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Sparc Sends SparkFun Electronics C&D Letter 219

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the overly-litigious dept.
moogied writes "SparkFun.com, a electronics component provider, has been sent a cease and desist letter by Sparc in response to the lengthy trademark process that SparkFun is participating in. The letter states 'Because the dominant portion of the SparkFun mark, namely, SPARK, is phonetically identical and nearly visually identical to SI's SPARC mark, and because it is used in connection with identical goods, we believe confusion is likely to occur among the relevant purchasing group.' SparkFun.com has provided the entire contents of the letter, with a breakdown of points it feels are most relevant."
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Sparc Sends SparkFun Electronics C&D Letter

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  • Sun should lose (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:10PM (#29850785) Homepage Journal

    Come on, now. They have SPARK in the name; they're an electronics company. The name is a playful moniker and nobody would ever confuse them with Sparc.

    When I was in the USAF they called the electricians "spark chasers". ANY electronics company should be able to have "spark" in their name. For Sun to lay claim to a common word that describes the first thing anybody thinks of when they think of electricity (when Sin's is spelled differently) is ludicrous. It's like the ApleFrosting company suing anybody who sells any kind of apple product wit "apple" in the name.

    I lost a lot of my esteem for Sun with this. I wonder if it has anything to do with Oracle?

  • "Dominant Portion" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MarbleMunkey (1495379) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:13PM (#29850829)
    Sun: "Because the dominant portion of the SparkFun mark, namely, SPARK, is phonetically identical and nearly visually identical to SI's SPARC mark, and because it is used in connection with identical goods, we believe confusion is likely to occur among the relevant purchasing group."

    And here I thought that dominant portion of SparkFun was "Fun"!
  • by Dunbal (464142) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:19PM (#29850929)

    I can't wait for IBM to sue BMW because after all, both of them share the letters "BM" and that might confuse a lot of people. Disney could probably have a go at McDonald's because after all, Donald is the name of a famous Disney character....

          Hopefully Sparkfun won't get a retarded judge, and this will be laughed out of court.

  • Umm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mewsenews (251487) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:21PM (#29850961) Homepage

    IANAL, but Sparc International has a legal obligation to protect its trademark, correct? They may not want to pick on SparkFun but if they don't demonstrably protect their trademark, they can lose it.

    How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

  • by ngg (193578) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:24PM (#29851001) Homepage

    Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

    You can also offer others a license to use your mark for some nominal fee, I believe. From a legal perspective (IANAL, by the way) I think that's probably just as good as litigating it. The problem probably comes from disagreement about what constitutes a reasonable nominal fee, and the licensee's concerns about their ability to control the use of their mark (eg, if someone who doesn't like the licensee tried to "steal" their mark by going through the licensor).

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:27PM (#29851073)

    So SPARC is something like SPARK...

      And some nitwit company that has seen its stock price fall a huge percentage because it spends far too much on psychotic lawyers than it does on R&D is filing a lawsuit about 'Spark' being close to 'sparc'. And this idiot lawyers have convinced someone that they 'own' the word 'spark'.

        Am I reading this correct? Please tell me that this is not Sun Microsystems! Founded by geniuses, creators and leaders in the workstation industry, the true visionary company of the valley.

        You would think that these guys would be too embarrassed to show their faces in the valley again after something as stupid as this.

        These guys have no shame.

        Since the world's population is bursting and there is ...so...much....surplus...talent available, why don't we just put all these dumb fucks out of their (and our) misery. "take out the trash, clean out the crusty, and let them spend the rest of their days walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain."

        What! There's a law against that too? Law or no law, sooner or later, it's going to be cheaper just to kill them all.

        It's a shame that with all their education and vested options, they still don't realize this.

  • Re:Umm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:27PM (#29851079)

    IANAL, but Sparc International has a legal obligation to protect its trademark, correct? They may not want to pick on SparkFun but if they don't demonstrably protect their trademark, they can lose it.

    How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

    In my perfect world (I put that in because otherwise some /. smartass will tell me how things really are, thanks) you wouldn't need to "protect" your trademark against obviously non-infringing non-assaults. And also in my perfect world, you would be penalized for sending out frivolous C&Ds when you should have known better. Again, in my ideal world, a panel of people with common sense would decide when you would have known better. Furthermore, in my perfect world, you will all agree with me and get together and take up a collection to buy me a fully functional animatronic Natalie Portman.

  • by pem (1013437) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#29851119)
    SparkFun should be laughing all the way to the bank, once they get past the lawyerly nuisance.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:30PM (#29851135)

    Yep. All you need is one jumped-up shyster snake...er "lawyer"... and we're off to the races again.

    If SPARC, or their parent corp Sun Microsystems, wants to be good citizens, the lawyer who sent this should lose his job.

  • by jim_v2000 (818799) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:31PM (#29851149)
    I might agree with you, but their trademark is "SPARC", not "Spark".
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:34PM (#29851195)
    Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

    That doesn't mean you're obligated to make over-reaching claims about your trademark. The obviously correct position would be to send C&D letters to people using 'sparc' without permission. Perhaps even to a company that sold "spark servers". That's all that's needed. Their trademark on "SPARC" would not be weakened at all by the continued existence of "SparkFun".
  • Re:Umm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:41PM (#29851299) Journal

    How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

    You can license it, but more importantly, you have to decide what infringes and what doesn't. If the name of the company was "SparkServ" or similar, then the standard of "is likely to create confusion in the marketplace" applies. Additionally, if there are other details in the use of "SparkFun" as a trademark that would cause confusion (ie: ripping off the look and feel of the registered mark) then you have a case.

    This is like Darl McBride suing "Scope mouthwash" because the first three letters are "SCO". Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but we should never resist the urge to compare stupidity with Darl's previous actions. ;)

  • Aren't you required to vigorously defend your trademark or else stand to lose it?

    If they were genuinely concerned about losing their trademark, while admitting that SparkFun is not at all likely to be confused with Sparc, they could grant SparkFun trademark rights for $1. Basically tell them "we agree not to sue you for infringing what we believe is our rightful trademark, in exchange for consideration".

    I'm tired of that damn "the law made me do it!" excuse. No, it didn't. There are plenty of remedies outside the courts that can accomplish the same ends.

  • Re:Umm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:53PM (#29851465) Homepage Journal

    How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

    Dang - I just posted the answer above. But to recap: you license it. Sell the "offending" party the right to continue using their name for the minimum dollar amount necessary to create a binding contract (which I think is traditionally $1). That way they're in the clear, and in the event that someone else infringes in the future, you can prove that you're aware and have dealt with other infringers in the past.

  • Re:Umm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday October 23, 2009 @04:55PM (#29851521) Homepage

    How do you protect your trademark without sending out C&Ds?

    Contact the very nice folks at SparkFun and ask, "Pardon -- could you put a disclaimer on your 'About' page or 'FAQ' stating that you are not associated with Sparc? That way we have our 'You must defend your trademark' ass covered, but we don't have to be dicks about it."

  • by alizard (107678) <.moc.sice. .ta. .drazila.> on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:23PM (#29851857) Homepage
    electronic components has no difficulty differentiating "SPARC" from "SparkFun". While a SPARC CPU is in fact an electronic component, it is one that can only be used if one is building a specialized sort of computer (i.e. one that won't run x86 code and can't run any Windows / OSX apps). If one is going to design an electronic circuit with any hope of functioning, one has to know EXACTLY what components one is designing into it.

    The population of actual electronic component customers likely to mistake SPARC for SparkFun is exactly zero. There is NO public likely to be confused by this.
  • Re:well now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bobb9000 (796960) on Friday October 23, 2009 @05:30PM (#29851929)
    You're right, it does help to read the article. Sparkfun doesn't sell anything that could remotely be considered a competitor to SPARC. They're a hobbyist electronics kit store. Unless you consider something like this [sparkfun.com] to be a competing product to a SPARC server?
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday October 23, 2009 @06:28PM (#29852455) Homepage

    Scumbag lawyers don't get paid when gentlemen act like gentlemen and do things like that.

    This is about scumbag IP lawyers chasing ambulances looking for money.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday October 23, 2009 @07:36PM (#29852897) Journal

    And in general, you cannot trademark an English word when used for descriptive purposes. Given that SparkFun makes products that when constructed by hobbyists, almost certainly do precisely what their name implies, in order for SparkFun to be infringing, SPARC would have to claim that they hold the trademark for the word "Spark" when used descriptively, which simply cannot be the case. My prediction? If this went to court, SPARC would almost certainly get their asses handed to them, and SparkFun would probably get treble damages in their countersuit.

  • Re:well now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday October 23, 2009 @11:09PM (#29853933)
    SparkFun is similar to SPARC though? Yeah, they have to defend their trademark, if SparkFun changed their name to SPARCFun, perhaps they would have a case, or even changed their name to Spark... but they haven't. They aren't even in the same business, SPARC sells servers, SparkFun sells integrated circuits. No one is confused. And though to be honest the "defend your trademark" thing should be removed from trademark law (it makes companies be evil about trademarks rather than acting in the interest of the consumer). The point of a trademark is to protect consumers from being mislead, who is mislead about a hobbyist electronic store being called SparkFun and SPARC that sells high-end servers?

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