Playing for Keeps

Stop Keeping Things, Only AdKeeper Can Keep(TM) Things

keeps Stop Keeping Things, Only AdKeeper Can Keep(TM) Things

Keepers: Mr. Michaelson, left; Mr. Kurnit.

Let’s just trademark all the four-letter words, shall we? At the end of September, New York-based AdKeeper sent a cease and desist letter to New York-based KeepIdeas, which owns a website called KeepRecipes. AdKeeper serves up a tiny blue-and-white ‘k’ on online ads so that users can file the advertisement away in the cloud in a little digital Keeper, while KeepRecipes serves up a little orange-and-black ‘k’ on recipes online so that cooks can save them for later. “Plainly, your company has chosen a name confusingly similar to the AdKeeper Marks in order to take advantage of the brand equity that AdKeeper has developed for virtually similar services,” AdKeeper says in its reads the cease and desist letter.

AdKeeper is worried about brand confusion. “Specifically, the stylized K that Keepldeas uses is virtually identical to AdKeeper’s stylized K and offers the same exact functionality–clicking on it allows consumers to retain items from the web. Keepldeas’ actions are intended to and will undoubtedly cause consumer confusion about an affiliation or connection between Keepldeas’ business and AdKeeper.”

So. Who was first to the ‘k’?

“A website owned by KeepRecipes, KartMe.com, used a button with a ‘k’ on it for clipping items around the web well before AdKeeper launched,” KeepIdeas CEO Phil Michaelson, a graduate of the DreamIt accelerator program, wrote in an email. “We actually sought [AdKeeper founder] Scott Kurnit’s advice on KartMe.com well before AdKeeper launched. KartMe.com was being overwhelmingly used for recipes (over 15,000 saved), so we decided to spin out a new website called KeepRecipes.”

A little mucking around on archive.org shows that KartMe employed an orange uppercase ‘K’ overlaid on a green uppercase ‘M,’ in a button that allowed users to ‘Kart this for later’ at least as early as May 2010, which was before AdKeeper launched its stylized ‘k’ and catchphrase, “keep this for later.”

Keeps, Karts, ads and ideas–how many were going to the U.S.P.T.O.? AdKeeper has applications pending on its ‘k,’ but it appears that the trademark office has requested additional paperwork. The applications were filed a year ago, which means the process is taking on the longer side of average.

But AdKeeper still hopes to leverage its pending applications to pressure KeepIdeas into dropping the mark:

AdKeeper hereby demands that Keepldeas confirms to us that it will immediately:

1) cease and desist from using the Infringing Names;
2) cease and desist from using any name that infringes our rights, including all names that contain the term ‘keep’ or otherwise are confusingly similar to AdKeeper Marks; and
3) cease use of the infringing domain name, KeepRecipes.com, and agree not to register any other domain name that includes the term Keep.

Mr. Michaelson maintains the brands are distinct and there is no risk of consumer confusion. “We did market research on names in 2010.  Not a single consumer in our market research mistook KeepRecipes for AdKeeper,” he said. “Our market research showed 0 overlap between the website names–not even loose associations. After people use KeepRecipes, the service has been compared to Instapaper, Delicious, and Evernote, but never AdKeeper.”

Furthermore, KeepRecipes, AdKeeper and KartMe aren’t the only ones with a similar idea, he said. “If AdKeeper wants to to reserve a trademark of a button with ‘k’ on it, or even the ‘keep’ word, they should be wary of products around before theirs, such as Kaboodle.com, now owned by Hearst, which is the most successful company to to use a button with a K on it for keeping products and more from around the web since 2005; ikeepbookmarks.com, which has been collecting links since 1999; [and] savenkeep.com has been collecting webpages since 2009.”

Perhaps Mr. Kurnit would let this one slide, for old times’ sake?

Apparently not. “We spoke this evening,” Mr. Michaelson told Betabeat in an email Monday night. “Scott will not rescind the threat of legal action.”

He continued, “I’m a bit worried that AdKeeper may get a broad trademark or patent for a ‘keep’ button with a ‘k’ on it as predecessors like Savenkeep, ikeepbookmarks, Kaboodle, KartMe and Kirtsy may have never had access to $40+M or seen it as a priority to to apply for formal copyright and patent protection.

“Funnily, I just noticed that bit.ly owns keep.me.”

Mr. Kurnit declined to comment.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com