Guilty by association: is this the end of R&R?

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!

About Jon Kuhrt

Jon Kuhrt works with people affected by homelessness, offending and addictions at the West London Mission. He, his wife and three children are part of Streatham Baptist Church and he is a member of the Christians on the Left. He likes football...but loves cricket.
This entry was posted in Ethics & Christian living. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Guilty by association: is this the end of R&R?

  1. Steve Doel says:

    As it happens, I’m currently in Dallas, where AF BioCorp’s HQ is located. Shall I nip over and smear superglue on the keypad entry system?

  2. Lawrence says:

    You could try suggesting to them that they might get a lot more money by suing the US Army for misusing this trademark. Of course, they only have until midday today to take action!

  3. doug says:

    Crazy – but I think you’ll find that 1) because you are in the UK, the TM / Patent is based in the US and therefore not applicable in the UK 3) you have no servers in the US, and, 2) you are not ‘selling’ or ‘marketing’ anything so there is no infringement of the patent (you may want to research the relevant law 35 USC 271(a)). I would email them and explain these points and I would be surprised if they could touch you. Just don’t change it to B&B; international outrage.

  4. Jon Kuhrt says:

    thanks Doug – I know the band Madness had a lot of hassle for their song ‘Bed and Breakfast Man’ for the same reasons. It is a crazy world!

  5. Jeannie says:

    Praying wisdom….others will have more than me… follow the path that brings you peace in your spirit x

  6. alastair murray says:

    Hi Jon

    Worth taking legal advice I’m sure eg about whether they have the right to sue you. And hopefully its worth fighting. One option might be to rename it R and R? Or just keep Resistance and Renewal as the name?

  7. Corin says:

    I say RESIST not DESIST!

    (NB When you have sought appropraite legal counsel.)

  8. I believe there is also a legal argument around the issue of context. You are not using the R&R expression to compete with AF BioCorp, or to offer a service that overlaps with what they’re selling. Your use of the expression is also somewhat unlikely to confuse AF BioCorp’s customers or potential customers.

  9. Nick says:

    Agree it’s worth checking out if they actually do have any jurisdiction. Obvious question is whether you started blogging R&R before their patent. I think prior use is a factor.

    Regardless, I would have thought that I’m not alone in being happy to email them and tweet and blog about their behaviour. If they want to be known for that kind if behaviour ….

  10. ianchisnall says:

    Is it worth writing to them to ask for the cost of a full page ad in the Times to explain that you are changing the name of your blog and why. They get to save the cost of a court case, you get to explain to your followers?

  11. Greg Smith says:

    Extensive research shows that “Bio Corp Private Limited ” are engaged in manufacturing, supplying and exporting Pet Food & Health Care Products like Best In Show Starter, Cuddle Puppie, Cuddle Doggie, Best In Show- Puppy Starter, Best In Show, Best In Show-Performance Puppy, Regale Pup, Regale Meal, Paws UP, Vencal – Tab, Vencal -P, Glossy Coat, Gutwell, Vengro Drops, Ventriliv – Pet, Fe-folate, Pet Spark, Boww Soap, NT- Mite, Oatmeal, Furfree, Freedom Spray, Sheen N Kleen Forte, Show Cat”…
    In view of animal cruelty I would recommend tooth and claw resistance to this global moggiecorporation… Seek advice from RSPCA…
    https://www.facebook.com/RSPCA re the dangers of carrots…

  12. i would advise caution but not conservatism.i think we take on the corporations/capitalists/state when morally neccessary or when we stand a chance of winning or sometimes in emblematic or symbolic circumstances.

    in english english or abbreviated”text”english the use of “n”might do for now.

    i sign my emails often”love and rage”.when i shorten it to those who know the greeting i use lnr or l n r.would that help R&R(you)here

    in struggle.in christ,

    love and rage

    paul aka lost

  13. Alan Bolchover says:

    Jonny

    Do nothing. They have a patent for the United States and have “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale” using the trademark. That is why they refer to the growth of your website “in the United States” specifically.

    Certainly you are not “passing off” as a health spa targeting the US market and it would be impossible to show that you were.

    So the issue is trademark of words – which you are not doing. Your website address does not use “R&R” and the only time when others say it is simply as an abbreviation.

    Alan

  14. Alan Bolchover says:

    I should also point out the website is not for profit so a case would never cost you thousands. You haven’t got anything!

  15. Chris Ward says:

    LOL Let em com Jon and tell em all correspondence from now on will hav to go through our legal team ; GOD, JESUS N THE HOLY SPIRIT. ADDRESS; HEVENS GATE, SALVATION AV FAITHWITHIN. All the best mate Chris

  16. Andrew Drury says:

    Are they going to sue the millions of people who use R & R as part of their everyday language without reference to their products? In the UK, the footballer Paul Gasgoigne found that he could not patent the word ‘Gazza’ because it was common parlance in the Tyneside area. May God bless you and your co-writers of this illuminating blog.

  17. Jon Kuhrt says:

    STOP PRESS: I thought the reference to Postage & Packaging and have some of the early comments made 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!

  18. Jayne Richardson says:

    Ha, great April Fool’s joke.
    It had me (even though I read it late)
    I would have posted though that I have a friend who’s had to deal with this problem in real life, took on the company and won, so I would have voted to stand up to the corporate bullies!

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