Who will defend the Internet trademark?

Summary:You can use the word Internet, capital I and all, to mean anything you wish.

Registered Trademark
In Australia, GNU's Richard Stallman recently called the Linux trademark fracas "a distraction" from the real issue, which is your right to freely see, use and change software.

Maybe it is a distraction. But there is a trademark issue I don't think he would consider a distraction.

That issue involves the Internet itself. Notice that I used a capital I in Internet just then? While there is ample discussion of trademark issues on the Internet, and trademark disputes about the Internet, no one actually controls the trademark Internet.  

This means the trademark can be misused. You can use the word Internet, capital I and all, to mean anything you wish.

Now, the definition of a true Internet is pretty well understood, and it's Stallman's dream. You can reach anything on the Internet from anyplace on the Internet. Anything else is a private network.

But many mobile service providers, like Vodafone, now sell Internet service, even Broadband Internet service, that is anything but. Specifically they block access to Voice over IP services (which might cost them money), even the sites of companies that offer VOIP software, like Skype.

If they want to sell private network services that reach Internet sites I can't stop them. But I have a problem with their using the word Internet to describe these services, and trademark violation would seem to be at issue.

But for that to be at issue, someone has to own a trademark, and be willing to defend it, as Linus Torvalds now defends the trademark Linux.

Who will do that?

Topics: Browser

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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