BellSouth Attacks 'Bellster'
Sends out lawyergrams to thwart upstart
BellSouth apparently doesn't like Jeff Pulver (Vonage co-founder and VoIP pioneer) using the name "Bellster"
for his new PSTN phone sharing application (See FAQ
). As per Jeff's blog
, he's received a fax formally requesting he discontinue "all use of Bell as part of any claimed trademark, service mark, source indicator, corporate name or domain name immediately"
and "destroy all tangible material on which this infringing usage appears."
Jeff and our forum members discuss the problem in our VoIP forum
| |miclVisit Lovely Downtown Port StarboardPremium
Silver Spring, MD
Re: Change your name
said by AtomicZero:Why? Froma marketing perspective, with the publicity BST's nuisance suit could potentially generate for this, why not!
I do think he could have been more original
If I don't see you in the future, I'll see you in the pasture
| |PathfinderDazed ConfusedPremiumReviews:
Mount Vernon, NY
Re: Change your name
said by micl:You sure? »www.bell.com/resources.htm
I'm sorry, but Bell South does not have a lock (whether they think they do or not) on the word "BELL".
support the Hunley
| || Well, to sort of summarize what I said in the VoIP forum, I do not believe this is a clear-cut case at all, and in fact I believe if it ever goes to trial BellSouth will lose. I say that for these reasons:|
1. BellSouth does not have the exclusive right to use the name "Bell" - it is shared by many companies, as the site you mentioned shows. Only the actual "Bell" trademark owner can bring a lawsuit - if BellSouth is simply considered a licensee, they may not even have standing to bring a suit.
2. Pulver is not calling his company "Pulver Bell" or "Free World Bell" or something like that. He has created a new word, "Bellster." Now consider the following:
Goodyear and Goodrich (tires)
Broadvox and Broadvoice (VoIP)
Vonage and CallVantage (VoIP)
Of the above three, only the latter is currently the subject of litigation. Goodyear and Goodrich are VERY similar (to the point that several years ago, Goodrich ran a series of ads that in essence said, "Look in the sky - see the blimp? We're the OTHER guys") yet both have kept their names.
One has to wonder, would Bellsouth still have felt free to sue if Pulver had left out one "l" (i.e., "Belster") - the pronunciation would be the same but the printed name would not include the four letters "bell." The problem here is that "Bell" is a generic word, which is exactly why companies like Taco Bell can co-exist, and why nowadays companies tend to create totally new words that are not derivatives of known English words ("Verizon" is a good example). I imagine that one reason that Goodyear and Goodrich were allowed to co-exist is because nobody can trademark just the the word "good", it is a word in common English usage. Unfortunately for BellSouth, so is "Bell" - the Liberty Bell predated the Bell System by over a century!
3) I also think that there is an excellent case to be made here for "trademark dilution". I discussed this in greater detail in the VoIP forum, but it is very possible to lose a trademark in the United States. Consider the word "aspirin" - in the United States aspirin is a generic name for all brands of acetylsalicylic acid, even though it started out as a trademark of Bayer. But word fell into common usage (probably because it was easier to say than "acetylsalicylic acid") and Bayer lost the trademark in the United States. In Canada, where the laws are presumably different, Bayer still holds the trademark on aspirin so up there they call their product "Aspirin" and everybody else that sells it refers to it as "ASA."
In the United States, many people call the phone company "Ma Bell" or just "Bell", even when it's not a Bell company. AT&T is still referred to as "Bell" or the "Bell System", even though they haven't legally been allowed to use that name since 1984. I've even heard independent phone companies referred to as "Bell". Then there is the strange case of Cincinnati Bell, which was not part of the Bell System (that is, not owned by AT&T), but still was allowed to use the "Bell" name.
I will grant that the Bells have pressured some companies to change their name but in most cases these were companies using the name Bell directly, and also these were small companies that didn't have the resources to fight. I note that on that site they mention "Beltronics" as an infringing mark, yet if I Google on that name I get "Beltronics USA", so the name is still in use.
Pulver may or may not choose to fight this but if he does, I don't think anyone should assume that it's an open and shut case. Again, if he were calling the company "Pulver Bell" or something like that, I would say that the actual trademark owner (and I'm still not clear who legally "owns" the Bell trademark, since so many entities seem to have a legal right to use it) might have a cause of action, but even then it's certainly not clear-cut due to "Bell" being a common English word.
Bell has actually been pretty careless with their trademarks in the past. I remember my dad telling me in the 1960's that a Michigan Bell employee told him that Bell had actually lost the rights to their logo (the famous "bell" in the circle") because they never bothered to register it, and someone else did. So they wound up having to buy back their own trademark! Then in the mid-90's that guy went into the Internet domain name business. (Okay, I made that last part up, but the rest was what my dad told me, and he knew a lot of the guys at the local Michigan Bell office, so I assume it to be true).
Do I hear a LOUD sucking sound? He needs to change the name or expose the people offering their equipment for use to being sued as well.
Keep the name and buy some new summer homes for the lawyers, which I am sure at this stage they are suggesting he do. Hell, it might only take 7 years before it finally is decided.
Jeff has been around a LONG time, seems like he had a BRAIN FART on this one, he knows better than to pour gas on his head and then light a match to read a map for driving directions.
Use a FLASHLIGHT this time Jeff, change the name, let some of the people providing equipment for calls keep their kids in college and keep their house, after all, they could be sued as PART of this mess as well :-(
Another EXAMPLE of how bad IMPLEMENTATION Kills a project before it gets moving, HEY Jeff look at the bright side, it only cost the FBI 170 Million before they WOKE UP!
| |pokesphIt Is Almost FastPremiumReviews:
Bell - ster Next Napster will get in on the free advertising service and sue Mr. Pulver's new co. giving even more free advertising.
works for me.. renames my self to some hudge mega-corp.
Owner, Mike Roe Soft Software
Oh wait.. thats been done before.. dang!
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Re: Just because
said by mglunt:I Agree
I can see Bell's point. I know that this forum is pretty liberal / anti-business, but the other Bell's mentioned (Taco Bell, etc) are not trying to compete with Bell.
OBVIOUSLY, he chose the name with Bellsouth in mind. Any moron can see that. He just didn't come up with "Bellster" out of the blue.
IMHO Jeff tried to get some FREE publicity and a pity party at the EXPENSE of people that may and are providing equipment for this CURRENT Pity party.
Jeff has been around for MANY MANY years and he does NOT exactly have the MIDUS touch, maybe he thought this was his last chance, if anything I am angry at the thought that others could pay for his lack of RESEARCH dearly, like the people who were helping to provide equipment.
So, I personally am not on the "POOR Jeff" side of the house, he has TRIED to start many telco like ventures in the past and was SMART enough to NOT use the word "Bell" in any of their names. So I look at this as a GIMMICK that may hurt many more people then most know.
We have no idea of what INVESTMENTS people have made in the equipment and software required to provide these services or the number of people who have purchased these items.
Sadly, many people could now be SCREWED only because of a poor choice of names that MUST have been thought of before hand.
| |GlobalMindDomino Dude, POWER Systems GuyPremium
Re: Just because
said by smcallah:Exactly the point.
Uhhhhh... when was the last time that BELL HELMETS ran a TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY?
They're only doing this because it is a telecom related venture that happens to be taking marketshare from BellSouth. It has very little to do with trademarks, or diluting the value of the BellSouth name.
Oh, and FWIW - since when did GM make guns or Beretta make cars? Didn't stop that lawsuit from happening (dismissed, yes...but nonetheless.)
The agnostic dyslexic insomniac stays up all night wondering if there is a dog.
Re: What's in a name?
said by bigunk:Changing the name later or as soon as tomorrow does not remove the ability for damages to be awarded for the time the name was used. If you were one of these people who are investing in this 'special equipment/software' who could be sued, what would YOU want Jeff to do, since nowhere in the agreement with Jeff does he CLAIM to protect you from a suit.
Try this line of thinking...
Remember when Prince had his legal issues with the record companies (I don't know all the details, sorry), and he couldn't use his own name until the contract was up? So he changed his name to that symbol and billed himself as "The Artist formerly known as Prince". Pulver can let the threats build up and get the publicity, then change the name to "The CLEC formerly known as Bellster." Maybe TCFKAB for short. Genius. Pure Genius....
If you are currently or wishing to be a PART of this mess, you in fact can or will be liable for damages until told otherwise.
Sure, this could go AWAY, but again it could cost you just on LEGAL FEES alone your home and lifestyle before it does.
So he OWES the others to back down, deflate his EGO or provide ALL the legal resources for FREE to the OTHERS at risk, as a business man, if he does not, would you do business with him in the future, seems his EGO is more important than the people trying to make his CONCEPT work.
The people that stay with him, if he refuses to NOT change the name NOW should be no less surprised that the Get Away Driver in a Bank robbery gets the same prison time as the actual parties who went inside the bank and robbed it.
Actually they are better off, they have KNOWLEDGE that a MAJOR legal problem has been found, which could take YEARS to resolve before it's over IF the name is not changed.
I call it Fair Warning!