. James you have created a wonderful resource of WPMU which I myself read and use.

    But then again your comment of 6 figures for SEO and few hundred dollars to take down the sites seems to valid the point I made.

    From the snapshot you provided and from a search I made, you can see 4 sites with no “WordPress” in their domain coming up on top. Am sure they must not be worrying about this.

    I agree cheap providers are bad. And should be thought a lesson. I have also come across many malicious code (like scripts emailing the developer of user data) in plugins, etc. but then I assume it would be my mistake to not download them from WordPress.org or from reputed developers like your firm.

    The point am making is we should just do what we are good at instead of going after that just because it costs hundred dollars and not 6 figure amount.

  4. Naw, it’s also about simple fairness – why shouldn’t we go out and then break TMs?

    I also strongly disagree about the results on the SERPs – they have a strong presence all round and unless you are in cahoots with the sites themslves, you lose out.

    It’s ugly, and what the foundation has explicitly set out to stop, and rather than just demanding they do I think my idea is a great way that the successful provider in the area can give back to the community and benefit themselves at the same time…. win-win.

  5. @James, well I guess the WordPress foundation, either knows and is not bothered or they don’t know (which is hard to believe).
    And besides am sure I do not have to say it as I don’t run a business as large as yours, but if someone does not agree with you, it does not mean they deserve to be insulted.

    I don’t know about the other guy, but I don’t own any WordPress domain neither I offer any free theme or paid theme.

    I am sure WordPress foundation is capable enough of bringing the domains down by simple trademark infringement notices sent to ICANN. But they haven’t and I believe they are not dumb to ignore the issue if it meant something large.
    So guess instead of being keen for them to act (which sounds we need it more than WordPress needs it) we can just make sure we write about it often to educate our customers, users and colleagues which sites to avoid downloading from.

  6. @harish – From a pure business point of view your argument is insane. What if I started a website called “dreamsmediain.in and piggy-backed off or your website presence; would you feel the same way? I could copy your client names, steal your work, offer it for free and ultimately cast a negative shadow over your brand. What would you say then? I think you know your rationale is flawed and your only real point is to take a shot at a very successful company.

  7. I started working with WordPress about 18 months ago and didn’t know the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly of the environment. I did what comes natural and looked up “free WordPress themes” on Google and started there. I got my ass handed to me by these rogue sites and almost lost my new consulting business because of it. Ultimately I threw WordPress in the trash and started developing sites in Joomla. I have heard the same story from many new developers and agree with @james that something should be done to protect the WordPress brand.

    Eventually I found the hybrid community, WPMUdev and css-tricks and now use WordPress for the majority of the sites I build.

  8. @QubeStream, Am in India buddy. Here many copy without any fear of copyright/trademark issues. What you have said has happened to me couple of times in last 3 years once done by a person working for me. Fortunately they were dumb enough to take it down after my emails and calls.
    So yes if they had not done it, I would had to sue them.
    But here we are not talking about WordPress owned by WordPress foundation, which is not owned by me.

    Now regarding the issue, I have been using WordPress from 2005, changed to Joomla, then came back to WordPress. The things that happened to you, has happened to me and many of my colleagues.

    The reason why I am placing a comment on this site, is because I read and visit this site and its Facebook page for all the great content and also for their plugins which I absolutely love. So taking a shot at them, I find that absurd comment to reply to more than what I have already done.

    Am still clueless as to why more than WordPress (who trademark is copied by jerks) you or me should be so keen to do something about it. Not everyone will agree with me (as its individual’s view)

  9. @Harish, I spend many months every year in Chennai and know very well the many challenges small businesses face there. I will end my comments with this. WordPress is a tool supported by a very dedicated community and as a member of that community I would like to see the brand protected as much as possible. It is my opinion that asking/demanding these rogue sites to remove WordPress from their domain name is perfectly reasonable.

  10. @QubeStream, if you put it that way I couldn’t agree more. I love WordPress too (really a lot :) ) and hate when people use the name to screw others.
    Any plans on what you’re saying can be achieved?

  11. I observe the WordPress trademark policy and it does annoy me when it is broken. I do, however, take issue with the policy itself.

    Automattic is the only commercial provider of WordPress services with permission to exploit the WordPress trademark in a domain name (WordPress.com). As founder of Automattic, Matt Mullenweg has a financial interest in this exclusive arrangement staying in place.

    As controller of the WordPress trademark, the WordPress Foundation’s role is to exploit the trademark in the best interests of the WordPress community. As director of the foundation, Matt Mullenweg holds a substantial influence on how these matters are decided.

    With a major conflict of interest at the top of the WordPress Foundation, the community can not be sure their interests are being looked after without consideration of Automattic’s interests.

    Both Drupal and Joomla allow their trademarks to be used in domain names, this leads one to ask what the reasoning behind the WordPress Foundations decision is?

    If dodgy sites, some with malicious code, are the only sites receiving the SEO benefits of using the WordPress trademark in their domain, the trademark domain policy is actively damaging the WordPress community.

    I’m aware of the complications, part of the contract of donation to the foundation included a requirement that Automattic’s continued exploitation of the trademark be permitted.

  12. One of the issues is the limitations of trade marks. Just because a company owns a trade mark, it doesn’t mean that no one else can ever use that term in any context. For example, as aggressive as Apple are about their iPhone trade mark, if you google ‘iPhone’ you will still come up with domains containing the work ‘iPhone’.

    People who sell iPhone accessories for example, may have a legitimate right to use the word iPhone – so long as they’re not implying that they’re affiliated with or approved by Apple in any way. If Apple wanted to challenge a .com domain that contains iPhone, they could go through ICANN’s dispute resolution process, which would be an easier process than filing a trade mark infringement action in court.

    According to the USPTO – the WordPress trade mark is registered to Automattic Inc. But that applies only to the US. To get protection in other countries, the mark would have to also be registered in the other countries.

    Here in Australia for example, there is a registered trade mark for “WORDPRESS” but it appears to be unrelated to WordPress. To stop anyone from infringing a mark here, not only would WordPress have be registered here, but the court action would also have to be fought here.

    If you’re still reading this far down, what I’m saying is: even if WordPress has the time, money and inclination – it’s not so simple.

  13. Hi Guys, appreciate your feedback,

    I do know, anecdotally, that they have pursued, successfully, holders of domains like wordpress.mu

    Plus back when I was being less than good, the certainly pursued me, to a point.

    And if an express purpose of the foundation is to protect the trademark – specifically in this case the only limitation they have ever expressed regarding it (i.e. its use in domain names) then surely that’s what it should be doing.

    Apple is an interesting example Kay, given the amount of effort they have put into various domain confiscations :)

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