I have just taken 6 weeks off facebook, twitter and blogging to mark Lent. But one unintended consequence of not checking blog related emails was that I missed an important legal letter sent to me three weeks ago. On Good Friday, I found an emailed letter from lawyers representing a US company called AF BioCorp. I had never heard of this company but a bit of research told me they are a multinational company who own many of the leading health facilities, private hospitals as well as a wide range of gyms, spas and leisure outlets across the US.
AF BioCorp’s lawyers wrote to me to challenge the name of Resistance & Renewal – and specifically our use of the initials ‘R&R’. AF BioCorp claim that they have patented the term ‘R&R’ and that we can no longer use it. As their letter explained:
‘We are writing to inform you, if you were not already aware, that the AF BioCorp Corporation own the Trade Mark rights to the term R&RTM. AF BioCorp own a range of spas and resorts means that we are market leaders in ensuring our customers receive Rest and Relaxation – an experience we describe as R&RTM. We have invested heavily in the term and this is why we trade-marked this descriptor. When our customers think AF BioCorp, they think R&RTM.
As we are legal owners of this term, we can no longer tolerate your website’s continual breach of our intellectual property by using the aforementioned initials (‘R&R’) to describe and promote your website. We accept that you are using the initials to denote the term ‘Resistance and Renewal’ with reference to issues of faith and social justice but this is immaterial. We have ignored your breaches over the last two years but due to the growth of your website’s popularity in the US we now feel compelled to act against your breach of copyright law and the potential dilution of our brand identity…. Please be advised that AF BioCorp will press for the fullest possible penalty and a successful claim against you will run into many thousands of dollars.’
I thought it was some sort of joke when I first received it. But over the weekend I have read more about AF BioCorp’s previous actions to defend their ‘intellectual property rights’. By all accounts, they seem to be a company who follow through on their threats.
The original letter gave me 3 weeks to respond – but this actually is tomorrow. Unless Resistance & Renewal cease to use the term R&R, including the logo and any reference to the initials in writing, AF BioCorp will commence legal action for copyright infringement.
What should I do?
I am not sure what to do. On the one hand, I appreciate the importance of copyright law and I don’t particularly want to be sued for a lot of money. On the other, surely it’s ridiculous that a company can own two letters and an ‘&’ sign just because they are rich? Maybe it’s time to stand up against the corporate bullies?
So with all this in mind, I thought the best thing is ask the readers of R&R for your view.
One more thing – if we do change the name of the site, do you have any ideas? One option could be changing to name to Persistence & Power– but I am concerned that using P&P will lead to a challenge from the Royal Mail for stealing the abbreviation to Postage & Packaging?
STOP PRESS, April 2nd: I thought the reference to Postage & Packaging and some of the early comments on the blog might have given the game away but I do need to ‘fess up to that the AF in AF BioCorp stands for April Fool.
But a big thanks to everyone for voting, leaving comments below and on Facebook. Your collective righteous indignation at the (albeit fictional) corporate bully boys was inspiring!