Have you heard the one about the book publishing company with a reputation built upon the back of the Open Source movement, which set its lawyers on a rival for using the term Web 2.0? Apparently O’Reilly has applied for a ‘service mark’ to cover Web 2.0 when applied to business and educational conferences within various fields of computers and IT use. Oh, and the person defending both the service mark application and the cease-and-desist letter sent to reinforce it, is called Winge.
But this is no joke, it’s actually deadly serious. The letter sent to Irish non-profit organization IT@Cork, a conference organizer who dared to use Web 2.0 within the name of one of their forthcoming conferences, was actually sent by an attorney acting for CMP Media (who co-produce a Web 2.0 conference with O’Reilly, who gave their agreement to send it). The argument being that just as they could not run a LinuxWorld conference, so nobody should be allowed to use the term ‘web 2.0’ in the conferencing realm at least. The very idea that the man who helped popularize the term should now be, effectively, claiming ownership of it is laughable. Or at least it would be if it weren’t so pathetic. Especially considering, according to an IT@Cork spokesperson, Tim O’Reilly was invited to speak at the conference and turned it down with regret due to a busy schedule. This being way back in February, but the cease-and-desist letter wasn’t sent until 2 weeks before the conference was due to run. Anyone might be forgiven for thinking that this was a deliberate, corporate strong arm tactic designed to shut down a competitor at any cost. So much for the spirit of open source and community huh? Well maybe not, although the online public outrage at the move may have had something to do with it as well, because the lawyers have now said that IT@Cork can use the name this year, but not in future. Which is very big of them, especially as they’ve only applied for the service mark and not actually been awarded it yet. Quite apart from anything else, one might be forgiven for suggesting that a generic phrase such as Web 2.0 Conference, as opposed to Web 2.0 World for example, wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of getting such commercial protection. But then IANAL, so what do I know?
Well I know snake oil when I see it, so let me ask you this: when you hear the words ‘web 2.0’ what is the first thing that springs to your mind? Is it a) Tim O’Reilly, b) CMP Media or c) the future of web services?
Personally, it’s none of the above for me. Instead the phrase ‘an overhyped excuse for a pre-bubble dotcom funding rampage’ refuses to leave my consciousness. Still, I guess the whole thing will soon become a thing of the past as Web 2.1 Beta will be just around the corner.