Spring demolishes the list of math geeks t-shirts for daring to mention the brand word “zeta” • The Register
UK-based data scientist and author Tariq Rashid tried to create a t-shirt design using Spring On-Demand t-shirt printing to celebrate the widely known Riemann zeta feature on Tuesday. mathematicians and technicians.
“I was thinking of making a function t-shirt because it looks cool and is quite famous,” Rashid said. The register. “The Clay Math Institute has a prize of $ 100 million for solving the Riemann Hypothesis.”
Rashid uploaded his design to Spring, formerly known as Teespring, so that it could be printed to order by internet users. The biz had other ideas. He removed Rashid’s design from his store because his article included the brand word “zeta” in the descriptive text.
The t-shirt design that Rashid tried to create … Click to enlarge
When Rashid emailed Spring to object that zeta is a common mathematical term, the company’s legal team responded: “We fully understand your concerns about our keyword block. As you know, Zeta is a letter of the Greek alphabet. The Greek alphabet is currently legally protected by Affinity Customer Services. Due to this property and the withdrawals that we have received, we need to control our platform for content using ‘Zeta.’ “
Legal Eagles later said he had reviewed Rashid’s content and “was putting it back in active status as it does not infringe current ownership.” That said, this particular list has not been made public again, as we will explain later.
Affinity Consultants, based in Carlsbad, Calif., Has coordinated for more than two decades the oversight of trademark licenses for various Greek letter organizations – fraternities and sororities – that use combinations of Greek letters to identify themselves.
Trademark law in the United States, at least, requires trademark owners to control their trademarks, but assumes that common terms can be used in different contexts – the purpose of trademark law is to avoid commercial confusion, and not to grant exclusive ownership of a word in all contexts. . This is how Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets coexist without causing legal threats from Affinity Consultants on behalf of Greek literary organizations like Tri Delta.
The register spoke to a brands coordinator at Affinity Consultants, who wanted to be identified simply as Brett. He acknowledged that commerce platforms have problems controlling branded material.
“We also work with Amazon,” Brett said. “They had difficulty with law enforcement.” He added that Affinity tries to educate companies on how to address brand concerns, but cannot control how they do it.
In response to a request for The register, a Spring spokesperson suggested the t-shirt printing business was just too cautious.
“At Teespring (now Spring), we have rigorous technology in place to ensure that any monitored keywords or contentious content presented is reported and reviewed,” the spokesperson said via email. “The company consistently errs on the side of caution when reviewing materials and products on the platform. Here, an item was flagged as part of this verification process resulting in a temporary deletion from the site. list has now been reinstated on our platform after the review was found to contain no contentious material. “
Rashid said that was not entirely correct, explaining that Spring first removed his list of t-shirts from public view and prevented it from being re-released. Then the biz allowed him to revive the article while making it clear that using the word zeta would cause problems.
“They unblocked it, but they also warned me that future use of the word ‘zeta’ would result in a ban again,” he explained. “They wouldn’t admit that they got it wrong and that the generic word should be removed from their block list. I have written to Affinity on whose behalf they are protecting the brand but have yet to hear back. . “
A copy of his correspondence with Spring’s legal team appears to confirm that although the company unblocked the ad, so that it could be re-broadcast, any use of the word zeta would trigger another takedown:
Email from Spring to Rashid stating “your content does not violate the mark and has been reinstated” … Click to enlarge
Rashid said he removed the troubled t-shirt list and created a new one without the word zeta in the descriptive text.
When asked if future uses of zeta could result in a ban, the Spring spokesperson contradicted Rashid’s explanation: “We can confirm that the user will not be banned from using this terminology at this occasion or for any future list. “
In our email request, The register also asked if Spring product removals were done with an automated system that searches for keywords, fearing that the company’s “rigorous technology” for detecting brand words is not sophisticated enough to determine context in which words like zeta are used.
Spring’s spokesperson did not answer this question.
“Unfortunately, the incentives for sites like Spring go in favor of being overzealous with withdrawals, as there is really no legal recourse for users who have their work withdrawn when it shouldn’t be. be, but the potential liability of leaving designs that actually infringe on a trademark is quite high, ”said Mitch Stoltz, senior counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an email to The register.
“There are also many misconceptions about the real rights of a trademark owner – a trademark does not give the right to prevent others from using a word in all circumstances, even on a commercial product.
“That’s why a simple keyword filter will always detect too much. The best solution may be a market solution: sellers of t-shirts and other crafts should choose platforms that promise to look after their rights first, not the rights of big brands. . “®