May 26

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

More on our "Web 2.0" service mark

This is an update to Brady's post from last night. It's from Sara Winge, our VP of communications who's taking point on this until Monday when Tim returns from vacation. Brady and I are posting these, by the way, because Sara's not one of the Radar bloggers and it felt strange to add her only for this.

Donagh Kiernan of IT@Cork (to whom the letter was addressed) graciously talked with me late in the work day on a Friday (Irish time), and we've resolved the service mark issue. O'Reilly and CMP are fine with IT@Cork using "Web 2.0" in the name of their June 8 conference. And I apologized again to Donagh for the tone of our letter, and for that fact that we didn't contact IT@Cork before sending it. That's not the way we want to do business, and as a few of you (OK, more than a few) have noted, it was a mistake.

I'd also like to reiterate that, as Web 2.0 Conference co-chair John Battelle noted, "Remember, Web 2.0 is also about having a business that works. And not protecting your trademarks is simply bad business practice." We're not claiming exclusive use of "Web 2.0" in all contexts. Our service mark applies only to "Web 2.0" when used in the *title* of "live events" such as conferences and tradeshows.

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Comments: 106

  Anonymous [05.26.06 01:56 PM]

I guess we're all waiting on Tim.

  Hans Omli [05.26.06 02:09 PM]

On the contrary, bad business practice is to publish an open letter to Jeff Bezos complaining about a generic patent and then turn around years later to make IP claims regarding a term that has obviously become generic. That is not integrity, and integrity is something I expect of all Web 2.0 companies.

  Scott [05.26.06 02:12 PM]

So you are still trying to own the use of Web 2.0 in a specific area and your aim is that only O'Reilly/CMP will be able to have a Web 2.0 conference! This just seems so wrong and pointless! How many people does it take to set up a Web 2.0 conference before you will accept defeat?

  Liam [05.26.06 02:14 PM]

Why did you even bother posting this? It says nothing new - just another weak attempt at showing some sort of good will. We get it, you're letting them use the phrase this year. That is not the issue.

People are angry because you are claiming you own the rights to a generic term. Again, someone invented the term "Web Accessability" and they might have even put on a "Web Accessability Conference". That does not mean they own the generic phrase or should be allowed to prevent other conferences from using it.

  Scott [05.26.06 02:16 PM]

"We're not claiming exclusive use of "Web 2.0" in all contexts. Our service mark applies only to "Web 2.0" when used in the *title* of "live events" such as conferences and tradeshows."

What comes next? Do you have plans for a service mark covering Ajax conferences or maybe RSS?

  Joe [05.26.06 02:17 PM]

It seems that Sara still doesn't get it.
Claiming this trademark, even if just in the context of conferences, is completely ridiculous.
With Tim being very vocal wrt things like the Amazon 1-click patent, it is very hard to see how anybody at O'Reilly could even get the idea of trying to file such a ridiculous service mark (or is it trademark, as the quote from John Batelle as well as a letter from CMP to IT@Cork at indicates.)

  Anonymous [05.26.06 02:20 PM]

@Hans Omli

"Bad business practice is to publish an open letter to Jeff Bezos complaining about a generic patent and then turn around years later to make IP claims regarding a term that has obviously become generic."

The letter in question is at


  Lance Fisher [05.26.06 02:26 PM]

Sara, still not good enough. I'll wait to hear what Tim has to say.

  Angelo [05.26.06 02:26 PM]

Do you really expect to make enough money from live events with the exclusive use of Web 2.0 in the title to make up for the negativity you are creating toward your brand?

This is dumb. If you cared at all about Web 2.0, you'd encourage usage of the term in event titles, not sue over it. I don't think Microsoft has ever sued anyone for having an MS-PowerPoint Conference.

You guys are totally blowing this big time.

  Fook Yee [05.26.06 02:31 PM]

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

You folks filed for your Web 2.0 trademark in 2003, and have now almost got it. You don't have it as yet, but you probably anticipate getting your trademark registration in the next few weeks. Your resolution with IT@Cork is meaningless, because without a trademark registration (which you don't have AS YET), you couldn't have done anything to them anyways.

I don't care about IT@Cork at all. What I care about is that your weasel of a company has started treating a now generic word as your own. Why shouldn't anybody be able to organize a Web 2.0 conference without your permission ?

Remember, what the trademark office giveth, the trademark office taketh.

  JW [05.26.06 02:41 PM]

Absolutely not good enough.

Why have you never indicated this trade mark in the past?

I can only assume you deliberately waited until the term was in common use to extort money from small businesses that have taken it on.

  Andrew [05.26.06 02:41 PM]

The phrase "Better to keep quiet and let people think you're an idiot than to open your mouth and prove it" seems apt.

That's not the way we want to do business, and as a few of you (OK, more than a few) have noted, it was a mistake.

  Robert [05.26.06 03:03 PM]

I appreciate you clearing this up with the conference in question. However, it remains unacceptable for you to claim a trademark on this term EVEN for just live events. I hope you come to see this very soon, and I hope that when you do, it is with as much humility and cordiality that you have displayed today.

  Rebort [05.26.06 03:12 PM]

I like Scott's idea. Everyone should be announcing their own Web 2.0 Conferences now, across the blogosphere. Make the lawyers work overtime sending out cease and desist letters, and force this servicemark to become another generic term like Kleenex or Xerox.

Maybe we could work some sort of verb-ification into common speech too, as in: "When posting this message, I'm Web 2.0 Conferencing my ideas." Or: "Did you send out the press release yet?" "Yep. I Web 2.0 Conferenced it."

Stupid is as stupid does.

  JD [05.26.06 03:21 PM]

OMG. Don't you get it?

Quoting John Batelle is not going to win any points here. I think its better to be quiet on this issue until Tim gets back. He'll fix it.

But seriously, what about a little civil disobedience? How about everyone staging unconferences and the like name them Web 2.0 something for the next year? It will keep CMP's lawyers in a job, if nothing else.

Seriously, this blogging is making this problem go from bad to worse. Shel, mark this in your file of "being open with the customer and having it completely backfire."

  Vinny Timmermans [05.26.06 03:43 PM]

Let's collectively stop buying O'Reilly books and ban their Web 2.0 conferences until they withdraw this ridiculous file.

This file has nothing to do with protecting their business, but everything with trying to kill knowledge sharing on new developments and preventing others to contribute to the Web 2.0 discussion just for the sake of their profitability. O'Reilly has shown his real face.

Until so far O'Reilly's contribution to the Web 2.0 discussion can be summarized as adding to the hype instead of co-creating substantial expertise that will show some value five years from now. I suggest they should file for "Web 2.0 hype" and are forced to use this term in all of their conference names.

  JP [05.26.06 03:50 PM]

Sara: Hi Tim, how's your vacation going?
Tim: Pretty good. What's up Sara?
Sara: Um, well, remember that idea I had to sue non-profits for cash?
Tim: Yeah.
Sara: And remember how I told you I was good at PR?
Tim: Mmm-hmm.
Sara: Yeah, well...hmm, let's see, how to put this? There's a bit of a "situation" developing here.
Tim: Don't worry about it, Toots, I'll have facilities fix the coffee-maker first thing Monday morning, as soon as I get back.
Sara: No, no, it's not about the coffee-maker.
Tim: So what's this about?
Sara: Well, remember when Michael Brown got that FEMA job for which his only qualification was being a colossal failure at raising Arabian horses?
Tim: Yes.
Sara: And remember how I told you that I had some PR experience but you never checked my references because we were sleeping together at the time?
Tim: Yes.
Sara: Well, I've never actually "done" PR. My most recent position was cleaning the Arabian Horse stables for Michael Brown.
Tim: Are you saying you've Katrinaed us?
Sara: Yes. And I've done a "heckuva job" of it.

  Brendan [05.26.06 03:53 PM]

While I have a very high opinion of O'Reilly as a company and Tim as an individual, this is about as absurd as it gets. Your application claims that the first usage of this term was (from the USPTO site) "FIRST USE: 20041005. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20041005". Of course it's been used before: the earliest I've seen is from July 1999 , FIVE YEARS before your claim!!! See for the details.

  Roger [05.26.06 03:59 PM]

I take no pleasure in joining in with the baying mob and your books have repaid me their cover price many times over. But all the same, I feel obliged to ask what the difference is between this and someone reserving the phrase 'e-commerce' for conference titles, or 'open-source', or [insert generic technology/trend name here]? To preach the mantra of openness, only to then attempt to close and restrict, seems to undermine everything you have stood for.

  Patrick [05.26.06 04:00 PM]

Nat, Brady, and Radar team - I understand that you guys are probably under direction from Sara to make these posts in an attempt to keep the wolves at bay but I really think this is one of those times where it's best for O'Reilly to issue a "No comment until Tim gets back" statement. This has all spiralled out of control and unfortunately it's no longer about you and IT@Cork. It's about what CMP's enforcement of this Web 2.0 service mark says about ORA. Statements from execs and suits aren't going to do a damn thing - your audience demands nothing less than the return of the king. Take a page from SixApart and do it right. Wait until after the weekend and come Tuesday morning, issue a proper apology and a statement about your continued commitment to knowledge and tech sharing, Web 2.0, etc blah blah.

  Patrick [05.26.06 04:01 PM]

JP wins.

  Dale Sundstrom [05.26.06 04:03 PM]

Earth To Sara...

Please stop trying to defend and justify the foolish actions against IT@cork. Offer no more excuses. Just apologize and be contrite. The defensive tone in your messages adds insult to injury, and just continues to tarnish what was a sterling reputation. I've always admired O'Reilly (both the man, and the company). The irony of seeing them mowed down by the cluetrain while pursuing a foolish Business 1.0 strategy is very discouraging.

I still hope to see you redeem yourselves--but you are doing a very poor job so far.

  Dennis [05.26.06 04:34 PM]

This O'Reilly behavior is absolutely nothing new, they are doing the same with their "Perl Camel" trademark for years... just ask the Catalyst Project... people wake up, O'Reilly *is* evil!

  Shelley [05.26.06 04:46 PM]

To the people here obviously bored before the three day weekend:

Fact: Whether you like it or not, Sara has tried to respond to the complaints in the only way she can.

Fact: The organization has allowed the Irish conference to proceed with the name, and apologized for sending the letter and how it was handled.

Fact: Nat, Brady, and Sara have all done only what they could until Tim O'Reilly returns from vacation to respond.

Fact: If you stop buying O'Reilly books because of this, you hurt writers who spend thousands of hours earning very modest sums anyway.



(Oh, oh, okay. That last was a tad self-serving.)

Fact: I think web 2.0 is a tired, worn out, overused, abused, and confused term. Who cares who trademarks it? O'Reilly and company has had nothing but flack for selling this concept, and I've been right there, one of the first jeering everytime he uses it. Personally, the O'Reilly Web 2.0 conference sounds dull as dishwater... who cares?

Really, who cares?

And if AJAX is copyrighted...who cares?

We already know that RSS can't be trademarked (Hi Dave!)

But who cares?

Obviously many of you do. And you'll huff and you'll puff and you'll try to blow down the house of O'Reilly

...until you realize that all tech book companies have associations with companies like CMP and if you take such umbrage at this act with them, you'll just have to stop buying books. And computers. And music. And software. And...

Burn Tim in effigy this weekend. Dance naked in the ashes. Scream out, "We're mad as hell! And we're not going to take it anymore!"

(Wait a sec...I think that phrase is copyrighted...try, "We're really peeved, and we think you're doodoo heads and you're mean, and you're ugly, and, and, and, we're telling our Moms on you!" There, that works.)

But cut Sara, Nat, and Brady some slack. They're only trying to help. I doubt there's a one of you who would have handled this better.

  PK [05.26.06 04:52 PM]

It should simply be the O'Reilly name in any conference title that should represent the quality level and the identity of any particular conference without the need of resorting to service marks on any terms, generic or otherwise. I've always seen the O'Reilly name as a mark of quality for whatever it was attached to, but with this kind of behavior the name is quickly losing an awful lot of its shine.

  JW [05.26.06 05:04 PM]

As I see it, there's only one way out of this for O'Reilly, and that's to immediately rescind all claims to this trademark.

If they don't act quickly, their core market (us geeks!) are going to desert them before they know what's hit them.

  Tony Stubblebine [05.26.06 05:15 PM]

Earth to trolls. I like trade marks (or service marks).

Web 2.0 isn't any more generic than Open Source, and I'd scream if I started seeing OSCON conferences popping up. There's one OSCON, it's held by O'Reilly , once a year, generally in Portland. Similarly, there's one series of YAPC conferences. It's run by the Yet Another Society. Anyone else can start a Perl conference, they just have to make it clear that it's run by different people.

The original C&D says to stop using Web 2.0 as the name of the conference not to stop using Web 2.0 in the name of the conference. I saw somebody suggest changing the name of the conference to IT@Cork's Conference on Web 2.0. That would work.

Just because the term Web 2.0 is becoming generic doesn't mean that O'Reilly's Web 2.0 Conference is generic. When I hear someone say that they're submitting a talk to the Web 2.0 conference I assume they mean O'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference.

Big deal right? Just a little confusion. Tom Raftery wasn't served with a lawsuit. He was served with a formal request to change the name. Big deal. He's using someone else's name for his conference and all they're asking him to do is change it so that people are clear on which conference is which.

[disclosure: O'Reilly author and ex-employee.]

  Peter Cooper [05.26.06 05:25 PM]

On all "live events"? I'm guessing that would include roundtables, private tuition, group workshops, promotional events, and, well.. a lot more than just major conferences. I guess offering "My Web 2.0 Workshop" and "How to build a Web 2.0 app in 2 days" classes are no longer acceptable :)

  Joe Hunkins [05.26.06 05:29 PM]

Wow - I've defended O'Reilly's corporate action since clearly Tim coined the term and Tim has done more to foster Web 2.0 notions than anybody else.

But you need to throw in the towel here as I'm confident Tim will do when he returns to this firestorm of protest.

Right or wrong the "Web 2.0" mark is not worth this level of hostility to the idea of "owning" a term celebrating the collective sharing of networked intelligence. Many rights are worth fighting for. Owning "Web 2.0" clearly is not.

  Joe Wikert [05.26.06 05:38 PM]

Several of you have already said this and I agree: Sit tight till Tim is back online and able to address this issue. I have a ton of respect for him and have no doubt he will resolve the situation.

Btw, I'm the publisher of WROX, one of O'Reilly's competitors. That said, I think everyone who is considering boycotting O'Reilly products is making a huge mistake. Tim and his company have produced some of the finest books in this industry. Sit tight, give it some time and let Tim fix the problem.

  Michele [05.26.06 06:01 PM]

If this is all your VP of communications can "communicate" then maybe your HR procedures are a bit flawed. You'd have been a lot better off keeping your mouths shut until the "big boss" could make a definitive statement or we all got bored blogging about it.
The only good thing you've done so far is publish people's negative comments for which you should be commended.

  Ian N [05.26.06 07:12 PM]

Ah well, another company to add to the "Do Not Buy" list alongside recent addition D-Link.

I could understand a trademark on "Web 2.0 Conference From O'Reilly" or similar, but trying to landgrab the entire market in Web 2.0 events is just ludicrous. And your persistence in being so greedy just hastens your demise.

I am going to go trademark "Hockey Game" now, and make a hell of a lot of money every time the Leafs try to play. Thanks for the idea. I know I could never trademark "Hockey", but in O'Reilly World, "Hockey Game" can clearly be mine.

  Joe Hunkins [05.26.06 07:23 PM]

Apparently even Hell hath no fury like ....

a scorned Web 2.0 Onliner

  John V [05.26.06 07:37 PM]

C'mon people, enough with the drama.

Every other day of the week people are spouting off about how "Web 2.0" is an ambiguous buzz word, but come today everyone's all worked up and rallying the community to claim ownership for the turd of term.

This was (obviously) a tactless move, but a relatively minor transgression. Certainly not something so horribly awful that people need to get up on their high horses and start shouting about boycotts and losing faith in a publisher that has long had a sterling reputation in the community.

So stop the mob-mentality finger wagging. Fear not, I'm sure you will still be able to throw around the "Web 2.0" buzzword in your daily goings on without fear of reprisal.

  Stewart Butterfield [05.26.06 07:55 PM]

Holy SMOKES - this is as bad as Slashdot or Digg (I assume at least one of them is driving the moron troops here). I see absolutely nothing wrong with a service mark on the term in the context of conferences and tradeshows (they did invent this usage, in the context of brainstorming the first conference in 2004). They did the right thing in letting IT@Cork go ahead and I can personally attest to the integrity, forthrightness, intelligence and general coolness of Sara (who is also a kickass musician ;) as well Nat, Brady, Tim and Dale Dougherty who came up with this usage in the first place:

  Anonymous [05.26.06 08:04 PM]


Jeeze, is he vacationing in the middle of the desert somewhere? Maybe next time he should bring a satellite phone or one of those $100 wind-up computers.

I own a business too. I've got a POS rental property out in butt-you-know-what. If the toilet ever backs up I know in about five minutes.

Tim, the toilet is backed up. Grab your snake and go to work.

  JD [05.26.06 09:33 PM]

This just keeps getting worse. The people defending Ora here - I'm sure it's going to help you with your next book deal. Keep dreaming.

Sara's a very nice lady, so drop this personal shit. This is about a stupid business decision, one that will be rectified. If not, its the single greatest PR stumble we've ever seen. I'll never look at the Zoo in my bookshelf the same again.

Tim will fix this.

  Artie Lange [05.26.06 09:35 PM]

Stewart Butterfield, your nose is way too brown.

  Varun [05.26.06 09:43 PM]

People are feeling cheated by what CMP/O'Reilly have done. They filed the trademark application in 2003 and used the name for their conference, but didn't indicate anywhere that they had a pending trademark application on "Web 2.0" for conferences. They ought to have indicated a "TM" next to it. Also, all this time they promoted "Web 2.0" as a generic term (Tim's famous article on 'What is Web 2.0'). And now, when they have almost obtained the trademark, and the term is so widely used, they have started the legal thing. This is pretty evil stuff. I don't have any problem with the tactic of trying to defend their IP (sending cease and desist), but I do have a problem with the overall strategy of CMP/O'Reilly in this case.

If there isn't even a bigger and measurable backlash against them and the term Web 2.0 sticks around, there is no reason for CMP/O'Reilly to back down. They are the only ones who can hold a "Web 2.0" conference !

  Shel Israel [05.26.06 10:18 PM]

Tim has my envy. It has been a long time since I have had a vacation without either internet or phone conection. I certainly did not have such a luxury when I ran an organization. As much as I trusted my employees, I needed to be reachable in an emergency. Does Tim not think this is an emergency?

  PR2.0 [05.26.06 11:10 PM]

You mean to say that your VP of Communications is unable to post on your blog (communicate) if she wants to? You claim a service mark on 'Web 2.0' and your VP of Communications can't blog?

Then you indicate that Tim is traveling without ANY internet access or phone access? He can't be bothered to address this issue because he's too friggin busy being 'off'?

And the entire issue is about your company behaving in an entirely un-open community, anti-creative commons manner.

I think maybe you guys don't really understand what Web 2.0 is all about .....

  carter [05.26.06 11:48 PM]

Maybe it would be better for 'Web 2.0(TM)' just to go away. I've wasted more time since I-don't-know-when, sitting around in meetings and listening to half-informed people advance half-baked ideas and proposals based on second-hand information about tags or blogs. It's a serious productivity drain.

  nippo [05.27.06 12:09 AM]

Just put "web 2.0" trade mark into a ceative common licence and you will see all this mess cool down.

  Stewart Butterfield [05.27.06 01:50 AM]

Artie: this brown nose has been around the block enough times to know that this hysterical lynch-mob mentality somehow causes people to forget that the people on the other end are people. In this case, they're all really good people. There are genuine problems in the world - this doesn't rank all that highly and as much evidence as there is to the contrary, I'd like to think that people can have a reasonable constructive conversation. To my eyes, the ORA people have been reasonable and constructive while the haters have come off far worse.

OTOH, having read Cory's piece on this ( I think I agree that the claim should be dropped altogether.

  danboarder [05.27.06 01:58 AM]

Unbelievable. Scathing reactions.

I feel the same way most of these people do.

I can't imagine a more anti-"Web 2.0" corporate BS response from the company that came up with the term. How ironic! Web 2.0 is about social networking and online reputations... so now O'Reilly learns what Web 2.0 is really all about. :)

Oh, and a VP that can't blog? Phff! Forget about it.

  Anonymous [05.27.06 02:09 AM]

VP comms Eh ?
Well Maybe you should.

Communicate when you have something to say
NOT basically re-iterate the same comments that started the problem
NOT quote someone connected with your company in an effort to deflect criticsm - as if a co-chair of your conference wouldn't support your stance.
NOT post an update in an appartenly lame attempt to stop people posting more and more comments to the original posting.
YOU should tell us whether Tim is aware of this fiasco and when he plans to address the matter.

  jmhz [05.27.06 03:03 AM]

Hi Sarah, Tim & Brad,

I am writing to voice my protest that Web2.0 should be service marked. You should have been up front about it and made it clear this was a proprietry term and not for general use. You did the opposite, never indicating is was a servicemark and promoting widespread generic adoption.

Your servicemark is very wide applying to gatherings and education, it will do great harm to those who wish to label such gatherings and so it will do great harm to the movement formerly known as Web2.0.

Being the only person who can hold a gethering or education about something makes it a cult rather than a movement - the difference is freedom.
Please sort this out in such a way that something new is made, some protection for community ideas in the future, like the GPL or CC.

The more you give away the richer you become.

Many Thanks,

Best Wishes,

Jason Malcolm-Herzmark


  Paul Elosegui [05.27.06 03:41 AM]

Hey Tom! Don't be evil

  Ajit Jaokar [05.27.06 04:01 AM]

My personal view is .. Lets wait to hear from Tim O Reilly.

After all, in my view - and I am sure in the view of many others - Tim and his company have done some excellent work.

Tim has succeeded in disappearing off on holiday and not contactible(a feat I have been unable to achieve!) and is apparantly back Monday .. so we will know more then ..

  ralph [05.27.06 04:25 AM]

I call prior art (thx John McCormac):
The first glimmerings of Web 2.0 are beginning to appear, and we are just starting to see how that embryo might develop.

Ironically, the defining trait of Web 2.0 will be that it won't have any visible characteristics at all.
from July 1999,
so it seems you did not invent the term.

  Dmitry [05.27.06 05:03 AM]

Web 2.1 would be OK? Web 2 would be ok? Web 3.0 would be ok? Internet 2.0 would be OK?

There is no associated graphic or distinguishing logo?

If so, it's not much of a mark you are claiming. I highly doubt you have anything you can protect.

  Jon [05.27.06 07:39 AM]

Once again, lawyers prove just how fast they can ruin a company's reputation regardless of how many years it took to build up a good reputation...

  Farid Hajji [05.27.06 08:00 AM]

"That's not the way we want to do business..." Okay Sara, let's hope this community's outcry will remind you and Tim, or whoever was responsible for this, never to unleash your lawyers against a not-for-profit guy (or anyone else by the way!) again, before trying to resolve any issues in a polite, civilized and face-to-face manner. It's relieving that you're finally talking with them, eventhough you can't unwrite your C&D letter nor fully undo the damage that occured here.

Personally, I don't care about "Web 2.0" being a service mark or not; if you have to assert it, so be it. It was your immediate automatic heavy-handed approach, and the use of legal intimidation tactics against a "small guy" that are appalling. That was not the image I had of O'Reilly in the past; now I'm not so sure anymore. It's way too big-corporate-ish, and not at all O'Reilly-sh. Let's hope Tim will rectify this mind-set when he's back from vacation. I hope he'll have something constructive to say about it.

  Jan [05.27.06 08:05 AM]

As we all know, only Web 2.0.1 will work out OK.

  Mortimer N. Cobblepop [05.27.06 08:34 AM]

What, Tim can't be bothered to take 5 minutes out of his vacation? This gets worse by the minute.

  Ajit Jaokar [05.27.06 09:25 AM]

What I cant understand is .. Is it O'Reilly or is it CMP who has the 'service mark'. Brady's post says

'CMP has a pending application for registration of Web 2.0 as a service mark, for arranging and conducting live events, namely trade shows, expositions, business conferences and educational conferences in various fields of computers and information technology'

  Dmitry [05.27.06 10:47 AM]

Coincidently, I ran into this headline today:

"Howard Stern as father of Web 2.0"

Better send the Globe, or Howard Stern maybe, one of them Cease and Desist letters!

Now THAT is devaluing your mark!

  adam [05.27.06 01:31 PM]

What Hans Omli said. Sara's "update" is just more twaddle. Do yourself a favour minions, stfu while you still can.

  Anonymous [05.27.06 03:12 PM]

I am so sick of you geeky little nerds dumping on me and Tim's new business strategy of trademarking the English language and suing non-profits! As Web 2.0 Conference co-chair John Battelle noted, "Remember, Web 2.0 is also about trademarking Web 2.0. And not suing non-profits is simply bad business practice." And to the poster who insinuated that I do nothing around here except make coffee, sleep with Tim, and create Chernobyl-sized PR disasters, that is just beyond the pale: I make tea, not coffee! Tim prefers tea!

[Ed. note: this was posted under the name 'Sara Winge', who obviously didn't write it; we changed the name to 'Anonymous' instead.]

  Tim Taylor [05.27.06 03:43 PM]

You didn't invent it so bugger off and go hang out with your mates Amazon and SCO.

  Marc Fawzi [05.27.06 04:54 PM]

To keep it brief, you guys screwed that one up.

The only way out of this is to stop digging.

  Timo Hannay [05.27.06 05:44 PM]

If any other company had done this sort of thing (and they do, all the time), there would very likely not have been even a whimper of protest. The overheated response here shows that people hold O'Reilly Media to higher-than-usual standards. There's a very good reason for this: they hold themselves to higher-than-usual standards. In fact, I would go as far as to say that O'Reilly has done more than almost any other group to promote openness and progressiveness in technology and business.

If you really care about these values then this is also an excellent reason to cut them some slack. They are faced with a genuinely difficult issue: Their conference has been so successful in shaping the technological zeitgeist that its name has become a common shorthand for the trends discussed there. So what should they do when other people want to use the same name for their conferences? Even with the best intentions (which not all conference organisers will have), this could ultimately lead to confusion.

This is not to say that people shouldn't express their views about this, just that we need to get a sense of proportion. Tricky though it is, I don't see why this issue shouldn't eventually be resolved to most people's satisfaction. So let's allow time for Tim to get back and for his team to discuss it. In the meantime, some of you who consider that infamous lawyer's letter to be the epitome of crass, knee-jerk intolerance might want to take a look back at your own contributions to the discussion.

  Farid Hajji [05.27.06 06:09 PM]

Timo, I wholeheartedly agree. Some responses here are very emotional. Perhaps it's because most of us are small guys, just like Tom (not Tim); and O'Reilly/CMP with their legal team are being perceived in this special case as the 800 pound gorillas we've grown to despise so much. Of course, publishers have to resort to legal means when it comes to protecting their authors' and their own I.P.; that's absolutely understandable and legitimate. What's NOT okay (with ANY corp. or individual), that's how they jumped the gun so hastily, without first talking to the people they're having issues with... especially when those people are active supporters of the very community O'Reilly is championing.

To their credit, they're "regretting" the way things have turned out (I think they're sincere here!); and they're trying to repair the damage. That's important, and it shows that O'Reilly (the company) still cares, unlike other mega-corps who wouldn't give a damn. Now, a good statement by Tim would help a lot to solve this problem, and restore the good faith we had (and which I'm very reluctant to give up; at least for now) in them.

Having O'Reilly (the company) on the side of the community, rather than against it, would be so much better for all of us. Without them (and the authors who contributed so much!), we wouldn't be where we're now. We own O'Reilly at least as much as what they're owing us, so please let's wait till Tim has a chance to respond.

  Farid Hajji [05.27.06 06:12 PM]

"We own O'Reilly at least as much as what they're owing us"... sorry: s/own/owe/. Another reason why publishers are so important! :-)

  JOe [05.27.06 08:09 PM]

I will never look at my animals sitting in the bookshelf the same way,
Tim, et al, make this right please!

I think we should start using web 3.0 or do they have a tm on that too??

  timothy [05.27.06 09:08 PM]

What gives you people the right to prevent other people from using Web 2.0 in their conference titles? Especially since you didn't coin the term.

Quit bullying the little guys.

  BOYCOTT [05.27.06 09:41 PM]

Goodbye, Tim.

P.S. Actually, I'll go one better. I've got an unread O'Reilly book here. I forget--if I take it back, do you lose the sale, or does the store eat it and possibly become upset at you?

  Mr.Owl [05.27.06 09:47 PM]

and the hole is dug deeper...

  fart 2.0 [05.27.06 10:38 PM]

Why is everybod waiting for Tim to return?

It is not as if Mr O'Reilly can magically fix things. The decisions have already happened in the past. Mr O'Reilly decided to go into bed with CMP. He decided to milk the term "Web. [something].0" in lack of an original thought. He decided to trademark the shit to give it some value. He will not change this decision, since it is supposed to generate money.

Mr O'Reilly will also not back off from "protecting" the phrase "Web [something].0". Why? Not only because it smells like money, but also because Mr O'Reilly apparently thinks it is the one great idea he had in his life. It has so little substance, that it needs protection.

So, what will Mr O'Reilly do when magically re-appearing from his alleged vacation? Of course more PR. He is not the messias, he is not a hero, he is not a great philosoph or thinker. He is just a guy who wants to make some money. And he will do everything to ensure that he can do so. So, prepare for some mumbled excuses, some fake appology and the continuation of business as usual. Expect Mr O'Reilly to jump on the next buzzword when it comes along in a few years.

  Hal [05.27.06 11:13 PM]

I'm warning you bozos: I'm getting a service mark for 'Web 3.0' and 'Web *.*' before you selfish bastards grab them all. Did you guys snatch up 'Internet' yet? Need to get that one too...

  Mark [05.28.06 03:38 AM]

Orielly Conterences present "The O'Reilly Web 2.0 Confernece - 2006".

Trade mark easy, Web 2.0 frienedly - how hard can this be?

  Livia [05.28.06 10:40 AM]

That's even more ridiculous. How is one expected to organize a Web 2.0 conference without naming it in the title? This is real hypocrisy.

  Craig Brown [05.28.06 11:32 AM]

Oh just shut up already. Take your half-hearted explanations and shove them up your arse.

  William [05.28.06 12:54 PM]

By claiming exclusive rights to use the service mark on live events with "Web 2.0" in the title O'Reilly gains a financial advantage to the widespread use of the term in the generic sense. The similarity of this to a patent holder who allow swidespread adoption of a technology only then to claim ownership of the technology for their financial benefit is remarkable and one I never would have expected out of O'Reilly Media.

  Anonymous [05.28.06 01:26 PM]

Is the "Business 2.0" buzzword prior art?

  James [05.28.06 08:42 PM]

Does anyone get the impression that this 'Waiting for Tim' line is a bit convenient (not that I see what difference his return will make)? It looks like he's managed to post here while 'on vacation':

I love this quote from his blog too:

Tim is an activist for open source and
open standards, and an opponent of software
patents and other incursions of new intellectual
property laws into the public domain.

I hope you'll all visit my "The biggest Web 2.0 f@ck ups conference" - perhaps (super) Tim can make the keynote, or will he be on vacation?

Thanks for the laugh,


  Marc Hedlund [05.28.06 09:47 PM]

James, we use the MovableType scheduling system to load up posts for future publication. Tim used to do all his posting on Sundays; now he writes a lot on certain days and schedules those posts for later in the week. That's why the "Government Thinking" post showed up after the controversy erupted.

  LabRat [05.28.06 10:01 PM]

This is sad on so many levels. I wrote about this in my blog and basically it feels like "the anti-establishment turning establishment".

It gives me the same feeling I get when I see former pot-smoking, draft dodging hippies become stock brokers and politicians. Just leaves a bad aftertaste.

Welcome to the Major Leagues. I'll still buy your books but my heart will be elsewhere.

  James [05.28.06 10:41 PM]


Thanks for your response. Reading all this stuff must be very disappointing.

I'm afraid I just hate the litigious nature of modern corporate culture. Perhaps more disasters like this will make people think before hiring lawyers where common sense would suffice?

Good on you for posting everyone's comments though.


  Marc Hedlund [05.28.06 11:21 PM]

James, thanks. It's nothing compared to when I was at Lucasfilm and dealt with lawyers having sent cease and desists to young Star Wars fans. That was much worse!

I'm not worried about this because I believe in in Tim and the other people at O'Reilly. It sucks that all of this is falling on Tim's shoulders, especially returning from a trip, but I have all confidence that many of the people expressing concerns will be satisfied with his response; and for those who aren't, they'll be hard pressed to say he didn't consider their views and make a coherent statement on why he agrees or disagrees. I don't blame people for flipping out when someone running a non-profit conference gets a cease and desist letter (though I wish many people in these threads would choose less inflammatory approaches to flipping out, if that isn't oxymoronic); among other examples, the RIAA has taught us that overzealous corporations can make individuals' lives pure hell with the very same tools. But I don't believe that this is an analogous case, so I'm not worried about the outcome. I have personal experience being on the phone with Tim and others at O'Reilly as they've navigated similar issues (see, as I suggested earlier, the Search Engine Spam? post last year) and know how hard everyone at the company tries to find the right path. You may not agree, in the end, with the path they choose, but I'd bet you'll agree it was well-considered.

Thanks again for the comments.

  Andrew [05.29.06 03:50 AM]

Pop Quiz:
Q: Who, in April 2006, wrote of Web 2.0 "It’s not about protecting the old ways of creating wealth but rather that creative destruction has to take place. Although companies may suffer from it, I think we’ll all be better for it."?

A: Tim O'Reilly.


  dave cormier [05.29.06 06:29 AM]

We interviewed Tom Raftery last night. Two important issues came out of that conversation. One, they 'let' them use it in their title because they have no jurisdiction in Ireland. None whatsoever. Two, read the letter and notice the part about the 'associated web 2.0 service mark'. I'm no lawyer but...

  Timothy [05.29.06 08:14 AM]

"Web 2.0 - Synergistic Folksonomy And You"

  James [05.29.06 01:21 PM]


Funny, I was one of those Star Wars 'fans'! I've kept the C&D though since it was on lovely 'Lucas Films' headed paper :-p


  Jim Barrett [05.29.06 03:23 PM]

I taught a class in Web 2.0 last month. Does this mean I infringed service mark?

"A service mark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce, to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others, and to indicate the source of the services."

Who is providing Web 2.0 service? How can we distinguish one service from another on the WWW? "Source of service" is a tricky one....hardware, software, servers, networks????

  Finite [05.29.06 04:09 PM]

according to
the trademark application covers "Web 2.0" in the context of

"Arranging and conducting live events, namely, trade shows, expositions and business conferences in various fields, namely, computers, communications, and information technology"


"Organizing and conducting educational conferences, tutorials and workshops in the fields of computers, communication and information technology"

IANAL but the second part seems like it could be easily interpreted to cover contexts beyond just live events, like, say, web-based tutorials. Oh noes!

  Finite [05.29.06 04:17 PM]

Again, IANAL but, I think the "first use" concept may have some application under trademark law, and the term Web 2.0 was previously used in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci:

(found in comments at )

  chris [05.29.06 05:11 PM]

ahhhh.... I'm developing a web2.0 live conferencing tool.

Should I stop?

  Tom [05.29.06 06:36 PM]

Yes please Cease and Desist.

  Tony Stubblebine [05.29.06 10:44 PM]

My take, there may be interesting legal and business issues in the debate but so far it's mostly a case of
Tom Raftery's manipulating the facts in order to avoid taking responsibility for running a conference with a copycat name.

All this legal debate, threats to O'Reilly, accusations against O'Reilly employees (and apologists) is bunk.

  Anonymous [05.29.06 11:10 PM]

Hey Tony, stop quoting your blog like it somehow validates your opinions, we are all just expressing opinions here, yours are no more valid than ours.

  Tony Stubblebine [05.29.06 11:15 PM]

Hey Anonymous, mine are more valid because I attached my name and reputation to it.

  Ray Harris [05.30.06 12:27 AM]


Love your attitude, man. Your's will be the first book I trash.

I'm a college professor and in charge of the web design program for a college of technology that has ten campuses in three states. We won't be buying anymore O'Reilly books. Especially yours.

  Clive Page [05.30.06 05:31 AM]

Why don't we all just avoid the problem by using the term "Web 2.1" from now on? Nobody every relies on version point zero of anything, anyway, do they?

  not very anonymous [05.30.06 07:43 AM]

Hey Tony,

I am the anon poster from above. Personally I can't have my name online due to my work, but anyway.

I rate your opinion pretty low as you quoted yourself as a rhetorical tool, which to me is cheap tricks, but I guess you are as welcome to dismiss my opinion as I am yours. I guess the opinions of people are judged as different by each individual, the same with references. I guess a piece on this by, say, ars technica, would rate highly with me. One by someone like yourself with a clear self interest (as an ORA author) rates a fair bit lower. It came down still more when you references your own blog post as if it was an authoritative source (sorry, I've never heard of you).

In the end I am actually less vehement than you think. I'm not pissed about the legal specifics, personally I'm pissed with ORA as i think they broke an unwritten contract they had made with their readers, to obey themselves the principles they set out in their description of web 2.0.

Fair or not I do certainly use my emotional connection with an organization when deciding whether to buy their products or trust what they say. I read Gaping Void as I like Hugh's take on life. I buy some apple products as I like their ethos (well most of the time, poor old konfabulator).

Legally I think O'Reilly were within their rights to do take the C&D route, business wise it may have made sense on a basic level, but emotionally i feel they have betrayed the position they seamed to take on the evolution of the internet and all the things web 2.0 promised.

  Anonymous [05.30.06 12:01 PM]

If O'Reilly does not back off enforcement of this ridiculous trademark, I will be obliged to cancel our group Safari subscription and stop buying and recommending O'Reilly books.

  Kelly Lohman [05.31.06 07:58 PM]

I would have been less surprised if I awoke this past week and saw pigs flying. Talk about immense brand damage! O'Reilly had a had a solid stake of mindshare in the region of my perceptions that included Open Source, Community-based, Freedom of the web, ad infinitum types of ideals. As hard as it is to build a successful brand, it's a shame that it's all too easy to send them in the opposite direction. I second the above motion to bail on Safari and any other CMP garbage should this continue. We expect this lowlife behavior from the Hollywood cartel, not O'Reilly. We're about ready to yank our Safari subscription off the live wire, any more of this garbage and it's done. Our move won't be as much as a stab at O'Reilly as a move to protect our own integrity.

  anony mous [06.04.06 08:11 AM]

web 2.0 my ass! we own it, we'll use it.

  Russell [11.21.06 12:31 AM]

I don't know about Ajax per se - it's a great technique, but what's common to all the above is user benefit - that's really what's great about web 2.0 - putting users back in control, giving immediate benefit, and letting them figure it out.

We're working on an app I'd love comments on:, a very simple, clean web word processor. Sounds odd, but once you try it, you'll find lots of uses for it - trust me.

We also talk about some of this on the writely blog: - sorry if that's considered impolite to post here, but it really is on topic.

  Terry [11.21.06 04:14 AM]

SimpleSeating is a new Web 2.0 product, currently in private beta, for seating arrangement and chart creation. It aims to simplify the process by providing its users a web-based interface with drag-and-drop functionality and easy guest management. At first impression I thought, “Seating charts? Really?” I’ve never thought about this market before, but seating charts are actually common with events, school systems, and conferences. Whether you are planning a wedding or arranging a class full of students, seating charts are often used and SimpleSeating hopes to make the creation process painless.

  Steaven Heaven [01.22.07 12:50 PM]

I guess the opinions of people are judged as different by each individual, the same with references. I guess a piece on this by, say, ars technica, would rate highly with me. One by someone like yourself with a clear self interest (as an ORA author) rates a fair bit lower. It came down still more when you references your own blog post as if it was an authoritative source.

  GreatScot [05.25.07 03:03 AM]

There goes the credibility.

  Hobo [11.06.07 04:25 AM]

Who cares??? Who actually cares??????

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