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Minsky vs Linden Lab: USPTO won't cancel SLART trademark yet

Tateru Nino

Another step has been taken along the road for the dispute between Richard Minsky (registered owner of the SLART trademark), and Linden Lab (applicant for the SL trademark). The United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) has dealt something of a blow to Linden Lab's background effort to convincing the USPTO that Minsky committed fraud in registering the SLART trademark and that the SLART trademark should be cancelled.

In short, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) has suspended cancellation proceedings for now, so the Lab won't make any further progress on that front for the time being. Minsky asked the TTAB for the suspension of proceedings, and the Lab argued against it -- but the Lab's argument apparently didn't hold up on basic reasoning.

We realize that the suspension of a cancellation proceeding generates a little confusion. Just bear with us, okay? One part is the cancellation process by which the USPTO determines if the SLART trademark should be cancelled. Whatever happens, there's no guarantee that it will be cancelled, even if the process resumes. The process itself has been suspended however, based on the TTAB agreeing with Minsky's reasoning that the cancellation process should not proceed at this time. Suspension. Cancellation Process. Got it? Right, on with the show ...

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The reasoning for the suspension is that the civil suit that Minsky filed against Linden Lab (and others) essentially covers much the same ground as the TTAB, and frankly, if the judgement of the TTAB substantively disagrees with that of the court handling the suit, precedent suggests that the court's decision overrules that of the TTAB.

Any hope that the lab might have had of having Minsky's trademark quashed by the TTAB before the suit is resolved has been extinguished, essentially. The TTAB will take no action to proceed with the reexamination of Minsky's eligibility to hold the SLART trademark until the suit is settled or resolved in some way.

The Lab's own SL trademark application is still pending. Having been published for opposition on September 16, 2008, the granting of the SL trademark to Linden Lab is by no means a certainty at this stage.

Unless the parties reach a settlement, it doesn't look like there's going to be a quick win for anyone in this dispute -- however, the Lab has settled before in areas where it seemed like they were on firmer ground. It wouldn't surprises us to see them buckle and opt for a quick settlement -- though that would represent something of a slap in the face for a number of Second Life-related organizations that have changed their names in recent months due to pressure from the Lab's revised trademark policies.

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