back to article Spring tears down math geek t-shirt listing because it dared to mention the trademarked word 'zeta'

On Tuesday, Tariq Rashid, a UK-based data scientist and author, tried to create a t-shirt design using on-demand print shop Spring to celebrate the Riemann zeta function, which is widely known among mathematicians and technical types. "I thought I'd create a t-shirt of the function as it looks cool and is pretty famous," …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Affinity Consultants, based in Carlsbad, California, for more than two decades has been coordinating trademark licensing oversight for various Greek-lettered organizations – fraternities and sororities ...

    > The Register spoke to a trademark coordinator at Affinity Consultants, who wished to be identified simply as Brett.

    Presumably along with his paralegal Chuck and their assistant Todd.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      I look forward to Spring and Affinity being sued for use of common words in their company names.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Indeed. As far as I'm concerned Spring is a dependency injection framework, and I was bemused to learn they were in the T-shirt printing business.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Nonsense! Spring is an open-source RTS game engine!

          1. jake Silver badge

            "Nonsense! Spring is an open-source RTS game engine!"

            And I have one on my gate to prove it!

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      And their close buddy Chad, from accounting.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        What about Troy, who tells me he's just here to fix the refrigerator?

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          He's the truest repairman.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Carlsbad CA is a high rent zone where a lot of businesses might want to locate for "image" reasons. It's a little bit like being located in Palo Alto. Not saying "snooty" or anything because it's not THAT bad, but still I think there's at least a _little_ bit of that.

      Anyway, having a L_[aw]_Y_E_R office there that (allegedly) TRADEMARKS THE GREEK ALPHABET doesn't surprise me at all...

      Icon, because, FACEPALM

  2. John Styles

    ...

    I initially read the last line as 'massive brigands' rather than 'massive brands'

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    WTF?

    "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

    I'm sorry, if there is anything that is more public domain than the Greek alphabet, please inform me.

    This really is an example of trademarks gone mad. Who the hell got custody of the Greek alphabet and under what authority ?

    That needs to be revoked immediately.

    With prejudice if necessary.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

      The Greeks did not object. Therefore, their alphabet is not not their alphabet anymore. This is capitalism at its finest(*).

      (*) finest is pronounced most stupid.

    2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Re: “The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally”

      Spring’s legal team is spreading the manure thick. Only certain combinations of Greek letters (and their English names) are trademarked in the US for the specific purpose of identifying specific fraternity and sorority organizations — e.g. “ΔΓ” and “Delta Gamma” are trademarks that identify the Delta Gamma Fraternity, but no one holds (or could hold) a universal trademark on any of “Δ”, “Γ”, “Delta”, or “Gamma”.

      In the particular case of Spring’s braindead filter reacting to “zeta” in the descriptive text, one workaround could be to use the Greek name for the Greek letter instead — either “ζήτα” (monotonic) or “ζῆτα” (polytonic).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

      RTFM. They don't have a trademark on the Greek Alphabet, and as quoted, they often have issues with companies "asserting their copyright on their behalf", which they don't claim to have.

      It's the t-shirt shop and others that are in the wrong, not the company that manages the names of US College groups.

      As for this case, I'd have taken my business to another T-shirt shop, rather than capitulate.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        We don't know exactly what trademark they're asserting, nor how they describe it to retailers. But if they didn't make it crystal clear that only specific, enumerable combinations of Greek letters are covered - and those only in specific contexts - they are absolutely to blame.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          Again, RTFA:

          "The Register spoke to a trademark coordinator at Affinity Consultants, who wished to be identified simply as Brett. He acknowledged that commerce platforms have problems policing trademarked material.

          "We work with Amazon too," Brett said. "They have been having difficulty with enforcement." He added that Affinity tries to educate companies about how to respond to trademark concerns, but cannot control how they do it."

          Or, read their own FAQ:

          What are the organization's trademarks?

          A

          The trademarks include the organization's name, nicknames, Greek letters, crest, badge, symbols, and other insignia. Any and all commercial use of these marks (or any marks that are confusingly similar) must be granted through a license agreement.

          QHow can the letters of an alphabet be a trademark?

          A

          It has been long held that combinations of letters can be (and are) distinctive enough to be used as trademarks, similar to companies like IBM, AAA, KFC, etc. This has been consistently reinforced by federal courts.

          QHow can a nickname or symbol be a trademark?

          A

          Since the organization has used the nickname and/or symbol consistently in conducting business for many years, they have the right to claim ownership of that mark within their channel of trade (fraternity and sorority members). A federal court recently reinforced the fact that nicknames and symbols are distinctive, protectable marks.

          https://greeklicensing.com/faq

          1. mattaw2001

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            That is surprisingly fair! I approve, its pretty clearly written, seems accurate, and it would seem that Spring is the one at fault here for using a very broad automated scanning technology.

          2. veti Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            And yet, they say they've seen this issue of over-broad enforcement before.

            What have they done to address it?

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          Delta Airlines - is a valid trademark

          Delta Aviation Services - sufficiently similar to Delta Airlines that it would be protected

          Delta Software - completely different line of business, and the trademark is owned by a completely different company. Judging by their website, the software they produce is indeed two steps removed from Beta in terms of stability, so their name is very appropriate.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Delta House, unfortunately, is currently on double-secret probation...

          2. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Similarly, there are two separate and legal trademarks for the name "Cracker Barrel" in the US. One is owned by Kraft-Heinz as a brand name for a line of cheeses. The other (Cracker Barrel Old Country Store) is owned by a restaurant/store chain.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        "I'd have taken my business to another T-shirt shop, rather than capitulate."

        YES! When you see this kind of stupidity, vote with your wallet. I usually drop them an email and/or a good, old fashioned telephone call explaining why they did not get my business.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          But then what inevitably happens when ALL of them behave the same way? Roll your own?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Why do you think it's inevitable? Sensible t-shirt printers don't filter on single words (much less letters) ... or if they do, they at least have a cognizant human vet the results so as not to lose business.

            As for your alternative, screen printing your own shirts is quite doable in a spare bedroom/garage. It's actually quite profitable. Why do you think there are so many small companies doing it?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              Sensible t-shirt printers can NOT operate on the scale that spring does. How do I know, I was there since the beginning and was there as all these systems were built at spring.

              Traditional screen printing has a single design printed a bunch to be profitable where spring started to get into short run screen (10 units) which most screen shops would turn away as not profitable. This is exponentially easier to police.

              Eventually the advances in digital printing allowed for this revolution of the short run high color count shirts that you see blasted all over social media now. Spring ripped out all its screens, and replaced them with state of the art digital printers. I use the word revolution because it was that, you could now profitably produce and sell digital goods that did not exist in the real world that only got produced on demand if a purchase was made. No storing and destroying unsold designs.

              Now this created an even bigger problem of thousands of unique designs being uploaded every day. These designs in turn could get automatically uploaded to other marketplaces (amazon, walmart, ebay, wish, etc). How do you police that? They learn the hardway (See Teespring scandal's on wikipedia for some examples) -- its laughable at how offended this person in the article got at Teespring doing the correct thing of removing it followed by reinstating after a human evaluation. If you saw some of the awful hateful subtle things that gets through -- that also would have gotten through a screen operation.

              Blanket keyword tagging isn't even the beginning to manage a self service upload platform with millions of designs. First layer of defense is keyword flagging. Second would be AI and Machine Learning to watch for infringing and trademark designs. Third would be a dual person trust and safety system manually swiping left or right for "OK" or "NO" on EVERY design. They literally built a TINDER for tshirts. Hell we even worked on systems to get headline feeds so the second a celebrity passed the trust&safety team could prevent people from 'profiting' on the death of someone.

              I don't know what Teesprings volume is today, I'm sure I could make a call to find out but I'm proud of how far that company has come. To quote a stranger in an uber once called it to me reminiscing on the early days "The wild west of Teespring" to a company that has built and found a way to manage a user generated upload system at scale and invested heavily in technology, people, and process to keep the platform safe.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

      "I'm sorry, if there is anything that is more public domain than the Greek alphabet, please inform me."

      The English alphabet comes to mind ...

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        Greek one's older

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          Who said anything about age?

          1. The First Dave

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Prior Art, by definition??

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              Again, who said anything about age? The question was if there was "anything that is more public domain than the Greek alphabet".

              English is seen in more places than Greek, world-wide, without any compensation going to the authors. Ergo ...

              1. ian 22

                Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

                No one has mentioned cultural appropriation yet. Will no one think of the children?

      2. MacroRodent Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        > The English alphabet comes to mind ...

        I didn't know there is an English alphabet, unless you mean the Shavian alphabet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavian_alphabet). But that is quite recent, not sure if it is in the public domain yet

        Now the Latin alphabet certainly is in the public domain, even though it is not quite as old as the Greek one.

        1. jake Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          Fair enough ... note I wasn't discussing age, though.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          I've just trademarked the Latin alphabet letter 'E', so please avoid using it in your communications otherwise my lawyers will be onto you for infringement of my Intellectual Property Rights.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Might want to let your lawyers know that my lawyers know the meaning of barratry.

            There's a song in there somewhere ... I'm surprised Zappa didn't write it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              So do I but I:

              a. Not triggered

              B. Have no Money

              C. Not been an offence in Blighty for years

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

                D. In drastic need of a humo(u)r transplant.

            2. Swarthy

              Re: "There's a song in there somewhere"

              Nope, not Zappa, it was Zevon.

          2. katrinab Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            I have served you the papers for a claim under S 2 of the Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Act 2017

            https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/14/section/2

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              Fortunately for TOA, "a reasonable person[0]" would know the comment was facetious.

              [0] Now if we can only find "a reasonable person".

          3. Kane Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            "I've just trademarked the Latin alphabet letter 'E', so please avoid using it in your communications otherwise my lawyers will be onto you for infringement of my Intellectual Property Rights."

            How vεry darε you! Oncε I can afford somε, you'll bε hεaring from my lawyεrs with a vεry stεrn lεttεr!

          4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            You jest, but trying sticking a lowercase "i" at the front of your product name and see how far you get.

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              Don't think iSmash (chain of phone repair shops in England) is owned by Apple.

              1. M. Poolman

                Re: Don't think iSmash (chain of phone repair shops in England) is owned by Apple.

                Or indeed, iPlayer

                1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

                  Re: Don't think iSmash (chain of phone repair shops in England) is owned by Apple.

                  In the UK there is the "i" newspaper.

                  I am also the proud owner of a lightweight aluminium trowel with retractable handle for digging small holes when trekking, called an ipood! (Did you see what they did there?)

                  Sadly Apple got in and you cannot get them with that name anymore.

                  1. tapanit

                    Re: Don't think iSmash (chain of phone repair shops in England) is owned by Apple.

                    Of course there's also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ii,_Finland

                  2. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Don't think iSmash (chain of phone repair shops in England) is owned by Apple.

                    "Did you see what they did there?"

                    Hard to miss it ... My neighbor's new twin sprog sport these occasionally:

                    https://www.ebay.ca/itm/222473404073?hash=item33cc72bea9:g:GIUAAOSwB21c8sMS

                    https://www.ebay.ca/itm/264481022088?hash=item3d944c2088:g:oFUAAOSwF2hcnrSN

              2. Stork

                Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

                iFixit?

            2. MJI Silver badge

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              OK i words

              iplayer

              itv

              ITV have won the war on that!

          5. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Has to be specific enough. Too broad and you get rejected. Ask Thrifty Rental Car, who (for lack of a better description) tried to service mark (like a trademark but for service companies) the color blue:

            https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=15159379864415021322

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              Coke Red is trademarked so you can't use it for other products in the same category. There are several others. Tiffany Blue and Easyjet Orange spring to mind.

              1. veti Silver badge

                Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

                Virgin Cola had a good run, and it wasn't legal threats that stopped them but good old fashioned anticompetitive practices from a stronger incumbent.

          6. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            I've just trademarked the Latin alphabet letter 'E', so please avoid using it in your communications

            The Oulipo group are claiming prior art.

          7. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            With the added complication of the defendant not being legally allowed to call themselves "defendant" or refer to their "lawyers" due to the e's. Very nice. I'd love to see the legal response that carefully avoids the letter e:

            "This lawsuit is without merit quality of law..."

          8. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            I see a loop hole - you have only claimed the upper case letter "E"

            I claim the lower case "e", so you owe me, let's see £1 for each use, so about 15 quid - knocking a quid off since I used an upper case in my first sentence

          9. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Prior art on this one. Please read the documentary "Ella Minnow Pea"

        3. LDS Silver badge

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          It was a good thing the Latin alphabet could borrow the Zeta from the Greek one, and still call it Zeta without trademarks infringements.

          BTW, in Italian (and AFAIK in Spanish, probably other languages) Z is called Zeta.... so the word "Zeta" is not even just a Greek word.

          So if he wish to keep on using that idiotic service he could simply tell them that's a Latin or Italian or Spanish word, not a Greek one...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Where do we stand with beta testing????

            1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              One presumes it was a process that wasn't applied to Springs ecommerce site. Because, y'know...

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              Beta Testing? In this modern DevOps world? Shirley you jest!

            3. veti Silver badge

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              We call it "product release" nowadays.

          2. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Since Italian and Spanish (as well as French, Portuguese, and Romanian) are Romance languages (nothing lovey-dovey, simply means they're based on Latin which came from Rome), it makes sense they would say "Zeta" or the like. Isn't that also why Brits say "Zed" as well?

        4. Steve Graham

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          I remember reading that only English and Hawaiian use the Latin alphabet unadorned with diacritics or letter modifications, apart from loanwords. Obviously that was why basic ASCII was so basic.

          1. Steve Graham

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Um, Latin too, clearly. Maybe it was about modern languages.

          2. katrinab Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Not quite:

            "Exposé" is an English word that is not the same as "expose", so the accent is mandatory there. Same for résumé and rosé.

            Also, there are a lot of words that historically had accents, like "naïve", "naïveté", "café", where the accents are now mostly omitted, but including them is still correct English, or "coöperative", which is now usually "co-operative".

            Every single word in English is a "loan word" from another language as far as I'm aware, if you go back far enough, and if you look at texts like Beowulf, it is English, but completely unrecognisable to the English we speak and write today.

            1. Steve Graham

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              "Every single word in English is a "loan word" from another language as far as I'm aware"

              That's an absurd statement.

              (Incidentally, this is my "specialist subject", apart from programming in C and Perl and playing bass guitar.)

              English developed from the languages spoken by the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain. All of the vocabulary we have from that time is native, and has parallels in Dutch, Danish, and the various forms of German. Not loanwords.

              However, English does have a different history to Dutch or German -- or Frisian, our closest relative -- in that it did acquire Scandinavian words and grammar from the Viking occupations; and then French from the Norman conquest.

              But, having said that, you can construct a modern English text which uses only Anglo-Saxon words, all of which are traceable back to a prehistoric, Indo-European source.

              I can read Beowulf when it's put into standardized West Saxon, but the original manuscript has some dialect forms which I need to look up.

              1. jake Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

                "(Incidentally, this is my "specialist subject", apart from programming in C and Perl and playing bass guitar.)"

                Are we cousins?

                Have a beer.

              2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

                All made harder by the half arsed, or half completed English reformation / standardisation. So half of English words make phonetic sense, the rest are exceptions to whatever rules can be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of this half.

                Add in that there are generally two words for most historic objects, thanks to the last successful invaders of the country a thousand years ago using their words for courtly matters and trade and the locals (aka plebs) keeping their words.

                In short, English is a result of a large number of cultures invading the British Isles and a little while later finding that they have somehow become English and some other bugger was invading. Add in the celtic peoples (crude generalisation) swapping places and invading each other and various times when the "English" ruled bits of the neighbouring continent and it's amazing that we have a common enough language to converse vaguely intelligibly.

          3. MacroRodent Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            > I remember reading that only English and Hawaiian use the Latin alphabet unadorned with diacritics or letter modifications,

            Swahili is also like that. It is a widely used language in Eastern Africa.

      3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        > "The English alphabet comes to mind"

        Think about the origins of the word 'alphabet'.

        I'll save you the googling...

        early 16th century: from late Latin alphabetum, from Greek alpha, bēta, the first two letters of the Greek alphabet.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          Or go further back to the ancestors of the Hebrew alphabet, like the proto-sinaitic alphabet.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Or further to the Phoenician aleph-beth.

        2. graeme leggett

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          You noticed that the English alphabet existed before it was called an alphabet (first appearing 1475 as "alphabete")

          Though I cannot find what it was called in the gap after they stopped calling it futhorc

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            The Runic Futhorc was Scandinavian in origin, not Greek.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

              "The Runic Futhorc was Scandinavian in origin"

              No it wasn't, it was Frisian (or possibly originally from a trifle further inland).

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Futhorc was Frisian (probably, although it may have developed inland from there).

            The closest equivalent in Old English was the ever-so-logical "stæfræw" (row of letters) or "stæfrof" (array of letters).

            The Irish Monks brought the Latin "alphabetum" over long before 1475, although I cannot find an exact date ... certainly by the foundation of Iona in 563.

            Alphabetum, futhorc and stæfræw/stæfrof were used concurrently for around 600 years.

      4. katrinab Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        Roman alphabet. The English one is long obsolete.

      5. swm Silver badge

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        "The English alphabet comes to mind ..."

        Thank you for the suggestion. I think I will copyright each letter of the English alphabet. Anyone want a share of the loot?

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          Where, pray tell, do you plan on doing that? How much will it cost, who needs to be bribed (and how much to stay bribed?). How do you plan on benefiting?

          Please, share your business plan!

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          Please, pretty please, take half an hour to educate yourself on how copyright and trademarks work.

          With particular reference to the meaninglessness of the verb "to copyright".

      6. Stork

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        Would that be the one also known as Latin?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

      Can I trademark the Chinese alphabet???

      Out of curiosity, is Chinese writing classed as an alphabet?

      1. Esme

        Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

        No - it consists of ideograms, not letters. And for your own sanity, don't even think about Japanese (a mix of Chinese ideograms, and two distinct syllabries, no less!)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

          That just means more to trademark!

          1. stiine Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

            Some org is doing the same for all musical progressions (or whatever they're called). Just be ware that your filing fees are going to eclipse any possible settlements you receive (if you exclude Fisher-Price from your suits)...

    6. ian 22

      Re: "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally"

      Are the Greeks being sued for use of the Greek alphabet? If so, does the court know they are essentially bankrupt?

  4. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

    Oi - Merkins

    stick to your own side of the effing pond

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oi - Merkins

      As ludicrous as this trademark is, they ARE sticking to their side of the pond - (tee)spring is a US-based company.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Oi - Merkins

        But the Greek alphabet isn't.

    2. FlippingGerman

      Re: Oi - Merkins

      I said that word to refer to the Leftpondians for a while, then, by coincidence (honest!) I came across this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkin

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Oi - Merkins

        "Leftpondians" works, just remember that Canada is up there, too. "Yanks" is acceptable ... most of us Yanks don't take umbrage over that particular naming accident of history.

        1. Anonymous Cabbage

          Re: Oi - Merkins

          Given the last few years of news from the USA, the Cockney term "septic" has never seemed more apt.

          1. spotburst

            Re: Oi - Merkins

            Never heard the septic used that way, only Barclays or Tommy

          2. jake Silver badge

            Re: Oi - Merkins

            It's not Cockney, it's Aussie.

            You should see the last few years of news from the UK from this side ...

            Insert pithy words about glass houses & stones here.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oi - Merkins

          I always wondered why they were called "Yanks"

          Always thought that a yank was a short pull - such as a jerking motion.....

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Oi - Merkins

            "Yankee" was originally a disparaging name for Dutch pirates, probably from "Janke", which means "little John". Later, Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (now New York) gave the name to the English settlers in Connecticut in the early 1680s. It became a general term of contempt for New Englanders by the mid 1750s, and then the British decided to use it as a contemptuous term for all of us upstart colonists when we were busy kicking their asses back to England. As often happens in such cases, the newly landed Americans took the name as a battle trophy ... Except those in the South who tried without success to turn it back into a disparaging term during the Civil War[0].

            Today, most Americans acknowledge it as a generic handle and don't look on it as a negative.

            "Yank", the short form of Yankee, is from the 1770s.

            "Yank" as in jerk or pull is Scottish from the 1820s, of unknown etymology.

            That's half a dozen brain cells none of you will ever get back. Have a beer :-)

            [0]Worst term ever. There is absolutely nothing civil about war.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Oi - Merkins

              It is when you think about in terms of civil as in "between citizens". A civil war simply means a war that takes place between citizens within a country as opposed to the more classic form of war that takes place between countries.

            2. Swarthy

              Re: Oi - Merkins

              Even more silly as it was barely a civil war*, it was an Attempted Secession.

              Made even sillier by the fact that the Revolutionary War was not a revolution, but rather a successful secession.

              * as defined above

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Oi - Merkins

      A Brit telling another country to stick to their own side of the pond? That's rich.

      It's not us boasting about the sun never setting & etc.

      1. eldel

        Re: Oi - Merkins

        Actually the sun setting bit was the Spanish, under Philip IV. We just borrowed it to describe our own rapine behaviour when we set out to steal everything that the Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese missed the first time around.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Oi - Merkins

          I'm fairly certain the concept goes back to before the Old Kingdom of Egypt.

        2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Oi - Merkins

          Actually the sun setting bit was the Spanish, under Philip IV. We just borrowed it to describe our own rapine behaviour when we set out to steal everything that the Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese missed the first time around.Not forgetting the things that the Spanish, Dutch and Portugese had taken first time around but had recklessly not nailed down well enough. Made complicated because they were also doing the same however when, for example, the Dutch fleet accidentally sunk and the Spanish fleet somehow caught fire in a harbour and various other accidents that had absolutely nothing to do with piracy, fleet battles and definitely not to do with primacy of the ocean...

      2. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Oi - Merkins

        America was our side of the pond, until you decided otherwise. Since you did, we're quite justified in telling you to stay on your side now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oi - Merkins

          Fair enough. Just don't refer to us as "colonies". It's been over 200 years.

          1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

            Re: Oi - Merkins

            And if you want to see another 200, behave yourselves, or we'll send the redcoats. Or the Taliban.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Oi - Merkins

              *looks at history books of redcoats lining up in tidy lines with bright red "shoot at me" uniforms*

              *looks at current state of Taliban in comparison to US forces*

              Eh, ok.

              1. veti Silver badge

                Re: Oi - Merkins

                Last time the redcoats were there, they burned down the White House and the Capitol.

                As for the Taliban, they've demonstrated their ability to kick Americans (and all their allies) out of Afghanistan. Just hope they don't take it into their heads to visit the homeland again, because last time that happened they dealt a blow that has left America still dizzy 20 years on.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Oi - Merkins

          "America was our side of the pond"

          I think the French and the Spanish would take issue with that statement.

    4. idiot taxpayer here again

      Re: Oi - Merkins

      A Merkin is a Pubic Wig. Just sayin'

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Oi - Merkins

        We did that one already. But thanks for playing.

  5. gerdesj Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Are zed and zee also trademarked. Zeta is merely the Anglicised name for ζ. The uppercase form of all of those is Z.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "zeta" isn't trademarked, any more than "zed" is.

      They are tradingmarking groups named after combination of just Greek letters, which, despite the fact they aren't acronyms is no different than the Latin trademarking of acronyms "IBM", "RAC", etc.

      https://greeklicensing.com/faq

  6. Simon Harris

    That’s going to upset a few fans...

    They won’t be getting their t-shirts expressing their undying appreciation of Welsh actress Catherine Zeta Jones.

    1. smudge

      Re: That’s going to upset a few fans...

      Yup. I came here to say that the Reg had missed a trick by not contacting her for comment :) But you beat me to it.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: That’s going to upset a few fans...

        ...or gratuitous and entirely unnecessary photos, or possibly a playmobil reconstruction or two

  7. General Purpose Bronze badge
    Coat

    Automated system

    Surely such a simple problem should have been caught in beta testing... oh.

  8. HildyJ Silver badge
    WTF?

    We need an Alpha wolf

    To bite somebody in the ΑΣΣ

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: We need an Alpha wolf

      I don't think that means quite what you think it means.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We need an Alpha wolf

      A big furry Zeta Wolf, to go round and give Granny a jolly good, err, brush up on her semiotics...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: We need an Alpha wolf

        Oh, gawd/ess ... don't bring the furries into it. We've (TINW) got enough problems around here.

    3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: We need an Alpha wolf

      Please leave the donkeys out of it. They have a hard enough time as it is

  9. Bitsminer Bronze badge

    Try one of those Cyrillic 'e's

    Take a hint from those Unicode-based homographic websites. Zeta != Zеta.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Try one of those Cyrillic 'e's

      Good luck with that!

      Can't even convince the computer illiterate around here that"jake" and "Jake" are two completely different handles!

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Try one of those Cyrillic 'e's

        Have you tried "jayke" and to be a "cool kid" as well? You know it needs to be done just to add the permutations if nothing else... :)

      2. Swarthy

        Re: Try one of those Cyrillic 'e's

        I feel bad for poor Jacob whenever certain commentards need to find the jakes....

  10. Sleep deprived

    What about π ?

    Need we replace every occurrence of this constant by "pi"? Or just round it to 3.1416?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: What about π ?

      Depends. Are you planning on having Spring print it on a T-shirt?

      Make mine apple (or does a certain Cupertino company have a trademark?).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about π ?

        I'll take one. But it has to have all the digits on it.

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: What about π ?

          > I'll take one. But it has to have all the digits on it.

          Just how big are you?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That was not …

    … the complainant I was expecting, knowing how El Reg likes the odder corners of the webs.

  12. Just an old bloke

    Google AdWords often block our ads for trademark violation, even though it’s our trademark and it’s also our URL.

    1. jake Silver badge

      So get back at 'em.

      Block go ogle (and the rest of alphagoo). Works for me :-)

  13. Binraider Silver badge

    I think I'll trademark E and Y for English & Welsh languages respectively, and sue everyone that uses those characters because I've trademarked them.

    Ridiculous does not even begin to cover this.

  14. Peter D

    Thankfully

    Arseholes isn't a letter in the Greek alphabet so I can freely use it to describe Spring.

  15. MJI Silver badge

    To someone from UK

    This seems like a total pile of bollocks.

    Some weird group of people can trademark random Greek letter combinations when they are just a I think a club.

    Would be like trademarking radiation (the first 3 types we learn in Physics).

    Is it still OK to laugh at Merkins?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: To someone from UK

      I think someone from the UK should re-read TFA, this time for content.

  16. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Oh dear

    So alpha and beta releases would fall foul of this ID ten T error as would any text on electronics (and indeed most engineering, physics and chemistry texts to name just a few).

    Their legal team (at Spring) appears to have a PEBKAC problem.

    I often use two consecutive Greek characters and sometimes more (from the alphabet, not something like Zorba) in equations.

    I guess they would refuse to print the equation that links the speed of light to permeability and permittivity...

  17. Chris Evans

    Same sort of problem here.

    We sell into the retro market and have software in stock that we bought in the 1990's which we listed on ebay a year or so ago. The publisher went bust a few years ago. A new software company has now set up (Nothing to do with the old company, no transfer of assets or IP) they registered their name as a Trademark earlier this year. They then complained to ebay who deleted the listing for the "New but old stock" titles. ebay have no procedure for appeals for take down notices saying I have to get the new company to confirm I'm not breaching their Trademark. The new company doesn't seem to understand that registering a trademark doesn't stop the marketing & selling of goods that already exist with the 'mark' applied to them.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Same sort of problem here.

      No, it doesn't, but it does mean that you might be able to get their trademark invalidated, but it would cost you money.

  18. Dwarf Silver badge

    Crazy

    Given that Greek letters and their names are used everywhere across a whole raft of maths and engineering locations for very sensible reasons, how could anyone have a trademark / rights over something that we all use and must have been pre-existing long before any trademark / patent could be submitted.

    How did they work around the fact that a whole region in the world uses this as their national alphabet ?

    Wikipedia also seems fairly happy to produce the alphabet too, which is a good thing since lots of other things rely on it - i.e. words..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_alphabet

    There is definitely a need to review and remove all the stupid patents and trademarks so that the rest of the world can get on with its business.

    1. Esme

      Re: Crazy

      I look forward to anyone trying to ban the use of any Greek letters in books on astronomy! (The brighter stars in each constellation being assigned letters of the Greek alphabet in descending order of brightness, for identification purposes) 8-}

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Crazy

      "There is definitely a need to review and remove all the stupid patents and trademarks"

      This is true. The USPTO is in serious need of repair, for a LOT of reasons.

      "so that the rest of the world can get on with its business."

      Perhaps, if your business involves getting Spring to print t-shirts for you. May I suggest an alternative vendor for your shirts? There is nothing in Law stopping you from getting them printed, just in Spring's brain-dead handling of the issue.

  19. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Disgrace

    "Winter is coming"

    Patents, trademarks and copyright enforcement is out of control.

    And the USPTO makes it worse with their approach to issuing Patents, Design Patents (=UK Registered Designs) and Trademarks.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Disgrace

      The USPTO is indeed in a shambles, but has nothing to do with this story.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        It kind of does

        As it's a logical consequence of their approach of "approve everything and let the courts decide" coupled with the "sue it or lose it" principle.

        It costs Spring nothing to deny on spurious grounds, but permitting something that breaches a bogus, inadmissible but nevertheless approved trademark costs them a lot to defend.

        So yeah, it is the USPTO at fault.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: It kind of does

          "It costs Spring nothing to deny on spurious grounds"

          On the contrary, it has cost them at least one sale, and probably many other potential sales based on bad publicity. For a small company, where margins are thin, that might be enough to tip them into insolvency.

          "permitting something that breaches a bogus, inadmissible but nevertheless approved trademark"

          The trademarks in question are not bogus, nor are they inadmissible. They are legal and above board. This is not in question. What IS in question is how Spring has decided that one portion of said trademark is somehow the whole, "IBM" is a trademark. However, not even IBM's landsharks would consider suing Intel, Brother and Mitsubishi if they used their initial letter as a portion of their trademark and copyright package.

  20. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    It's absurd that American university societies should trademark their names. I think they're taking themselves too seriously.

    1. jake Silver badge

      "I think they're taking themselves too seriously."

      They do. And they prove it by drinking entirely too much, puking out of the upstairs windows, and then falling down the stairs and puking some more all over the front lawn.

      As Groucho Marx wrote in a telegram resigning from the Delaney Club "PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER."

  21. Spanners Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It may be an age thing, but...

    As a teenager, I saw the film Animal House. I therefore cannot take any of these US fraternities/sororities even remotely seriously.

    They seem to vary between drinking clubs that leave the most basic student union in the dust and over-pretentious versions of the Bullingdon Club.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It may be an age thing, but...

      I was attending college in 1988 when, with some equally alcoholic friends, formed, but didn't trademark/register/etc: Nu Omega Tau

      It only meant that we held to none of the rules of the greek organizations on campus:

      1) we promoted excessive drinking*

      2) we promoted excessive smoking**

      3) we promoted excessive fucking***

      * - there is no such thing

      ** - see above

      *** - see above

  22. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

    "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally by the Affinity Client Services."

    Are you F'ing kidding me? What bureaucratic moron in the trademark office approved this "horrendously stupid' idea!

    1. graeme leggett

      There was no "horrendously stupid' idea! approved in the TM office.

      as Affinity puts it

      "Affinity Consultants..is hired by more than 100 Greek Organizations to manage the commercial use of their trademarks"

      "The trademarks include the organization's name, nicknames, Greek letters, crest, badge, symbols, and other insignia"

  23. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Happy

    Catherine

    A certain Catherine Zeta-Jones might be in a bit of trouble, although as she is hyphenated, she might just be ok:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Zeta-Jones

    (I recall hearing that when Kirk Douglas was asked what he thought of his son, Michael, marrying her he responded with what I can only consider to the the best possible response: "I'd marry her myself, but my wife won't let me.")

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Catherine

      We did that one already. But thanks for playing.

  24. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Wow

    Perhaps Affinity Client Services would like to take this up with Los Zetas, the Mexican drug cartel. I'd be interested to hear how that went.

    1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

      Re: Wow

      I wondered about how ACS would approach "I am the Alpha and the Omega" wrt trademark infringement, but your comment more than trumps mine. Popcorn will be on me.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally by the Affinity Client Services.

    noitsnot

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally by the Affinity Client Services.

      Doe snot.

  26. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Sesame Street.

    Todays programme is brought to you by a letter that we cannot mention for legal reasons and a number that we cannot mention for legal reasons.

  27. ZekeStone

    Trademark should not have been granted

    "The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally by the Affinity Client Services"

    This company should never been granted any trademark for the Greek Alphabet for 'prior art' reasons alone.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Trademark should not have been granted

      The company wasn't granted any trademarks at all. RTFA again.

      Can nobody around here read for content anymore?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Trademark should not have been granted

        The whole premise is that Spring can't read or Affinity can't write, so I guess everyone is just jumping on board with that.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Trademark should not have been granted

          Again, re-read the article. The whole issue is that Spring has no clue, and is jumping to conclusions based on ignorance of the law surrounding copyright.

          Affinity is perfectly clear about what they expect with regard to third parties using their clients legal copyright and trademarks. Spring has over-reacted.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We could not Trademark Short Letter Combinations

    In the days of common sense we were unable to trademark a 3 letter combination, formed from the joint operation of 3 large British companies, in the UK and EU on grounds of lack of distinctiveness. The only thing we could do was incorporate it into a coloured graphic design.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: We could not Trademark Short Letter Combinations

      What group was that? I'm curious.

      Also, how long has IBM been considered a trademark in Blighty?

  29. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Does that mean we can no longer have electricity to cheap to meter, when they get an injunction to shut down our Zeta based fusion reactors? Oh, .... wait, ... I think I missed a headline somewhen in the 1960s.

  30. Ian Mason

    Erase them from the Internet

    OK, I may not be able to erase them from the whole Internet, but I can erase them from my bit of it:

    > ian@desk:~$ ssh root@nameserver

    >

    > No mail.

    > Last login: Thu Sep 2 19:52:08 2021 from desk

    > 20:01:25 up 16 days, 7:57, 1 user, load average: 1.54, 0.56, 0.20

    > root@nameserver:~# cd /etc/bind

    > root@nameserver:/etc/bind#

    >

    > root@nameserver:/etc/bind# ed policy.zone

    > 11253

    > /insert new records here/a

    > teespring.com CNAME .

    > *.teespring.com CNAME .

    > .

    > w

    > 11278

    > q

    > root@nameserver:/etc/bind# make

    > Zone file policy.zone changed.

    > Updating serial number on policy.zone.

    > Notifying nameserver to use updated zone policy.zone.

    > Done.

    >

    > root@nameserver:/etc/bind# exit

    There, done. The delights of running your own DNS firewall, you can blackhole any domain you like.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Erase them from the Internet

      I'm sure they are mortified, and shaking in their boots that others will emulate you.

      How about doing something useful? Block this lot:

      dig TXT +short _netblocks{,2,3}.google.com | tr ' ' '\n' | grep '^ip'

      Hey, it's a start!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021