WordPress is a Registered Trademark of Automattic, Inc.

A blogger who wishes to remain anonymous sentd in this email he received from Automattic, Inc., the company that develops WordPress:

I work for Automattic Inc. We run wordpress.com and we own the WordPress trademark. We have noticed that you are using the WordPress name in your [domainname.com] domain and product without our permission. We are asking you to stop using our trademark to market your [services]. Please let us know how long it will take you to change the name of your site and product.

Timeline:
January 25, 2003: Mike tells Matt Mullenweg that if he’s interested in forking b2 that he’s interested in helping out and the WordPress project begins.
March 28, 2003: WordPress.org registered by Matt.
May 27, 2003: First release of WordPress.
January 3, 2004: WordPress 1.0 released.
August 2005: Matt founds Automattic, Inc. to spearhead the development of the WordPress codebase as well as WordPress.com.
March 1, 2006: Automattic, Inc. registers WordPress as a registered trademark. [1] [2]
October 2006: Automattic, Inc. begins notifying owners of domain names containing the word ‘wordpress’ that they must rename their products and services immediately.
I think this is a bit clumsy: three years after the domain name is registered and 1 year after incorporation, WordPress is filed with the USPTO as a trademark. The only relevant discussion in the support forum is from September of last year and doesn’t include any input from Automattic staff.
My ideas:
Automattic, Inc. could add the trademark language at the bottom of the page on the WordPress.org and WordPress.com sites as well as add the ® notice on the logos.
That language could link to their page explaining the policy linked to in the About section of the WordPress.org site but it looks like it wasn’t added until after April 2005.
Automattic, Inc. could have a friendly page explaining the use of the trademarks like Apple or Google do. I easily got permission and the proper language to use for featuring Six Apart’s TypePad product in my book, Blogwild.
They could offer a request to put “WordPress is a registered trademark of Automattic, Inc.” or some other notice so that consumers will realize that the domain owner are not representatives of Automattic, Inc. Sort of like what is on WordPressPodcast.org:

WordPress is a trademark of Automattic, Inc., used with permission. The WordPress Community is an informal user’s group dedicated to WordPress evangelism and is not officially affiliated with Automattic, Inc. or the WordPress Open Source project.

And yes. WordPress is open source and free as in speech and free as in beer. But before panties get bunched…
There are prior cases of trademarks being used to protect and license open source software. Consider Linux (Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu Linux, etc). A bit of a row ensued when some guy registered Linux before Linux creator Linux Torvalds did and eventually a lawsuit transferred ownership to Linus. In this case, the Linux software is free and open-source but the name of the software is a registered and licensed trademark to prevent abuse, dilution or confusion of the Linux name, project and software. The Linux Mark Institute is the body responsible for licensing and they include easy instructions on what to do to use the Linux domain name properly and with correct attribution.
I think this is what Automattic, Inc. should do: give us boilerplate disclaimer to use on our pages and products.
The WordPress development team and surrounding community contribute every single day into making WordPress a fantastic piece of software used by millions of people all over the world. Then there are folks like me that make a living teaching the software to businesses and companies all over the world that don’t have the patience to master a MySQL setup or shudder at the skill of doing an FTP upload. I have already sold products and services and have domain names containing the word ‘wordpress’ and now have to rebrand those products and change the names of the domains unless Automattic, Inc. decides to sub-license the WordPress trademark.
In the meantime, folks, if you are thinking of creating a WordPress product or service looks like you’re out of luck.
There are currently 169 domains registered containing the word ‘wordpress.’

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About Andy Wibbels

Andy is an award-winning blogger and author of the book Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Wired, Business Week, Forbes, and other national and international media. He was worked at several San Francisco startups including Get Satisfaction, SAY Media, InMobi, Keas, and Mindjet. Currently, Andy is Director of Marketing at Lucidworks. Tw · Fb · G+ · Li

9 thoughts on “WordPress is a Registered Trademark of Automattic, Inc.

  1. Toni

    Hi Andy,
    I sent the email you quote to a handful of people. Thanks for your suggestions about improving it. There’s been a notice about use of the WordPress name on wordpress.org for some time: http://wordpress.org/about/domains/. There are lots of WordPress related sites that follow the open source spirit of the project that we are fine with. And then there are few out there that are making money from reselling WordPress or selling SEO packages. We’ve contacted those to stop using WordPress as part of their domain because they are commercial ventures that are in no way connected to WordPress or Automattic.
    Toni

    Reply
  2. Andy Wibbels

    Thanks for the clarification Toni – I still think you guys should make it more obvious on the homepage. I’m in the middle of switching domains and such so you will see domains attached to me with ‘wordpress’ that I’ll be moving to ‘wp’ soon.

    Reply
  3. Andy Beard

    I went through this process a month ago, having been offline for quite a while.
    I came across the short “domains” paragraph almost by accident, and then spent a couple of days sorting out my legal position, then more time consulting with Matt.
    It is good for the WordPress brand to remain strong for anyone making money from it. Actually for WordPressVideos it is less of a problem. A large amount of their traffic comes from affiliate links, which should pass through a 301 redirect to a new domain without difficulty.
    My domain name struggles are documented
    WordPress Trademark and domain change
    It used to be a nice 1 year old PR5
    A lot of your research was very similar to my own.
    It is important to note that they haven’t yet been issued the final registration, and Toni used the correct factual term.
    You are right about the lack of information, and certainly described what is needed better than I did to Matt in an email.

    Reply

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