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Are You About to Lose the Right to Call Your Work ‘SEO’?




UPDATE, 11 April 2008: Gambert has responded to the community. He wants to use the SEO mark to enforce standards on the industry. We disagree.

Do you use the word “SEO” to describe what you do? Look out: an “enterprising” marketer (both of those words are used euphemistically) has set his sights on taking your livelihood—or at least your right to use that acronym. As SEOmoz’s Sarah Bird reports, one Jason Gambert has filed an application to trademark the acronym SEO.

Sarah has documented the ridiculous history of his application, begun almost a year ago, well. Among the highlights:

Jason Gambert applied for registration of the mark “SEO.” He described the relevant goods and services as: “Search Engine Optimization, Hosting, Webdesign, Software, Hosting, Domain Name, Software Development, All Computer Related Development and Marketing plus what is listed; Computer Software, Computer Hardware, “SEO” Letters to be trademarked in “All” Computer related areas.”

The application asks when the first use of the term occurred anywhere. What does he say? “At least as early as 02/14/2007.”

After several rejections, appeals and reapplications, it appears that Jason finally found someone at the Trademark office willing to hear his case—or so confused her with incoherent, not-actually-legal-speak ramblings that she despaired of ever understanding his case without extensive paperwork (the remedy for all bureaucrats, of course). Some of his logic (spelling and grammar errors in original, my comments in square brackets):

The applicant has considered attorneys arguments for refusal carefully and found the arguments are not congruent to the arguments of registration. The applicant has provided substantive evidence with simply the lack of it. There is no evidence that has any realistic credible value as “SEO” having anything to do with a service. SEO is the known acronym for “Search Engine Optimization [which he repeats more than once in his letter] and after a careful break down of the root words that SEO consist of, they do have realistic official English linguistic value. What they do not have however is any definition describing “Search Engine Optimization” as having anything to do with a service.” . . .

In addition to being not merely descriptive, the proposed mark is exclusive because of the absence of any connection with being a service. [So it's not a service.] Therefore it is wonderfully capable of functioning as a source identifier of applicants’ services. [So it is a service.] “SEO” is a process not a service. . . . [Could the 'process' happen to be a 'service,' too?]

In addition to the above mentioned “SEO” has been in use and affiliated with applicant for over 5 years acting for additional grounds for registration. [End of letter]

Have a headache yet? Or are you wondering why you’ve never heard of the father of not-a-service-but-a-process-SEO? A few enterprising commenters at SEOmoz tracked down his actual site, which, oddly enough, is extremely difficult to do, even using Google. However, I suspect that he’s not actually the inventor of SEO as a process or service. (In fact, we have to wonder about the quality of his services process if his site is that difficult to find.)

More importantly, what can you do to stop him? Well, if you have an extra $300 lying around, you can file Notice of Opposition. Sarah has already done so and promises to tell us more about the application process today. However, her synopsis from a comment yesterday:

You can do most of it online at the Electronic Filing Office.You also need to create a short and plain statement about why you are opposing the registration. Finally, there is a substantial filing fee, $300, in order to file a Notice of Opposition.

Failing that (or lacking $300), you can wait and hope that enough other people file notice of opposition. Or you can get to work on your trademark application for PPC, SEM, ROI, FIFO, GIGO or anything else that you want.

  • http://www.capatrex.com Alex Isaacs

    You’re right about a confusing paragraph! Isn’t anyone original anymore? He’s trying to piggy back a successful term and change it’s context. Hope this hullabaloo gets shut down quick!

  • http://www.globalgolf.com Al Scillitani

    Yea, that is crazy. If he wins, I think I am going to trademark “www.” :)

  • http://www.infopia.com Jason Haddock

    it’s kind like Trump trying to trademark the phrase “you’re fired!”. Ridiculous!

  • http://www.internetmarketingsecrets.com/blog/ Michael Campbell

    Pft… yea right. I discussed SEO as a process and a service in my 2002 eBook Clickin’ it Rich. I guess that gives me prior art and some really big checks if he’s successful huh?

  • http://www.gadgets4nowt.co.uk PS3

    I’m far too modest to ever have used SEO anyway – I prefer to call it “trial and lots of error” !

  • http://seologia.com.ar Seología

    His description of the service looks like keyword stuffing! :P

  • http://www.seoserviceprovider.com Allen

    Let’s get 300 people together, each contributing $1, and file a joint Notice of Opposition.

  • http://www.seologic.com/ SEO Logic

    The folks at SEO Inc. tried to trademark SEO some time ago and were rejected. This too shall pass. Sarah, if you want any support, send me an email. I’ve dealt with the USPTO a few times.

  • http://beyondbeautybasics.com Paul Baranda

    How ridiculous is that!?! The person willing to hear his case that works for the trademark office probably doesn’t even own a laptop, have internet, or even use Google or Yahoo. Thanks for the laugh!

  • Hold On

    He has an official response…

    jasongambert.com

  • Pingback: Can SEO be trademarked? | The Keys to Internet Marketing

  • http://treatmentsearch.co.uk rishil
  • Pingback: Jason Gambert - New Low in the SEO Trademark Saga

  • http://MakeCashTomorrow.com Phil

    Wow that is crazy, with the way our court system is so screwed up I can see him winning.

    If he wins this than it wont be hard to anyone else to trademark just about anything.

    Phil
    [link removed]

  • http://www.squidoo.com/Money-Makers-Cause-Money-Matters- tordon

    Well whatever you call your work seo or whatever it will not change the pride you feel when you see that # one rank on google, I say let him have it.