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.