Judy's Book Gets "Social Search" Trademark; Yahoo Apparently Says Jump In A Lake

Judy's Book would like the world to know they know have a trademark on the phrase "social search." Never start a land war in Asia on their blog explains how they filed for it almost two years ago but that since then, a large unnamed company have begun using it. So they placed a call to the unnamed company to say stop it.

The large company pretty much has to be Yahoo -- and if Judy's Book has a beef with them, they ought to just name in them in the blog entry. But it's a nice way to drum up some publicity, I suppose. Everyone loves a good Judy versus Goliath story.

Why do I think it's Yahoo? Here are are two press release entries:

Yahoo! Audio Search's integration with My Web, 2.0, http://myweb2.search.yahoo.com Yahoo!'s new social search engine... (see here)

In addition, the new My Web feature, Yahoo!'s new social search engine that harnesses the collective knowledge of the My Web community, provides relevant links to information related to the news topic. (see here)

Says Judy's Book:

In theory, this means that we have the exclusive and legally-protected right to use this phrase in association with the idea of personalized search results generated with the help of social networks. But as we've recently learned, this theoretical right has been interpreted differently by some of our larger competitors...

Now, we're a pretty small company, and when we first saw our trademarked phrase being used by this (much bigger) company, we thought: hmmm, maybe they aren't aware that we've already registered Social Search as a trademark. So we called a friend down there and asked him to pass along the news of our claim to the right folks. Naively, we figured that as soon as they realized they were stepping on someone else's trademark, they'd adjust their messaging accordingly.

Well, you all know how this story goes. What we heard back, "unofficially" of course, was that they didn't much care what we'd taken the trouble to file with the USPTO, or when we'd filed it. They really liked the sound of Social Search, and they intended to keep on using it pretty much as they pleased.

Judy's Book says they'll save their money and not have a legal fight over the term. I have no idea if they'd win or not.

I called Eurekster a "social search" engine back at the beginning of 2004, before Yahoo was using that or I'd ever heard of Judy's book. Later that year, I said to expect more of what I was dubbing "social search engines." No one told me to call them that. That just seemed to be the generic way to describe them, sort of like calling a web search engine, well, a web search engine. Can't wait to see who gets a trademark for "web search."

Here's a mention of "social search" from 2001 by someone else, so I'm hardly the creator of that term. I'm sure there's plenty of prior usage before the trademark was filed. Again, no idea of the impact that might have on trademark usage. But it seems to me that the term doesn't really belong to Judy's Book any more than Yahoo. But that's just my unlegal opinion on things.