Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chilling Effects Commentary


"Americas News Intel Publishing hired a lawyer, who sent the following response, also published on their home page. We think it's worth quoting at length:

More importantly, the word 'intel' as used in the intelligence and information services sectors may not be trademarked. The word intel is an abbreviation for intelligence in the English language, and can be found in dictionaries of record such as the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. And the use of the word intel as an abbreviation for intelligence is common in public discourse. . . . No sum of money spent to secure the public identification of the word 'intel' with products produced by Intel Corporation can withdraw the word, as it is used in standard English, from the public domain.

The argument made there, that words used descriptively or generically to describe a product may not be trademarked in that product's sector, is a valid one. For instance, if I owned some kind of "apple" trademark, I couldn't keep sellers of that round red or green fruit from using the word "apple"—or consumers really would get confused!"

Monday, November 23, 2009


Hmmm... a bit garbled and weak on analysis. For what it's worth, here's the takeaway: "The use of the word 'intel' was in circulation before the company was founded. But Intel is very jealous of its trademark name, and doesn't hesitate to take legal action against any firm or organization that attempts to use it."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Going Too Far

Here's a mention of the case on the widely read technology and trademark blog TechDirt:

We like this choice quote:

"Finally, after more than two years of this back and forth, Intel sued Mexico Watch, even though it's not even close to competitive and any "moron in a hurry" (as the popular trademark test notes) would clearly know the difference between a site about Mexican politics and a company selling microprocessors."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eight Deadly Sins (In The World According To Intel Corporation)

For those who were wondering, Intel Corporation has alleged EIGHT federal, state, and common law causes of action in its complaint filed with the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Here they are, with some summaries:

1) Trademark Infringement

Americas News Intel Publishing LLC, via its URL, "falsely indicates to consumers that America News Intel's Products and services are in some manner connected with, sponsored by, affiliated with, or related to Intel, Intel's licensees, or the goods and services of Intel and Intel's licensees....Americas News Intel has caused confusion and is likely to cause further confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive consumers or potential consumers...."

Well now, we've never had a single consumer call us to buy a computer processor, request hardware technical support, or in any way confuse us with these quacks. But judge for yourself. Go to the Web site and see if you find yourself confused!

2) False Designation of Origin

Same as above, but adds, "Intel has been, is now, and will be irreparably injured and damaged by Americas News Intel's aforementioned acts...."

Wow. Irreparable damage! And we weren't even trying. Why would we? Apart from being entirely disinterested in doing so, it just seems easier to let Intel Corporation do irreparable damage unto itself by violating fair business practice laws worldwide and getting hauled into court for it. Or so numerous government lawsuits allege... Irreparable! Do all of its shareholders know about this?

3) Federal Trademark Dilution

"Americas News Intel's acts blur and whittle away at the distinctiveness and identity-evoking quality of the Intel mark. Americas News Intel's acts have diluted and are likely to continue diluting the famous Intel mark...."

Sheer poetry. We're both blurring and whittling at the same time. Bet you haven't seen that done before! Dilution arises, generally, when another company starts using the same mark as yours, generally when it does not compete directly with you. The obvious problem here is that the California technology maker grabbed an English-language word (Intel is a portmanteau for integrated electronics) that was already in use and decided that it owned it. Apple Computer and the record label Apple Corps (founded by the Beatles) can fight over the use of the word Apple as a mark, since neither actually produces the generic tree fruit. But neither can stop Granny's Apple Pies (made up name, any resemblance to any company past or present is coincidental) from making delicious pastries from that generic tree fruit and calling it apple pie. That's just un-American!

4) Injury To Business Reputation And Dilution Under California Law

This basically rehashes the aforementioned federal charges and invokes state law. But here's a choice quote: "Americas News Intel willfully intended to trade on Intel's image and reputation and to dilute the Intel trademark, acted with reason to know, or was willfully blind as to the consequences of its actions." A lot of willfulness is being alleged here! Where's our white cane?

5) Infringement Under California Law

Again, restates federal infringement complaint from above, but says we specifically "irreparably injured and damaged" Intel in California, too, making their complaint eligible for state sanctions. Of course, since our service was digital, delivered online and via email, the complaint is presumably applicable in all 50 states (not to mention under the intellectual property laws of countries around the world), but perhaps the perception of infringement on Intel Corporation's home turf just felt more irreparable to its executives than it did in other states or countries.

6) Common Law Passing Off And Unfair Competition

"Americans News Intel's unauthorized use of ... [its] trademarks constitutes passing off and unfair competition of the Intel mark in violation of the common law of California."

For those who thought that passing off was something that only happened in relay races, this complaint might seem bizarre. Or, we should clarify, more bizarre than the others. "Passing off" in common trademark law occurs when one entity misrepresents goods or services as being the goods and services of the claimant. In other words, the complaint alleges that we were trying to dupe potential subscribers into thinking they might be getting a computer chip rather than a newsletter. Does that seem like a stretch to you? Has anyone ever ordered a subscription to Time magazine thinking they were buying some additional hours or minutes to tack onto their lives or squeeze into their day?

7) Unfair Competition

"Americas News Intel's acts described above constitute unfair competition in violation of California Business and Professional they are likely to deceive the public.

Ah, the poor, ignorant masses. Would you like some snake oil along with a newsletter subscription? Not much to say about this complaint. Intel Corporation received the biggest fine in history from the European Union for engaging in unfair competition. Their tactics would make Bill Gates cringe. So it must feel good to be able to point the finger at someone else. Anyone. Even a tiny newsletter publisher.

8) Federal Cybersquatting

"Americas News Intel registered and/or used the and domain names with a bad-faith intent to profit from Intel's INTEL trademark."

Cybersquatting sounds so much naughtier than infringing. It's the kind of mischief you might expect from cyberpunks in a William Gibson novel, not from arid analysts. Complaint number eight. We suppose they saved the best for last. In other words, the entire time and the large sums of money we invested into building up the Mexico Watch Intelligence Service of newsletters since 2005, which involved 365 days of work per year and hundreds of thousands of printed words analyzing and describing Mexico's business, political, and economic developments, not to mention laborious marketing efforts, was all just a sham to be able to bilk Intel Corporation. Rather than acquire the domain names and put some generic, low-maintenance page up as a placeholder, we opted for a more elaborate scheme that required us to knock ourselves out running an intelligence service based out of a Mexico City correspondent office. My, aren't we clever?


Monday, November 16, 2009

Boiling Frogs

A Web site worth checking out... though irrelevant to the ongoing litigation between Americas News Intel Publishing LLC and Intel Corporation:

Intel For Intelligence

Ten examples of the use of 'intel' in common English-language speech in the sense of "information gathering and analysis" -- as a short term for intelligence. Can you find more? Post your examples below!

1) From the White House official documentation of the Protection of Foreign Missions and Officials Assessment:

Section 3 - Program Management

Question: Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: PFMO regularly collects timely and credible performance information from the intel support and the field.

2) From the White House description of the Transport Security Administration:

Measure: Increase in percentage of reporting in the Daily Intelligence Summary directed at Terrorists groups and or activities that reflect a direct threat to the U.S. transportation system.

Explanation:Savings in people-hours and effort expended on reporting intelligence information not required (non-transportation system) for TSA decision making. Expending FTE hours on non-relevant issues, will produce more effective intel information for users (reports of relevant information/time), thus why it is an efficiency measure.

3) From a headline from national organization ABC News:

"Obama Strengthens Independence & Power of Intel Advisory Groups, White House Says"

4) From a headline from national organization CBS News:

"'05 Bin Laden Intel Desclassified"

5) From a headline from national news organization MSNBC News:

"Guiliani Pushes Military, Intel Tech"

6) From a headline from international news magazine Newsweek:

"Bothersome Intel On Iran"

7) The New York Magazine, with 1.8 million readers, publishes an online version entitled with a total unique audience of 5.8 million. The print magazine features the "intelligencer" section: "Since 1973, the 'Intelligencer' section has been New York’s weekly home for the week’s news, gossip, short takes and sharp commentary," the magazine's media kit states. This column is abbreviated as the "Daily Intel" column in

8) is an online email newsletter engaged in the same productive and business activity of gathering and analyzing news intelligence as does

9) The White House Intel Report is a syndicated news feed published by Google Other examples of news feeds on employing the term intel in the generic sense of the word include Intel Dump (Washington Post blog), 1913 Intel, a military intelligence blog, and Arkitip Intel, "Daily Intelligence from a Worldwide Network of Reporters"

10) At his final press conference, former President George W. Bush employs the term 'intel' in its generic, descriptive sense of information gathering and analysis to generate actionable intelligence at minute 9:08. "North Korea is still a problem. There is a debate in the intel community..." Source: CSPAN

Can YOU find MORE examples?? Here's a hint. Post a comment below!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009




In July 2007, Intel Corporation's counsel served us with a cease and desist notice regarding the use of 'intel' in our URL, Intel, they argued, was a trademark they owned, not a common English-language abbreviation for intelligence in the sense of information gathering and analysis. (Precisely the activity that our company engages in.)

We were advised that Intel Corporation wanted, above all, to protect the brand value that comes with its "famous mark."

Famous? How about infamous?

Intel Corporation has been sued by governments in Asia, Europe, and the US for industrial malfeasance. Japan and South Korea have acted against the company for offering money to suppliers in order to squeeze competitors from the market, while earlier this year European regulators fined the company €1bn for making anti-competitive payments to computer manufacturers -- a record-setting penalty, and by far. Now a new case has been brought against it by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The State of New York is charging the company had used "bribery" and "coercion" to "maintain a stranglehold" on the market.

Regardless of the numerous scandals in which it is embroiled, Intel Corporation contends that any mention of 'intel' should be controlled by and respond to its own corporate interests.

To the cease and desist order, we obviously responded that intel is a widely accepted abbreviation for “intelligence” in the sense of information gathering and analysis. In fact, we had a linguist research this etymology, and found evidence of the use of this word in this sense dating back to at least the 1950s. Intel Corporation was formed in 1968.

Upon our response, the campaign of legal attrition and harassment began.

We endured countless emails and phone calls, conference appointments that were canceled or simply ignored, and long periods of inexplicable silence from a series of three lawyers at Intel Corporation's external counsel. Eventually, the case ended up in the hands of Intel Corporation's internal lawyers, and we waded through more fruitless communications and vexations. On October 23 of this year, yet another lawyer from yet another external law firm formally filed suit against us in state and federal court venues in the US.

From the beginning, we recognized that our business asset, the use of the word intel in our URL, could have brand value to Intel Corporation, and out of sensitivity to that recognition, we offered to sell it to them for a very modest price (when everyone around us was urging us to pitch for millions). We based our valuation on strictly technical costs of migration and a small brand equity we believe to have constructed in our LatinIntel identity. We used accepted accounting methods to calculate our brand equity. And from the very beginning and up until the present moment, Intel Corporation and their counsel maintained that intel was their exclusive property, and not our asset to sell. This gulf was never even remotely bridged during the past two-plus years. In fact, roughly a year ago we demanded that they discontinue their campaign of legal harassment and cease the emails and phone calls. In their capricious manner, when we issued this demand, one of their lawyers promptly called us up on the phone.

This is a copy of the first communication we received from Intel's legal representation in July 2009:

This is a copy of our company's response to that communication (with the law firm and lawyer's names blocked out because they no longer represent us):

This is a copy of Intel's legal representation most recent communication with as of November 3, 2009:

This is a copy of our final communication with Intel Corporation and its counsel, dated November 6, 2009:

We lack funds to hire legal counsel -- something that Intel Corporation, with one of the largest litigation war chests on the planet, is undoubtedly banking on. But this sort of corporate abuse cannot continue unabated. It's easy to imagine the slippery slope we will all be upon if we allow common English-language words in the public domain to become private property of large abusive corporations.