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Friday, May 18, 2012

BitTorrent Is Suing a German Company for Pirating Its Trademark

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 8:02 AM

Trademark pirates have plundered BitTorrent. - CHRIS WHETZEL, SEATTLE WEEKLY
  • Chris Whetzel, Seattle Weekly
  • Trademark pirates have plundered BitTorrent.

Remember that episode of The Wire when Avon Barksdale filled out a police report after Omar jacked his stash?


No? You're right, that never happened.

But this is happening.

BitTorrent, the California-based file sharing website that allows people to download pirated movies and music, is suing a German company for stealing its name and likeness.

According to the trademark infringement complaint, the German company, registered in Europe as BitTorrent Marketing GmbH, has constructed its own file-sharing websites, under domain names such as bitorrent.com, bittorrent.net, and bitorrent.net. They did all this without BitTorrent's consent, of course.

BitTorrent Marketing, the suit states, "adopted the BitTorrent trademark with the intent of capitalizing on the renown and success of 'BitTorrent.'"

To be sure, the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in San Francisco, does not mention that much of this renown and success stems from millions of people illegally acquiring copyrighted media files. What it does say is that the site "provides an alternative to earlier, slower techniques for distributing data" and is used "by hundreds of people in the United States and internationally to find, share, and move digital media."

That's not to say BitTorrent Marketing's alleged dealings aren't shady. In 2003, two years after Bram Cohen founded BitTorrent, somebody from the German company contacted him "to inquire about developing a relationship with the BitTorrent product and to seek Mr. Cohen's permission to register the bittorrent.de domain name in Germany," the suit states. Cohen said no, but the guy went on to register a BitTorrent trademark and incorporate BitTorrent Marketing GmbH in Eurpose anyway, before scooping up domain names in the U.S. early this year. The fake BitTorrent has also sought to block the original BitTorrent from getting a trademark with the Office for Harmonization of the Internal Market, Europe's trademark authority.

But while the trademark pirates stole the name, the complaint claims, they didn't exactly steal the product.

"For example," it states, "after paying over $50 to sign up for ultimate-downloadscenter.com"-- a service offered through BitTorrent Marketing's website -- "U.S. users are redirected to third party websites of other digital media providers, like Netflix.com and Hulu.com."

The company's plan, the suit alleges, is to deceive U.S. consumers into signing up for useless memberships by confusing them into thinking that those services are associated with the real Bittorrent. It accuses the German company of attempting similar schemes against other file-sharing companies such as Kazaa and Morpheus.

Hat tip to Court House News Service.

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