So being a big IP nerd, I was poking around Friendster the other day (yes, I still occasionally use it) and noticed that when someone's relationship status says "It's Complicated" there's a little "tm" after it:
That's odd, I thought. So I went and looked up the US Patent and Trademark Record for it and sure enough, Friendster has filed for a trademark registration on "It's Complicated":
|Word Mark||IT'S COMPLICATED|
|Goods and Services||IC 045. US 100 101. G & S: COMPUTER SERVICES, NAMELY, PROVIDING INFORMATION REGARDING, AND IN THE NATURE OF, ON-LINE DATING, SOCIAL INTRODUCTION, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING SERVICES. FIRST USE: 20050714. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20050714|
|Standard Characters Claimed|
|Mark Drawing Code||(4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK|
|Filing Date||June 3, 2004|
|Current Filing Basis||1B|
|Original Filing Basis||1B|
|Published for Opposition||September 6, 2005|
|Owner||(APPLICANT) Friendster, Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE 1380 Villa St. Mountain View CALIFORNIA 94043|
|Attorney of Record||Joel S. Gooch|
|Type of Mark||SERVICE MARK|
What's bizarre to me about this is what exactly, if anything, this trademark means. The PTO document says that they are using the mark "It's Complicated" in conjunction with "Computer Services, namely, providing information regarding, and in the nature of, on-line dating, social introduction, and social networking services."
Yet, no one I know would think that. It's not like Friendster offers an "It's Complicated" search service or introduction service where that phrase is used as a brand name. Rather, it's information provided by the user themselves about their relationship status. Again, here it is in context:
Trademarks are supposed to identify the source of a good or service. But in this context, the phrase "It's Complicated" identifies the status of the user, not the source of anything from Friendster, Inc. I suppose one could argue that the Friendster service is communicating the information by using the "IC" phrase, but again, it's the user that chooses that phrase and its meaning, not Friendster.
Of course, I completely understand Friendster wanting to have some kind of intellectual property right on the phrase, as it has become quite popular on social networking sites as a status for users who have varying degrees of relationship dysphoria, but trademark does not seem a good fit and frankly leaves me feeling quite Puzzled(tm).