Today I received an unusual comment that took me by surprise. It read:
“Please don’t use the words “astrological musings” in the title of your posts, I have had a blog by that title since 2005 and I have a trademark on that phrase. Thank you for your cooperation.”
The writer was identified as Lynn and at first I thought it was spam or a prank, until I looked up the associated website: astrodynamics.net. This site belongs to someone called Lynn Hayes, but I have no idea whether the comment on my blog came from this Lynn or from someone who had access to her account.
I had never heard of Lynn Hayes before or of a blog called “Astrological Musings,” so I did a search and indeed found a blog entitled “Astrological Musings! Exlporing Planets and Possibilities with Lynn Hayes …” (note the exclamation point). Because of the exclamation point, this title looks more like a “trademark” than the common English phrase “astrological musings,” which was in common use long before 2005. The comment from Lynn does not clarify whether the term “astrological musings” or “astrological musings!” (with the !) is the trademarked term, or whether the singular form “astrological musing” is also trademarked.
The comment also prompted me to read about trademark law, which apparently began in 13th century England to protect consumers against counterfeit goods. I also learned that “Consumer Confusion” is the legal test of trademark infringement. It is also perfectly legal to refer to trademarked names nominatively, as I have done in this post.
Although I have no intention of infringing on anyone’s trademark, there is no chance of consumer confusion even if I were to use the term “astrological musings” in the title on a post. My blog is clearly labeled on every page “Anthony Louis – Astrology and Tarot Blog” and Lynn’s blog is clearly labeled “Astrological Musings! Exlporing Planets and Possibilities with Lynn Hayes.” In addition, I am careful to cite my sources and to give credit to other authors’ work. It would have to be a pretty dim-witted consumer to confuse my blog with that of Lynn Hayes, but I’m sure such people exist.
If the real Lynn Hayes of the “Astrological Musings!” blog did post the comment, I assure her that I have no intention of misleading readers into thinking I am representing her ideas on astrological topics. (If anyone has trademarked the term “astrological topics,” I apologize for using it here and did not intend to infringe your rights.) If an imposter posted the comment on my blog in her name to embarrass her, I hope that the real Lynn Hayes can track down the culprit and protect the words written in her name.
On the positive side, I discovered a new astrology blog (I hope “astrology blog” is not trademarked) as a result of this comment. It looks kind of interesting, so I’ll have to take a closer look at it.
Addendum and clarification: I just received a new message from Lynn which reads in part: “I am involved in a legal dispute with Beliefnet who has someone else writing my blog which they carried for a number of years and they have claimed the trademark. As a result I have in fact trademarked Astrological Musings so that there is no confusion. Being caught up in this legality I have been on a bit of a rampage…”
Her initial comment makes more sense in this context. I can certainly understand feeling enraged about having one’s work stolen. I wish her luck with her legal difficulties, and as I said above, I have no intention of claiming credit for any of her work.
No hard feelings.