We want to address Resident concerns raised in the blogosphere. We know Residents have questions about our trademark policy, and we want to answer them. We’re responding to questions by email as quickly as we can. We also hope this post will help with questions and concerns. If you have others, please let us know by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Residents are worried that if they overlook a trademark issue somewhere, they might find themselves permanently banned from the Second Life world without warning. How will trademark issues be handled?
Residents should not worry about being banned without warning. If we have a trademark issue, we’ll just get in touch about changes that need to be made. Once the changes are made, the problem will be solved. For trademark issues, banning would be a last resort. We’d issue multiple warnings beforehand, and even afterwards, Residents would have an opportunity to request reversal of the ban by sending us a written appeal.
2. Some Residents are concerned about how to discuss Second Life. Residents worry that the trademark policy restricts their speech and want to know if it’s consistent with “nominative fair use.” How can Residents refer to Second Life?
Residents certainly can discuss Second Life and call it by its name. Our policy has specific guidelines here for referring to Second Life in a way that’s consistent with nominative fair use. There has been some confusion about trademark notice symbols (like ® or ™) and about following trademarks with nouns.
When referring to a trademark in writing, it should be set apart from surrounding text in a way that indicates that it’s a trademark. This is part of nominative fair use. Our policy provides a typical way to distinguish our trademarks from surrounding text. The first or most prominent reference should be followed with the correct trademark symbol (® or ™) and an appropriate noun to indicate what you’re talking about (so, for example, the “Second Life® world” or “Second Life® viewer”).
Now just to be clear–we’re only talking about the first or most prominent use. We’ve seen some blog posts using ® after every mention of “Second Life.” After the initial reference to the trademark at issue, there’s no need to use the symbol again. And there’s no need to use a noun again unless the omission of the noun makes it unclear what you’re talking about. So, for example, it’s useful to distinguish between different aspects of the Second Life services, like whether you mean the “Second Life world” (the 3D space) or the “Second Life viewer” (the application).
3. Is there an easy way for bloggers who focus on Second Life to take care of this? So they don’t have to worry about including a trademark symbol every time they post about Second Life?
There is. Check out the SLED Blog banner at http://www.sl-educationblog.org/ as an example of proper usage. This is a blog we support with a license that has a lot of great contributions by education-oriented Residents. You’ll see that under the blog name, in smaller text, there’s a descriptive byline that explains what the blog is about: “K-20 Education Using the Second Life® World.” You’ll also see that this byline takes care of the trademark symbol and the first noun after “Second Life” for the blog posts.
For blogs that are just about Second Life, this is an easy way to go. But it’s important that the blog name be more prominent than the byline. And if the name uses the words “SL” or “inSL,” it should follow our license for this (or be under a separate written license like the SLED Blog).
4. Some bloggers have expressed concern about having to go back and change references to “Second Life” in blog posts they wrote before the updated policy. Do they have to do this?
We’re not going to ask bloggers to go back through blog posts predating the policy to change how they’ve described Second Life.
5. If it’s not possible to use a trademark symbol or a noun when describing Second Life (for example, due to space constraints), how should one refer to Second Life?
It’s probably OK to omit the trademark symbol and noun in these circumstances. We’ve addressed this in the section of our policy here about business cards (see paragraph 4 of the Guidelines). The goal of this part of the policy is not to be heavy-handed, but to provide guidance on how to discuss our products and services consistent with trademark law. This can be a complicated subject. We’ve tried to provide some clear examples, but no trademark policy can cover every possible situation.
6. The inSL logo license prohibits displaying the logo with disparaging material. What is “disparaging”? And who decides this?
“Disparagement” is a “false and injurious statement that discredits and detracts from the reputation of another’s property, product, or business.” Under the license, Linden Lab has sole discretion to determine what’s “disparagement.” We’re huge fans of free speech, fair criticism, and parody (like Get a First Life). But it’s important to get your facts right. If you’re ever unsure whether certain material is “disparaging,” it’s best to display the inSL logo elsewhere with content that you have no doubts about.
7. Does Linden Lab have exclusive rights in the letters “SL” combined? Is any use of “SL” in a product or service name, business or organization name, or domain name going to be a trademark issue?
Yes, we have trademark rights in “SL” in connection with our virtual world goods and services. Any use of “SL” cannot infringe or dilute our trademark. Uses in brand names that are likely to present trademark issues include (but aren’t limited to) those where “SL” refers to “Second Life” and the use doesn’t comply with our license to use “SL”, and those uses for or related to virtual world goods or services.
8. Why was the trademark policy updated? And why now?
We updated the policy to address changes in the Second Life community and virtual worlds in general. In the past few years, the Second Life community has grown significantly and there’s been a proliferation of other virtual worlds. Our trademark policy has evolved along with these developments.
A key term in our earlier policies–and central to trademark law–was to “avoid confusion,” which means to avoid creating confusion about what’s provided by Linden Lab and what isn’t. When the Second Life community was much smaller and generally unknown to the public at large, our policy allowed Residents to use certain trademarks on their websites (which the policy called “fansites”) to show their connection to the Second Life community. At that time, for example, a disclaimer on a Resident website that showed the Second Life Eye-in-Hand logo could be enough to protect against confusion. That was because the early group of Residents was incredibly familiar with Linden Lab and could easily distinguish Linden Lab’s website from Resident sites.
With the growth of the Second Life community and a greater awareness of Second Life by those outside the community, it was increasingly important to take precautions to ensure that when people saw our trademarks (particularly people less familiar with Linden Lab), they knew it was a product or service of Linden Lab. In addition, as more virtual worlds emerged, it was important to make sure our trademarks were used only for Second Life and not for virtual worlds provided by others. With these developments, we needed a more robust trademark policy. So we published an updated policy around January of 2007 and then again this year.
9. How is it that Linden Lab can update its trademark policy? And why can’t Residents be “grandfathered” in under the earlier policies?
Trademark policies frequently evolve to deal with new or different circumstances. This happens because trademark owners can change how they allow their trademarks to be used. It was important for Linden Lab to update its policy to avoid confusion given the growth of the Second Life community and virtual worlds in general. We can’t “grandfather” in earlier uses of our trademarks because the uses could create confusion now. The whole goal of updating the policy is to avoid confusion. However, we want to work with Residents who need time and help making adjustments. If you need extra time or help, please write us at email@example.com.
10. Why is the trademark policy in the Terms of Service?
The Terms of Service are the conditions under which Linden Lab offers the Second Life services. One of those conditions is adherence to our trademark policy, meaning that any use of our trademarks–both inworld and outside of Second Life–must comply with our policy.
We realize that this isn’t the extent of the questions. Please spend some time reading through our FAQs. We will be updating them to include the Q&A above. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.