Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Clarification of branding guidelines - the mud is clearing but it's still mud

Linden Lab have issued some clarification around their new branding guidelines.

While the clarification is welcomed and provides some useful... err... clarification, it doesn't get round the fundamental problem that some of the new guidelines are plain stupid - especially given what has gone before.

The new guidelines might well have been perfectly reasonable if they had been in place from the outset. But to sit back for several years and allow (and possibly even implicitly encourage?) the widespread use of 'second life' and 'sl', particularly in domain names, and only now tell people that it is not allowed is completely unacceptable IMHO.

Of course, one could argue that LL would not be where they are today if they had enforced these kinds of policies from the outset and that attempts to restrict the use of these terms in product names, projects, domain names and elsewhere would probably have had a huge negative impact on the success of SL.

How many URLs to SL-related content are about to be broken? How many new domain names will have to be registered? What will happen to the old ones? How many SL-related domain names are about to fall into the hands of porn sites?

Ciaran Laval has a nice post that replays (part of?) the old branding guidelines - Change policy first, explain it later.


Eloise said...

Over on Virtually Blind Benjamin suggests it may already be too late - Xerox, Hoover and others cannot establish trademarks because it's in common usage. Four years worth of usage on such a wide scale is pretty much common usage...

Of course LL could then ban you without explanation, and it's likely to cost an arm and a leg, but it is an interesting take.

Jonas said...

Just FYI, Xerox is an established trademark (since 1948), and Xerox corporation does defend it vigorously. If you dig around, you can find:

Xerox is a famous trademark and trade name. Xerox as a trademark is properly used only as a brand name to identify the company's products and services. The Xerox trademark should always be used as a proper adjective followed by the generic name of the product: e.g., Xerox printer. The Xerox trademark should never be used as a verb. The trade name Xerox is an abbreviation for the company's full legal name: Xerox Corporation.

XEROX is a registered trademark of Xerox Corporation.

Sounds familiar..

Art Fossett said...

@jonas the difference lies in the extent to which Xerox ever explicitly or implicitly encouraged the use of 'xerox' by others, and the extent to which that encouragement resulted in the success of their brand.

The problem (from my point of view) is not that LL are protecting their brand - everyone is entitled to do that if they so choose - but that they have gained significantly in the past by choosing not to enforce the protection of their brand, encouraging others to build businesses that promote the brand for them but are now pulling the rug out from under those businesses in a very unfair way.

They could have achieved much of what they wanted to achieve by working with the community and restricting use of the logo (which does make perfect sense).