(in the UK at least)
In an interesting - and potentially seismic - move, a London-based company has successfully registered 'Bitcoin' as a trade mark, thus ensuring its exclusive right to utilise it.
This was discovered when a t-shirt seller on internet site Etsy was hit with a cease and desist letter (pictured above) from the solicitors instructed by A.B.C. IPHoldings South West, the company responsible for registering the trade mark. Part of the letter reads:
It has come to our client’s attention that you are offering for sale a variety of clothing bearing the Bitcoin trademark on Etsy.co.uk. [Our Client] has not authorised your use of the Bitcoin trademark on and in relation to clothing. Such use, therefore, amounts to trademark infringement pursuant to s10(1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994.
The ramifications could affect numerous businesses already operational in the UK. To begin with, any company or website - https://bitcoin.co.uk/ immediately springs to mind - using what is now IPHoldings' trade mark could be hit with a similar letter. Were we called TheBitcoinRadar then we would ourselves be in trouble!
Should the letter be ignored, IPHoldings will then request an injunction to stop the merchant/company from operating, with a court hearing to follow in order to determine if any damages are payable.
However, considering that the trade marking company has 'IPHoldings' in its name, it may well be that they will instead seek to license the name out for profit. Indeed, they may instead be planning to publicise their possession of the trade mark through cease and desist letters such as this, before leveraging this increased profile in any subsequent sale negotiations. I imagine the aforementioned bitcoin.co.uk may be just one such company considering the purchase, not to mention kicking themselves for not doing it sooner themselves.
A smart move.