I had thought we were past the days of respected industry professionals from trademarking generic industry names. But last week Jenn Mathews (proudly, no less) announced she had trademarked the term “Search and Social”. Seriously? This is barely a step away from the ridiculous SEO trademark that Jason Gambert did a few years back.
Search and Social, both combined and separate are huge terms in the industry, and one that all industry professionals use on a daily basis. So it was pretty shocking for SEOs to discover that someone else – and a fellow SEO no less – now owned the rights to use those words together. She says it is only for conferences, but her actions are proving otherwise.
In the blog post by Jenn Mathews (and on Blogspot, really?) where she defends trademarking the term “Search and Social”, she states that made she Rob Garner sign an agreement with her in order to keep the title of his upcoming book “Search and Social” – something that would have been in the works far before Jenn was granted this crazy trademark in the first place.
Does this mean that no one can have a conference called “Search and Social”?
Technically, no they cannot – but I’m a pretty reasonable person and am happy working with others that would like to use the phrase. In fact, Rob Garner and myself just worked out an agreement for his book “Search and Social” which is coming out November 6, 2012. In fact, he’ll be speaking at Search and Social Hawaii 2013, and we’ll be handing out copies of his book to all of the attendees.
Considering this revelation follows immediately after being awarded this trademark, once has to wonder if she had a hit list of people to go after as soon as it was awarded, knowing people were already using it. Not only that, Jenn Mathews keeps stating that she only did it to protect her conference series, but last time I checked, a published book is pretty far removed from being a conference series.
From her Google+ post about it
To sum it up: This is a Service Mark and not a Trademark, it is for the sole intention to protect the Search and Social Hawaii! conference, as well as the workshop series, and training material that comes from them.
Anyone can still use the phrase to describe services, name their consulting packages, or any other use of the phrase.
So I don’t know exactly where a book would fall under the position that she needed to get an agreement for the term to be used since it was not in relation to a conference (and one has to wonder if he had to speak at the conference in order to not be required to change the title, but Rob has remained silent on the issue). The only reason for her mentioning it would be to show her willingness to work with people and allow them to use the term “search and social.”
Also, she claims it is a service mark and not a trademark, yet the title of her blog post she links to says “Search and Social is a Registered Service Mark (AKA Trademark)”. Confused as well?
Anyone in the industry more than a couple of years probably identify with another group completely branded as “Search and Social”. That was a popular blog/business run by Dave Snyder and Jordan Kasteler were well known as the “Search and Social” brand far before Jenn Mathews began running her little conference – in fact, when people were discussing this in the first place, it was Dave and Justin that people thought were involved in the trademarking of this name (which seems to be not the case, they don’t appear to have any relationship with Jenn Mathews).
In Jenn’s blog post, she also refers to the post by Carrie Peterson at Internet Marketing Inc. – which Jenn refers to and quotes from but does not link to, which had to be a deliberate move by someone who should clearly know better. Carrie’s post is worth a read as it goes into depth about previous search industry trademark attempt on the term SEO and the brilliant job Rhea from Outspoken Media did in order to defeat it.
It is unfortunate that Jenn Mathews has taken this route, and a lot of people are pretty disappointed. Many will never be involved in her conferences because of what some consider a blatant disrespect to the entire community by trademarking such a generic industry term and then for going after people using the term in no way connected with a conference series at all. But I am sure she also has her supporters as she continues on.
But what is the most important thing to come out of this whole trademark issue? The fact it highlights that the search industry needs someone who can monitor people filing ridiculous and generic terms in the search industry for trademarks, since this one managed to get through without opposition, and if anyone had noticed it you can bet it would have gotten action. Hopefully someone will challenge this one for the good of the search and social community and to prevent others from also filing frivolous trademarks on common industry terms in the future.