All Things Upwork

Trademark and copyright is an important topic to many freelance writers, developers, and graphic designers (among many others). Below is a collection of various and interesting trademark controversies – remember to educate yourself and tread carefully when uncertain of ownership rights!

Burning Man


This case is particularly interesting in that the entity of “Burning Man” is open source, for lack of a better expression, in that it is near impossible to determine or prove who, if anyone, really “owns” it. The danger of no one owning it is that it now becomes open to outside interests adopting this orphan since no one is really parenting it. When there is money to be made, this is an immediate danger. Burning man sponsored by “Taco Bell” anyone?

Chris Messina over at FactoryJoe does an excellent write-up on the topic , saying:

“What’s so interesting and didactic about this controversy is that it embodies, on a grand scale, the kind of micro-controversies that open source communities have faced for a long time around intellectual property and trademark matters.”

(Photo credit: Original uploaded by Sterling Ely and shared under a Creative Commons License.)


A few years ago, Apple tried to flex their muscles to own the term “podcasting”.  In fact they seemed to be after anything with the word “pod” in it. This, of course, is interesting in that we are now getting into the contentious “common terms” area. What if Coke wanted to trademark the term “Cola”?



Google has tried to dump its responsibility for ensuring that a competitor of a company cannot advertise using Google Adwords the trademarked terms of another company. In other words Coke cannot have Adwords advertising on the term “Pepsi” since it is not their trademark. Google has gotten sued for this and may continue to get such unwanted attention.

Amazon Kindle

This case is curious in that Amazon clearly owns the term “Kindle” but that it would go to the trouble to try and stop Kindle news and fan sites. You would think that a web company would embrace these sites and any other user generated content to do with their product for the value of free advertising and support. If anything this act would seem to scare the web citizens who generally are wary of companies trying to supress information on the internet.


Make what you will of this one but Futuremark had made attempts to trademark the term “pwnage”. A full definition for pwnage can be gotten here. Futuremark’s argument was that:


Fellow gamers,

Our purpose in filing for trademark on the name “Pwnage” is not to charge money or stop people from using the expression. That’s not what a trademark is for. Instead, we want to protect ourselves from squatters (or what I call campers) – people looking to trademark the name on false pretenses, just to make a claim against Futuremark Games Studio for its use.

Jukka Mäkinen, Executive Producer, Futuremark Games Studio

This alone would be interesting to see how that would be enforced. How many staffers on XBox Live would be needed for full enforcement on that trademark alone?

(Photo credit: unknown)