Jan stops using his Skype blog domains after Skype Legal notes he can't use Skype brand for promotional purposes (chopsticks)
The news in the VoIP part of the blogosphere over the weekend was that Jan Geirnaert was shutting down www.skype-watch.com and www.skype-gadgets.com blogs. Well, to be more precise, he was stopping the use of those two domains. His weblog continues, just at his original domain name.
Blog reaction was quick, especially after Techmeme pointed to Phil Wolff's article. I intended to write on the issue, but just didn't have the time, so let me point you to those who did write on it:
- Phil Wolff, Skype Journal: "Skype silences Alpha-blogger"
- Alec Saunders: "Alpha blogger silenced himself"
- Robert Scoble: "Lawyers at Skype bring negative PR to Skype"
- Andy Abramson: "The Right Hand and the Left Hand"
- Russell Shaw "Skype legal eagle puts the slam down on a Skype ally" (includes text of letter from Skype attorney to Jan)
- VoIP Now: "Skype censors blogger?"
- Barlow Kreener, WHYDOM: "Skype Trademark Squabble with an Analyst"
My own take - and I should note that I've been a regular reader of Jan's and have valued many of the links he has provided over the past while:
- It was very appropriate for Jan to contact Skype asking about use of their brand on a promotional product (chopsticks) for his websites.
- It was very appropriate (and predictable) for Skype to indicate that they could NOT allow the use of their brand on promotional products for web sites that they don't control. They have to protect their brand.
- It's not entirely clear to me that Jan had to stop using his domains, but that was his choice and I can certainly understand why he did so given the full text of Skype's letter.
- Regardless, it certainly wasn't the smoothest of PR moves by Skype. Their letter could have been a bit less harsh.
- It's a good lesson that companies need to remember that they are in an "always on the record" world where bloggers may just go off and write about them.
- It's another good lesson in why you should never register domains that have someone else's brand in them!
Will Skype's lawyers send out more such letters? Certainly. They have to defend their brand and mark. It's understandable or else someone out there will say or do things that reflect negatively on their brand. Protection of the brand is part of their job. Could this have been handled differently? Certainly.
It's interesting, too, to think of the impact of electronic communication on this case. In the "old days", a company's legal firm or dept. would send out a snail-mail "cease-and-desist" letter. Many such letters have turned into PR issues in newspapers or other media, but usually not verbatim. Perhaps someone might scan or OCR it and post it online, but probably not. However, in this case the "letter" was sent out via email and could immediately be posted to a weblog in its entirety. Making that communication now visible to the entire global internet. And so a letter out of Legal rapidly becomes a PR issue... ah, the "fun" of the online world.