A website. With stuff on it.
November 20th, 2007 at 2:26 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

So I’ve had a Cafepress account for, ooh, a week now for a site I’m working on. My second ever design included the word ‘Caution’ on a square yellow background, just like every caution sign you ever saw anywhere in the world. (It was actually incredibly specific, too. There’s like one in 10,000 people that could even qualify to buy the darn thing as a tshirt! It said ‘Caution – Long haired head banger. Whipping and spraying likely to occur’).

Cafepress pulled it and pointed me to a ‘guess what you done wrong’ FAQ of the myriad of reasons they might possibly pull a design. So I asked them what the hell?

They responded by saying that the word ‘Caution’ is the trademarked property of some company I’m not gonna bother to name because I don’t want to give them any publicity. Well, as you and I both know, but apparently Cafepress don’t, that is impossible because you can’t just trademark common words.

A five minute Google reveals that the trademark is specifically for the “use of the word ‘Caution!’ inside a diamond shaped box resembling a traffic sign”, and there even seems to be some stipulation as to what products they can claim infringement on. (Added to which, it seems the trademark only covers use when the word and design is used together and on its own as described – any other wording in the diamond would invalidate the trademark).

Which is not really surprising when their design is actually a rip off of one of the variations of a popular internationally recognised warning sign.

So, here’s a warning from me! (I might put this on a Cafepress shirt…)


Cafepress will remove your
legitimate design from your
store without even
investigating the
validity or legality
of any infringement claim.

There is a serious point to this, though. It’s surely very risky to put your original designs on Cafepress at all? Because potentially, someone could steal your design and claim that YOU infringed them, and since Cafepress policy is (and I quote) “In order to best protect ourselves from risk, we must take all allegations of infringement seriously and take action in removing the content from our site.”. Really. That’s their customer policy! The mind, boggles, doesn’t it?

They will just comply with the first person who complains, however dodgy, unlikely and downright false their claim is, you will be completely screwed. In other words, any competitor with a grudge, or any shady character who decides they’d quite like to use your idea will be able to scupper your business, invalidate your product and rip your IP off with the full tacit agreement and complicity of Cafepress. Or, like in this case, some sad litigious moron with too much time on their hands who obviously just scours the internet looking for people he can piss off with false claims because he feels like he has some god given right to any and all use of a common everyday word. *waves to Jim*

Don’t get me wrong – I’m totally in favour of protecting your IP. But this is not what their policy is doing. This is complying with and accepting as fact a malicious false claim that labels their innocent store keepers as content thieves. You would think that if I could find out the exact nature and numbers of these Trademarks in well under 5 minutes and establish that there is absolutely no validity to the claim, they might have enough respect for their customers to do the same before accusing them of a crime.

In fact, Cafepress policy amounts to ‘everyone except our customer is always right’, and suggests that they will actively aid people in committing a crime – after all, that’s what it is… there are laws about falsely and knowingly claiming infringement (and this moron knows exactly what his own trademark covers… how can he be in any doubt?) – against their customer to cover their own asses. So it seems that if you’re a Cafepress customer, the odds are very much stacked against you.

It doesn’t seem that common sense even comes into it – this is a word in the dictionary, people. You’re telling me that if I use it in ANY context it’s a trademark violation? You don’t have to be a lawyer to realise that Cafepress look ridiculous even regurgitating this crap like they believe it.

If I actually were doing something wrong, I’d be the first person to apologise and amend it, because as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been on the receiving end of real IP theft and it’s not fun.

Anyone have experience of any of the other companies that lets you do much the same as Cafepress but doesn’t roll over the first time someone falsely claims infringement? Of course, I expect T&C’s etc… I don’t mind a bit of red tape, but not a kangaroo court that takes at face value without investigation any ridiculous complaint.

Preferably one that requires a DMCA takedown notice being formally issued (which would obviously fail because there IS no infringement!) instead of a complaint from some fat guy in his moms basement on the back of a cigarette packet.

I’m actually really glad I found out the dangers of using Cafepress before I put any proper original designs up that I’ve spent ages working on instead of just a humorous slogan, because this site I’m working on will be heavily merchandise based. As such, I need a good alternative to Cafepress to take my business, please!

But you know what? If I could be bothered about this sad moron and his abuse of the law to attack my integrity with false claims, I’d bloody well register the word ‘Caution!’ in a triangle traffic sign and go into direct competition with him. Give him a little education on how far his ‘ownership’ of the word actually extends. But frankly, it’s a lame brand and lame products from a petty little man. So I won’t be bothering.

Instead I’ll change the word to ‘Warning’ because frankly I only used ‘Caution’ cuz it fit better. Like I’ll be impacting his business with a frickin tshirt that only a long haired heavy metal fan going to a concert could wear anyway…

[EDIT] I’ve just had an email from Cafepress saying that they made a mistake and will reinstate my designs. Whether that was my scathing blog or my scathing email, I dunno. :p

Letting the rant stand for now because (a) I’m still pissed off, (b) I’ll still be looking for another company to take my business to and (c) it takes a while to do that much ranting!

[EDIT 2] LOL! I just received another email from Cafepress saying that they wont be reinstating my designs and they sent that last email to the wrong person. Add ‘incompetent’ to the list of things you can say about Cafepress. Unless there’s a trademark on that word too, of course. So the rant will definitely be staying!

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