Trademarks in Second Life — where are they?

Gwyn Frowning at Trademark Abuse Thunderclap Morgridge has contributed to the Second Life® Wiki by creating a list of “known” trademarks that have or had a presence in Second Life. It is by no means complete, but feel free to add to it if you’re aware of more (specially outside the US).

While we’re hoping that Linden Lab starts to gather a Business Directory that can be used as a reference for everybody, all these independent efforts to catalogue and classify the types and kinds of business use in SL are definitely important. The simple and plain truth is that we have no real clue about how many companies are in SL right now, and, more important, what they’re up to.

Granted, Thunderclap’s focus is more to give people something to think about when they see a “brand” simply copied from a RL brand, and allow people to see if the RL brand owner is in SL to alert them to trademark infringement. Unlike copyright infringement, trademark infringement is met by Linden Lab with immediate deletion of all content in violation. The reason is that you can immediately check and confirm if a trademark is improperly used. Copyright issues require a round of subjective analysis, since it’s far harder to establish ownership of an “idea” — copyright only covers the implementation of an idea, you can’t copyright ideas by themselves.

Trademarks, by contrast, are not “subjective”. Either you’re using a trademark legitimately or you aren’t. Thuderclap’s list should help people to identify at least some of the common ones that are in SL legitimately — but if you see any item for sale outside those companies’ virtual presence in Second Life, you can be pretty sure they are not legitimate uses of them and report the creator to LL — or to the legitimate trademark owner.

Note that everybody can register their own trademarks, too — it’s not just the “big brands” that can do it, but any individual can do it as well. Sadly, to register a trademark world-wide, it’s an insanely costly process. But if you have a very good SL-based business that depends on your brand awareness, which is something that takes months and years to do correctly, thus requiring a lot of investment (money and time!), you should consider registration too. In most countries of the world this is almost always done online, so it’s rather easy to do. If your brand means business to you, it has value; and protecting it is important and worth the expense — specially because you’ll know that any branded item copied by others will meet with instant content deletion by LL (there is no appeal and no discussion).

Of course, when people delete the brand and just copy the rest of the content, things are harder. But some content thieves don’t bother — they know the item is valuable because it shows a brand that people recognise. In those cases, it’s very very easy to get rid of the copied content.

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