Copyright firm purports trademark protection on copyright symbol

A Canadian company that works with copyrights and intellectual property protection seemingly asserted trademark rights to the copyright symbol.

Non-profit organization Access Copyright displayed the recognizable little encircled “c” – followed by the equally known “™” – on its site this week. The group has since rectified the problem, but not before the digital faux-pas was picked up on by some news outlets and eagle-eyed bloggers.

Copyright firm purports trademark protection on copyright symbol
Image via TechDirt

Howard Knopf, an IP lawyer in Ottawa and avid copyright blogger, noticed the questionable placement of a symbol typically reserved to mark unique goods or services and wrote about it on his “Excess Copyright” blog.

Knopf, who framed the group as “an aggressive Canadian copyright collective that, despite its name, effectively restricts and charges for ‘access’ to literary and artistic works,” admitted that the use of the copyright symbol as it appears in Access Copyright’s main logo (Access©™) is “ambiguous.” However, he pointed out that the copyright symbol followed by the trademark symbol also appeared elsewhere at the site, sans the organization’s full name preceding it.

Knopf’s report quickly drew out John Provenzano, Access Copyright’s Communications Manager, who claimed in the comment section of the blog entry it was simply a “typo,” and that he appreciated the feedback.

Following Provenzano’s remark, the offending material was removed from the site.

Although this comes across more as an honest mistake than a shrewd attempt to lay claim to a symbol that itself marks claim, it’s not completely uncommon for companies to actually seek trademarks and copyright protection on properties most wouldn’t expect.

Just this week Disney announced its intention to trademark “Seal Team 6” – the squad of Navy SEALs that led the attack on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound and killed the al-Qaeda leader – for several possible ventures including games, movies and even clothing. Some have speculated “Seal Team 6” could fall under fair use in the same breath as admitting the difficulty in applying that concept to trademarks. (Via TechDirt)