Yahoo To File Trademark Complaint Against AOL?

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Yahoo may be set to file opposition to AOL’s use of Instant Messenger at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Yahoo To File Trademark Complaint Against AOL?
Yahoo To File Trademark Complaint Against AOL?

On January 25th of this year, David M. Kelly, representing Yahoo! Inc., filed four separate requests for more time to prepare an opposition to AOL’s Instant Messenger trademark. The time to oppose the trademark was to expire after that date, but Kelly’s granted request extends the time until late April.

The stated reason: "The potential opposer needs additional time to investigate the claim."

While it’s conceivable that such actions are routine in order to keep options open – Yahoo could probably ask for this extension indefinitely – the sudden action may be indicative of intent. It doesn’t appear that Yahoo has opposed the trademark in the past.

AOL hasn’t always owned the rights to Instant Messenger. Though AOL laid claim to the term as early as 1997, several opponents argued successfully that Instant Messenger was a generic term used to describe text messaging services and platforms in general. In 2005, the USPTO reversed earlier refusals, granting AOL the rights to the phrase.

The ruling was that "instant messaging," not Instant Messenger was generic, as AOL had sufficiently demonstrated that when people referred to Instant Messenger, they were referring to AIM.

Yahoo’s apparent intention to file opposition indicates that either Yahoo! feels the term really is generic these days, or feels (and this is more likely) that consumers will confuse Yahoo! Messenger with AOL’s Instant Messenger.

Yahoo representatives could not be reached for comment.

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