When Lawyers Send Letters

4Chan Founder Moot Sends Cease & Desist Letter to Startup Moot.It

"In view of the strong associations in the minds of a substantial part of the Internet community between MOOT and commenting and discussion, it is unavoidable that your continued use of MOOT as a trademark would lead to confusion."
 4Chan Founder Moot Sends Cease & Desist Letter to Startup Moot.It

Mr. Poole (Photo: Wikipedia)

4Chan founder Chris Poole, who has gone by the username Moot since 2003, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Oregon-based startup Moot.It, a yet-to-launch company that promises to reimagine forums and commenting. We initially suspected the letter might be a prank from /b/, but confirmed with Mr. Poole’s lawyer, Martin Schwimmer, that it is indeed real.

Mr. Schwimmer, a partner at White Plains law firm Leason Ellis, writes that because Mr. Poole is so closely aligned with the username Moot, any attempt by Moot.It to use the name could result in confusion from users who may wrongfully believe Mr. Poole is associated with the company.

Courtney Couch, founder of Moot.It, says that the company refuses to change the name. Moot.It is much like Disqus, a service that gives third-party websites a customizable commenting space, and Mr. Couch feels the name fits the company’s mission well. They did not get the name from Moot the person, instead using it based on its definition of “open to discuss or debate.”

“We decided on ‘Moot’ because we felt it was descriptive of the ultimate goals of the company, namely, to foster meaningful and substantive dialogue,” Mr. Couch told Betabeat.

“When I saw the letter, I did a double take,” Mr. Couch said. “Without being an expert on the law, it didn’t seem right that an individual could try to strong arm me out of using a name that bears only a tangential relationship to his product and online persona.  Although I wouldn’t necessarily call 4chan a “Goliath” of the internet, Poole has certainly taken the Goliath position on this.”

In an email to Betabeat, Mr. Schwimmer insisted that the letter is not necessarily a C&D, as ”there is no ‘demand’ in the letter and there is nothing to ‘cease’ as apparently the company is not in business as of yet.” Rather the letter, excerpted below, “respectfully suggest[s]” that Moot.It find a new name:

As such, the pseudonym MOOT has become part of Mr. Poole’s protectable right of publicity under New York State law (and other state laws) and the term MOOT functions as a famous trademark utilized by 4chan….

In view of the strong association in the minds of a substantial part of the Internet community between MOOT and commenting and discussion, it is unavoidable that your continued use of MOOT as a trademark would lead to confusion….

We note that your site refers to an upcoming launch and doesn’t appear to yet offer goods or services. Given that you have not begun use of the trademark, we respectfully suggest that you begin an orderly transition to a name that doesn’t cause confusion with the rights of our client. Were you to begin use of MOOT.IT as a trademark, my client would have to investigate all options available to it.

In the letter, Mr. Schwimmer argues that because 4chan is known for its forums, Moot.It’s focus on forums and commenting could lead to further confusion amongst users. The letter also includes a handful of amusing details, such as the use of an Urban Dictionary entry to support Mr. Poole’s claim to “moot” and a Hacker News comment to illustrate the fact that people may confuse Moot and Moot.It.

Mr. Couch’s lawyer, Jana Moser of Gerard Fox, has responded to Mr. Poole’s letter, saying that they refuse to relinquish the right to use the name Moot.It. The letter sent to Mr. Schwimmer and Mr. Poole by Mr. Couch’s lawyer further states that because this is a “frivolous” lawsuit, should Mr. Poole make any further demands, “you will both be met with a lawsuit for malicious prosecution.”

“We wrote the letter to bring Moot.It’s attention to information relating to its choice of name (including the fact that a user on YCombinator asked ‘Is this related to the Moot?’),” Mr. Schwimmer told Betabeat. “We did so in the hopes of achieving a constructive resolution of the situation, and still believe that to be the best outcome for all concerned.”

Below are both letters.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com

Comments

  1. Joe Olive says:

    looks like Chris Poole has an overinflated sense of self worth. What a tool.

    1. an anon from /g/ says:

      its not just that, our /b/ board is notoriously vicious and there is the chance they may take it upon themselves to cause trouble for the organization. its not mootles that has the overinflated ego as much as the users of /b/, after screwing over countless organizations and individuals over the years the newer users have got it into their heads that we are some sort of online army and take things way too seriously, not to mention that /b/ is home to some pretty messed up individuals.

  2. another anon says:

    yeah i doubt /b/ will take no action upon this as fool as it sounds

    1. an anon from /g/ says:

      lets hope that doesnt happen

  3. MT says:

    But “moot” is a common English word. It’s like saying you can’t use the word “cascade” as your domain name because a dishwashing detergent company already uses it.

  4. cryptkeeper says:

    So “moot” is a trademark of 4chan because people on 4chan use it.. but when people post racist content or child pornography on 4chan the site is then only a “service” and he can not take responsibility for the users?

    1. an anon from /g/ says:

      firstly, child porn has been a rarity on /b/ for the last year or so, i can only imagine the slower response earlier was due to a void left by the last /b/ mod, WT snacks, despite this the response time for child porn was always mere minutes and moot has stated he supplies information of those who post child porn to the FBI.

      secondly moot holds zero authority over the 4chan community other than a little respect for bearing the burden of hosting the site, he is routinely mocked and his efforts flouted often simply for the sake of it; 4chan does what it wants.

  5. lakawak says:

    If people associate it with 4chan, it would be bad or moot.it, not 4chan.

    1. an anon from /g/ says:

      a fair point, considering the issues moot has with finding advertisement.

  6. Schmidty says:

    If he sent a message like “dear sir or madam, when the 4chan community notices you they will eat your heart” it would legally imply he was responsible for such an action, or at minimum aiding-and-abetting. This might be “the best he can do” to protect these idiots, who have unwittingly named their site the internet equivelent of Hitler McKilljews.

    1. an anon from /g/ says:

      ;_;

  7. haaa says:

    Urban Dictionary

    “Moot is a faggot”

    lol.

    Seriously though, it’s fairly obvious that a large number of people associate him with forums. It would be like someone starting a news domain called KevinRoseNewsVoting.com or Digging.com

  8. Quite ridiculous. Actually yoomoot.com would be more entitled to send such a letter than Poole. Now everyone who was nicknamed ‘Shorty’ in college back in 82 will start suing everything what moves.

    1. in/b/4 says:

      This isn’t a adequate argument and you should knew this. Only if u name ur c0ck shorty it isn’t the same… Don’t take it personal bc it isn’t. u r only mad XD

  9. Anssi says:

    You can see the Moot discussion forums in action here: http://flowplayer.org/forum/

  10. Anon E. Moose says:

    If they do keep the came, I feel sorry for them. /b/ isn’t going to take it lightly

  11. God says:

    Cute publicity stunt, retards.

  12. jaybee says:

    so the internet should be free except when it makes 4chan cry. check.

  13. Ryan Hofferman says:

    lel at all these 4chan idiots posting with the name “anon” acting like they’re experts on 4chan when they probably only begun posting there in 2009…

    Anyways, it seems like “moot.it” has a much better lawyer and the law is definitely in their favour. Either way what happens I wouldn’t expect “moot.it” to go anywhere so it doesn’t really matter tbqh

    1. Neck Beard says:

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  14. /b/ tard says:

    inb4 moot faces all over moot.it

  15. in/b/4 says:

    AHAHAHHA This f4ggots want to take a bit of the fame coming down from the sun of /b/? They’ll get some butthurt… ROLFMAO gtfo

  16. Neck Beard says:

    ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  17. Shitstorm says:

    They have no idea with who they are dealing.
    Terrible things happen when you piss of moot.
    MODS=GODS

  18. moot.it/is/a/faggot/ says:

    The way i see it, even if moot.it get to keep the name, le legion will not sit quiet. They will spam the forum, post moot’s face, ddos etc. Then the site will be famous with all the attention they brought for other reason, giving bad reputation, and finally forced to shut down.

  19. X says:

    Christopher Poole runs a site that assists pedophiles and other internet predators in their crimes. He should be thrown in jail.

  20. chadachada123 says:

    I don’t get why people are hating so much.

    I see both sides of the issue. On the one hand, if I was to make a website named, say, HulkHogan.It, people would obviously think I’m associated with Hulk Hogan, despite it not being his real name.

    On the other hand, it is an internet name with less notoriety, or at least, with heavy notoriety only within internet culture.

    On the first hand, though, an internet forum would be closely tied to internet culture.

    The law would likely favor the new website, but I understand why moot would do this, and it isn’t because of some inflated sense of self-worth.

  21. DEWEZ says:

    Moot is a pain in the ass and has been for years. The sooner 4chan is shut down the better!

  22. notmoot says:

    moot always seems like a cool and humble enough dude, frankly, humble enough that the users of 4chan frequently seem disappointed that he’s not as sick and crazy as they would expect. The fact of that matter is that 4chan is one of the biggest and probably the most influential internet forum there is (even if the things it invents go through several other sites before making it to the wider public). He’s a well known person who, as moot, not Christopher Poole, has given many high profile public speeches and interviews. If moot.it was some other sort of website, one that crossed over less with what 4chan does, perhaps it would be less of an issue (though that would still depend on exactly what it did), but given what it does, using the name moot in relation to it is clearly off base here.