Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency invented in 2008 by an unknown person or group of people using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, is trademarked? Is it really?

I did some “research” and this is what I found.

Useless to say, but here we go

I’m not a lawyer.
This is not legal advice.
This is for informational and educational purposes only.
This is my opinion.
May contain incorrect interpretations of the law.
May contain traces of peanut.


United Kingdom

First of all, the term “bitcoin” for clothing/food/drinks, seems to be registered in the United Kingdom through the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The registration of the trademark dates back to December 22, 2017 (source).

Apparently a merchant on etsy.co.uk was selling t-shirts with the bitcoin logo on it.

This is the original Reddit post under /r/Bitcoin.

They received an adorable cease-and-desist letter from a company “holding the trademark”, namely “A.B.C. IPHOLDINGS SOUTH WEST LLC”. (source)

The lovely cease-and-desist letter is also still available. With a heartwarming “Yours sincerely,” at the end of the letter.

btc-cease-and-desist-letter.png

Do a quick search for the term “A.B.C. IPHOLDINGS SOUTH WEST LLC” and look through the 30k+ results for this company.


The goods and services covered by this trademark are from the classes 25, 32 and 33.

Here some examples (just for giggles):

  • Adhesive bras
  • Ballroom dancing shoes
  • Bowties
  • Camouflage jackets
  • Flip-flops
  • Kimonos
  • Judo suits
  • Mittens
  • Silk scarves
  • Taekwondo suits
  • Waterskiing suits
  • Wooden bodies for Japanese style clogs
  • Yoga pants
  • Zoot suits

And this was only class 25, representing Clothing, footwear, headgear. (source).

Class 32 represents non-alcoholic beverages including beers. (source).

Class 33 represents Alcoholic beverages excluding beers. (source).


I’m not a lawyer. But this seems fishy.

What’s the point of registering a trademark for which you don’t have any business to?

Could the seller have gotten away with it? Or even sue them for false litigation?

What is this? Getting a trademark registration for the sole purpose of following legal action to who “abuses” it?

This seems to be pure “trademark trolling”.

Here is the opinion of “The Bitcoin foundation” on the matter

It seems the TM application has been dropped, although it seems to still be registered and active on UK IPO official website.

Spain

Last year (June 2020) another trademark registration popped up. (source)

Throught the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office

The registrant stated, since they are selling stuff with the Bitcoin logo on it, that they will “defend” incorrect usage of the logo.

Oh please tell me more about “incorrrect usage”! Such a good samaritan!

They now have a claim of misuse for the logo, although it seems to be that the registration itself is a misuse of the logo…

Read more on cointelegraph.com

Other parts of the world

Looking through trademarks.justia.com you can find more registration (I think at an international level).

There are 14 registrations for the word “Bitcoin” in various categories.

Two of which are currently marked with the status “Registered”.

The other 12 were either express abandoned or suspended due to inactivity by the party.

The 2 ones that are currently registered are regarding

No but seriously, WTF?

The latter one is registered by a german company that produces confectionery products.

Conclusion

The Bitcoin logo itself is released with the public domain license.

Therefore it is free to use for both commercial and non-commercial use.

I don’t know what these companies were thinking, and if they are in good or bad faith.

I mean, how ridiculous do you have to be to trademark “bitcoin” for coffee, tea, salt mustard, or alcoholic beverages?

Are you serious?

Additionally this is what I found when looking for the bitcoin logo:

On Wikipedia it is explicitly stated

This work is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship.

But at the same time regarding Trademark

This work includes material that may be protected as a trademark in some jurisdictions. If you want to use it, you have to ensure that you have the legal right to do so and that you do not infringe any trademark rights

btc-logo-trademark.png

Useful resources

Resources I found useful about this topic