back to article Pinterest who? EU rules social network CAN'T trademark its own name

A trademark ruling in Europe could stop Pinterest from expanding onto the continent, as the EU's office rules that the company doesn't own the rights to the name "pinterest". The EU Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market has ruled against the crafts'n'cupcakes website, deciding that London-based social news aggregator …


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  1. DavCrav Silver badge


    That is all.

  2. ukgnome

    I simply have no Pinterest in this

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do what others do, register it in the USA and enforce it in the EU by either using existing laws or by using typical US pressure on the EU, the EU usually caves to (most) US demands anyway.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge


      Gmail is a notable example where Google didn't get its own way. Member states may line up to bend over for Uncle Sam but that is most definitely not the case at EU level.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I didn't mean the EU parliament, but the commission can often be bought out by uncle sam as well as the point you made about each EU country feels the pressure from the USA being equally valid and evidence for that is all around us.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Charlie Clark 13:54

        "Member states may line up to bend over for Uncle Sam but that is most definitely not the case at EU level."

        Member states is where the US like to attack most because that's where the EU is most vulnerable and then there's the whole EU commission to bribe behind closed doors. ACTA may have failed this time, but they will keep trying it until they succeed, TPP is the latest attempt at a retry of ACTA.

    2. SolidSquid

      That's what they were trying to do and which the EU courts rejected

  4. M man


    could they just use thier web log to show the huge umount of EUsers they had......

  5. DavCrav Silver badge

    We should give some advice to Pinterest. I seem to recall a quotation from a recently deceased US technology company CEO about how names of companies aren't that important and can quite easily be altered. Any Reg readers able to furnish us with this?

    1. dssf

      Utterly stupid

      That is akin to teling some one name Margie Thatcher, born outside of the UK, that she cannot put "Margie (born as Margaret, in 1972, outside of the UK)" on her business card if she should desire to open or expand to the UK or EU a company selling gowns, crowns, and makeup to cover frowns in big and small towns.

      OK, as for advice to Pinterest, and I say this because I think I in 2011 or early 2012 met (informally) one of the girls who worked/works at Pinterest, while I was in J-Town having coffee in a budding Korean coffee shop.

      My advice is that Pinterest or someone with extreme interest in Pinterest gets Snowden to release some of his seemingly unstoppable releases to Pinterest. Or, maybe just non-class/declas nature shots taken by his hand, and posting them on Pinterest. Eventually, someone from the press may use it as a data drop. At that point, GCHQ and the NSA take and EXTREME SPYnterest (no relation to the activity in Greece, mind you) in it and will want to keep that "data drop" alive and active, if anything, to try to get a bead on the data source. So long as said human data source cannot be unmasked, two MOTUs (Masters Of The Uniwerse) will override the stupidity that interferes with existing, functioning, viable businesses using their names the created devoide of malice or devious coat-tail-riding circumstances.

      Imagine if the agency denying Pinterest its name visited the USA, just to use as an example, and discovered how many "Acme" companies exist ALL OVER the country, seemingly without clobbering one another, so long as they do not engage in similar services in the same county or city lines, or wear confusingly similar uniforms, or mimic one another's web sites.

      If Pinterest went into the commodities or whatever biz Premium Interest is or is trying to succeed in, then what is the DAMNED problem?

      (Disclaimer: I don't use (yet) nor have any personal or professional relationships with anyone at or helping out Pinterest.)

  6. bigtimehustler

    Alternatively seeing as they have no physical presence in the EU, they could just carry on like nothing happened and nothing would change. Yes the EU will probably complain, they might even threaten legal action, but ultimately it will never get to the courts because the EU wouldn't put itself in a position where is can not actually enforce the ruling of the court anyway and make itself look stupid in the process. Some people may suggest the website would be banned in the EU, but this is unlikely as censorship or withdrawal of a website people like which is otherwise engaged in legal actions has yet to be done and i fear the EU would shy away from it due to the public who do like pinterest being outraged and crying censorship.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "i fear the EU would shy away from it due to the public who do like pinterest being outraged and crying censorship."

      I don't think anyone would cry censorship over a website operating illegally being shut down for contempt of court. The most likely course of action though is that the company that wants to be known by 'Pinterest' will buy off Premium Interest.

      1. Alan_Peery

        What law & what locality?

        Are you proposing to disallow the Pintrest (US) company use of

        Are you proposing that all trademarks suddenly become worldwide?

        Are you proposing that all European citizens be blocked from as PIntrest (US) don't own the European trademark?

        If the EU can shut down a website operating in the US, then logically Lichtenstein can do likewise...

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: What law & what locality?

          Surely it would be legal, or at least possible to make it legal, as well as enforceable, for EU governments to instruct ISPs run in EU nations to block or fail to resolve DNS for websites breaking EU law, regardless where those websites are hosted and their owners incorporated?

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: What law & what locality?

            It would be perfectly legal and possible to instruct ISP's in the EU to fail to resolve DNS for websites breaking EU Law.

            That is ultimately a non issue though, they are saying that Pinterest can't have Pinterest as a trademark in the EU because Premium Interest have it. Pinterest don't even need to license the trademark, all they need to do is trade as "Pin Interest" in the EU and everybody is happy because that doesn't infringe Premium interests trademark.

          2. localzuk

            Re: What law & what locality?

            I think people are confusing the issue here. The issue isn't simply the existence of and use of but is about 'operating a business with the name pinterest' in the EU. Doing the latter is doing things such as having offices, doing advertising in the EU, sales in the EU etc... People incidentally going to their site in the US from the EU is neither here nor there and the EU most likely would not question this.

            Google lost out with the gmail name, as it is a far more direct issue - people in the UK using a gmail address, from a company with a UK presence and UK advertising etc...

  7. DrXym Silver badge

    Shakedown time

    I'm sure it's just a matter of paying sufficient money to this other group for their trademark problems to go away.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Shakedown time

      Sure, it's how many American companies expect to do business.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Shakedown time

      Why is it a shakedown though? I thought it's called Intellectual Property. Premium Interest owns some property -- the name Pinterest -- and an American company wants this property. So it has to buy it. Or choose a different name.

      1. Alan_Peery

        Re: Shakedown time

        And where does Premium Interest hold that property? Only in the UK? In the countries where it has a customer? Where it has significant market share? All across the EU? Into ICANN DNS territory?

      2. Richard 26

        Re: Shakedown time

        "Why is it a shakedown though? I thought it's called Intellectual Property. Premium Interest owns some property -- the name Pinterest -- and an American company wants this property. So it has to buy it"

        Well, it's difficult to tell whether Premium Interest was acting in good faith or not. If they thought of the name independently of Pinterest, well fair enough, just as Google had to buy the Gmail trademark. If they bought up the EU trademark because they expected Pinterest would want to buy it up later it's rather different, even if it is legal.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shakedown time

          But is it (cybersquatting) legal? I hope not.

  8. Don Jefe

    The General Awareness Problem - Trademarks and Patents

    The General Awareness Problem is the primary reason so many obviously not-novel (what's the opposite of novel?) patents are granted especially in the US. I talk about the issue quite heavily at presentations I give on intellectual property in the manufacturing sector. It only makes sense the same/similar criteria would cause problems over there.

    The threshold for 'general awareness' is set almost impossibly high, especially for a growing company. It's a chicken and egg problem. To be 'Hoovered' or 'Xeroxed' means you've reached super saturation in those markets and there is no longer room for large growth. There is 'general awareness' because you've already sold one to everybody but you can't get Xeroxed if everybody else is using the term, it's a real bitch.

    Patents have the same issue, in the US anyway. Prior Art isn't what people think it is. Patent Agents can't search every nook and cranny for evidence your idea is novel. They've got a predefined collection of information they can look at and the actual Prior Art which is on file with the USPTO. A mention in a journal that isn't on their approved list doesn't matter for the purposes of granting the patent. It might help you if the patent holder sued you for infringement, you could use it to show the patent is invalid, but that's after the fact. The patent has been granted.

    Like I say, patents have the same general awareness problem as trademarks. For the purposes of granting a patent, an idea can't meet general awareness criteria unless it's already in use everywhere, thus it's not novel and doesn't qualify for a patent.

    It's all a huge mess and so very much of the patent trolling that goes on is down to internal policies at USPTO. The criteria for 'general awareness' no longer reflects the way information is disseminated or the way business is done. It's no longer the case that an idea has to be published in a major journal before that community begins to use the idea. Products can go from brainstorming sessions to sterilized, packaged and shipped in the three-six months it takes a journal to approve your article. Inventors, engineers and companies can just skip that step.

    One doesn't even need to get into the wisdom, or lack thereof, of things like software patents. The overwhelming majority of dumb patents and patent trolling could be eliminated by redefining what 'general awareness' means and the criteria used to determine the level of awareness.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The General Awareness Problem - Trademarks and Patents

      Thank you for that.

      My tl;dr summary is "The USPTO creates its own reality, and that's at the root of the problem". Would you concur?

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: The General Awareness Problem - Trademarks and Patents

        Yeah. I mostly concur. The sticking point is that USPTO isn't creating their own reality, they're operating in reality, but it's a reality of the past. They're an anachronism. Everything from the things that are patented to the criteria for a patent are vastly different than they when USPTO last updated their policies.

        They're operating perfectly well in that past reality, trouble is they're the only ones left in that reality. It's like training network techs on telegraph operation then expecting them to maintain undersea cables. Those techs will do the best they can, but expecting reasonable performance is lunacy.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are pinterest going to bother to pay anyone anything, they already own the TLD, and have for a number of years dating back before the trademark registration. They can happily ignore the pinterest.*.uk domain names. I'm sure their users are quite capable of using the .com domain.

    1. Don Jefe

      I'll tell you why the TLD isn't enough :)

      Pinterest, rather their senior management and investors, have a problem, and it's certainly not unique to them. It's a side effect of receiving big rounds of equity funding, but not having a revenue model that can offset that investment: Their valuation is far too large for operational revenue to ever recover the equity it traded for funds. In and of itself that's OK, you position the company for acquisition by somebody else, it's the only way investors will ever recover their funds.

      But positioning a high valuation company without a viable revenue model for acquisition is extraordinarily complex. What I call 'Bolt-On Acquisitions' (an acquisition that can be bolted onto your existing business) must be as near turn-key as possible. People aren't going to give you billions and billions of dollars for a bunch of headaches and no revenue stream.

      You've got to eliminate potential headaches and challenges for whoever buys you. Among the myriad of things that create value and eliminate headaches is a thing called 'Total Brand Dominance'. That's where your brand can mean nothing other than you. Kind of like 'That sign means Gandalf and Gandalf means me'.

      Total brand dominance is difficult and expensive to achieve, but the closer you get to it, the more valuable it becomes. It acts a vehicle that you can load up with whatever you want, deliver it anywhere and it always means the same thing. It's a consistency that is quite nearly priceless. If you can achieve it in a positive way people will pay nearly any price for it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Except all the evidence suggests they're not looking to be acquired by anyone.

    2. Havin_it

      >They can happily ignore the pinterest.*.uk domain names.

      No they can't, they appear to own at any rate (redirects to the .com) so it would probably be wrong of them to entirely ignore it ;P

      Nominet punch-up ahead then? They're always fun... /popcorn

  10. James R Grinter

    And just who has heard of Premium Interest and their use of the mark?

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Presumably people in their market have? Otherwise you're saying if a company isn't widely known because it works in a niche area it's trading name can be taken by one that is.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "And just who has heard of Premium Interest and their use of the mark?"

      Who had heard of "Pinterest" at all before this article? Not me...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One is inclined to wonder whether the comments here on The Dai-- er, The Register would be so supportive of the EU were Pinterest a UK company involved in real tech rather than a US company doing social media...

    1. Don Jefe

      You seem to think the general public will respond to, well, anything in a fair and balanced way. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

      Inevitably, those who say happenings are 'just' and 'deserved' are the first to cry loudly when roles are reversed. When it's happening to them though, then it is 'unfair' or biased.

      Balanced and rational thought is rare among the general populace to begin with. Toss in some nationalism, politics good ole fashion hatin' and you'll never get a reasonable response. It's why all the Presidents and Prime Ministers the world over appear to be largely unhinged, it's because they're dealing with the masses daily. It's enough to make a rock want to commit suicide :)

  12. Britt Johnston


    If your firm goes bankrupt, your reputation suffers. Worse, if you are successful, you get bought out and lose control of your own name.

    1. Don Jefe


      A bad idea as opposed to what? Trademarking the name of your competitor? That sounds hilarious, but I'm pretty sure that's a bad idea as well.

  13. John Savard Silver badge

    Wrong Criterion

    The test should have been: if anyone at Premium Interest were to have typed "pinterest" in Google in 2011, prior to applying for a trademark in 2012, would they have found Pinterest? Filing for a trademark without doing due diligence to ensure it doesn't already belong to someone else should be treated as fraudulent.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Wrong Criterion

      It's tough because the verification as unique and approval of a trademark or service mark isn't the responsibility of the applicant. That responsibility lies with the agency who does the verification and approval.

      The laws that put the onus on the government do so because a government has greater access to information than an individual does. Granted, those laws are from a time before the Internet and conducting large scale searches of information was extremely complex and so often wrong it was nearly pointless. Nevertheless, those laws still exist and have to be followed.

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