In perhaps the worst trademark enforcement decision–ummm–ever, it seems Apple is trying to get people to NOT use the term Podcast/Podcasting in the names of their companies. Podcasting for those of my readers who are non-technical, is best defined two ways:
First, on a technical basis it is the process of automatically downloading an MP3 file to your iPod from a server on the Internet. Sort of like your TV automatically recording a show for you. It makes it really easy to subscribe to a radio or video show on the Internet. Second, most podcasts are personal in nature–like blogs. So, while there are Podcasts which are just rehashed TV or radio shows, most are personal efforts made by citizens working from home on their PCs.
Anyway, Apple didn’t come up with the concept of Podcasting but they have benefited from it immensely. There are tens of thousands of folks Podcasting, and hundreds of thousands–perhaps millions–of folks subscribing to podcasts. Our Engadget and Autoblog podcasts have hundreds of thousands of downloads–a week. Apple did come up with the term iPod, which is where the term podcastings came from. Podcasting is a derivative work of iPod. Of course, the concept of derivative work doesn’t apply to trademarks but rather copyright.
So, Apple is now going to crush the startup spirt of the podcasting movement and force those folks to come up with a new naming convention. Such a bad move. Apple should let folks have the Pod and keep the iPod. So, you can name your new iPod cleaner iPodClean but you could call it PodClean. Hard to enforce this concept on a legal basis (i.e. someone comes out with an MP3 player called Podster as opposed to a website directory caled Podster and you got a confusion problem in the marketplace). Given that Apple should allow folks to use the term Pod in their names online and not for physical devices.
Scoble is wondering if his new company will get shut down.
Leo says the industry should come up with a new term–the clunky Netcasting.
My advice to folks who get sued by Apple? Ignore Apple’s legal department, publish every communication from them, and let them try to put you out of business. Nothing could be better for an entrepreneur then to have their company shut down by Apple or Microsoft. It’s like Obi-wan getting cut in half by Darth Vadar with the knowledge that you’ll come back stronger. Apple cuts your startup in half and you’re made for live–you were killed by Steve Jobs. Wear it like a badge of honor.
Let them strike you down… it’s a beautiful act of non-violence and sacrifice.
Now, if you feel more aggressive I would hold the line. Apple could very well lose the trademark for podcasting and podcast. Apple legal will try and divide and conquer–that is why they are attacking one site at a time and doing this very covertly. The podcast companies should create a YouDontOwnPodcasting.com site and sign an open letter to Apple on it. All podcasters should read and promote the letter at the start of every podcast. If you want to get even more aggressive you could start a site call iPodOptions.com where you train folks on various alternative devices and software you can use to listen to podcasts.
Update: Some good advice for Apple from Dave.