Who would have thought that a group of people organising a week of social media events in Liverpool would choose to call it ‘Social Media Week Liverpool’? And who would have thought the use of such a generic phrase as a name could possibly be contentious (or do I mean litigious)?
Perhaps we were very naive. Of course it hasn’t escaped our attention that there are a great number of rather expensive and corporate social media events and conferences, but we were surprised to receive this email – and implied legal threat – from Zach Smith at Crowdcentric Media:
“I am writing to you from Crowdcentric Media, the owner-operator of the global conference Social Media Week and its local editions such as Social Media Week London, Social Media Week Rome, etc. which will next occur from February 7-11, 2011.
We are very supportive of grassroots organizations like yours who connect people and conversation around social media in a free and inclusive way. We’d like to see if it makes sense to work together with you in the future (more on that in a minute).
However, it’s come to our attention that you plan to organise a conference entitled “Social Media Week Liverpool” from February 7-11, 2011 which seems to intentionally coincide with our events in name and date. Since we currently have no affiliation, this is an unauthorized use of our trademarked name which we believe will cause Social Media Week community confusion and brand dilution.
To remedy the situation, we ask that you immediately change the name of your event so that it does not include the phrase “Social Media Week”.
However, we at Social Media Week are rapidly expanding and looking for qualified organizations to be authorized local partners in more cities across the world. If you would like to apply to become a future Social Media Week authorized local partner for Liverpool (or other cities), we hope you will go to the following page and click “Become A Host City”.”
Anyone who attended – or watched the live stream of – Social Media Cafe Liverpool in October or December and Ignite Liverpool in November would have known we were planning a week of events round social media on 7th to 11th February. The timing of Social Media Week Liverpool was based purely on our intention to hold a suite of events which included Ignite Liverpool – http://igniteliverpool.defnetmedia.com/ – part of O’Reilly’s Global Ignite Week 2011.
As requested we are changing the name of our events… Not because we feel that we are in the wrong, or that Crowdcentric Media have any exclusive rights to the name ‘Social Media Week’. We strongly suspect that their claims of trademark infringement holds little water in the UK and find their claim on the generic phrase ‘Social Media Week’ a little worrying. A Trade Mark Enquiry for the string ‘Social’ ‘Media’ ‘Week’ on the Intellectual Property Office’s website – http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ – reveals no registered UK trade marks.
We are conceding because we are a grassroots organisation (if this group of people trying to make things happen can be called an organisation) who simply do not have the time or financial resources to respond to the implied legal threat. Not sound too pious here, but we are just trying to make fun, free and interesting things happen in a city we love, in our own time and with the generous support of the community, local organisations and businesses of Liverpool and the North West.
We will not be applying to be a ‘Crowdcentric Media Social Media Week’ host city.
Thank you for reading, and if you would like to suggest a new name for our events, support us or get involved in any way please get in touch. We hope to see you in Liverpool on the 7th to 11th of February for a ‘Week’ of ‘Social Media’ events which includes Ignite Liverpool on Tuesday 8th and Social Media Cafe Liverpool on Thursday 10th (both at the LJMU Art & Design Academy), and a lovely closing party (code name: Social Media Social) on Friday 11th (venue to be confirmed). You’re all invited!