[Posted] December 5, 1999
Electronic Freedom for
the Next Generation
In yet another example of the misunderstanding of the internet by companies that would like to turn the web into their private shopping mall, we bring you the curious story of etoy.com
Below is a copy of the email I sent to Hasbro Customer Support, being one of the largest suppliers to etoys.com
I am writing to express my concern regarding your view of the internet and
your commercial relationships.
Your relationship with etoys, inc. may need revision in light of the recent
lawsuit filed by etoys.com against another website etoy.com.
If your idea of corporate citizenship is to associate yourself with
censorship, and to become another one of a growing list of companies whose
idea of business is to buy your way along by litigation, I would remind you
of the problems one of your competitors, Mattel,Inc. had when they took a 14
year old girl to court and forced her to shut down her Barbie Doll site. It
gained International attention, and a boycott of mattel and their products
spread across the Internet.
I am referring to the recent suit filed by one of your larger customers,
Already, news of this suit is spreading across the web:
"Underneath the bluster, eToys has what appears to be a weak case. It's true
that, as eToys trumpets in its press statement, "eToys" is a registered
trademark. But etoy has been carrying on its activities, however difficult
to categorize they might be, since at least early 1996. That means it
predates even the creation of the online toy store. In general, a company
can get a trademark on a name that someone else is already using -- but that
doesn't mean it has exclusive right to the name. (A classic example used in
explaining trademark law is that while a national chain can get a trademark
on "Broadway Pizza" and the right to use it nationally, a local pizza place
on Broadway in New York can keep on using the name it has used for years.)"
From the Village Voice
"Although etoy.com and eToys.com have been relatively peaceful neighbors for
roughly a year, a few months ago a simple event pushed them into legal
battle. On August 25, 1999, a consumer fired off this letter to eToys.com:
'My grandson was looking for toys for his birthday and brought this to my
attention. Are you completely nuts. What an irresponsible thing to show
young children. We will never buy from you again.' Attached to the letter
were two pages printed out not from eToys.com, but etoy.com. Unbeknownst to
the innocent grandfather, the Web site he had stumbled onto was the work of
etoy, a group of digital artists in Europe. The first page on etoy's site
offers visitors the option to "travel the old fashioned way (html only)."
The phrase that the customer found so offensive was on the next page, which
says, "We do not support the old fashioned way . . . get the fucking flash
plugin!" Less than two weeks later, on September 10, 1999, eToys sued etoy
for trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition.
In the U.S., trademark registration is not the sole determining factor for
exclusive rights to a word or logo, although it helps. Though eToys
registered its trademark in May 1997, and etoy filed for its U.S. trademark
in June 1997, etoy argues that it first used this name in 1994, when its
members, who are scattered throughout Europe and describe themselves as
"agents," began to work under that name as performance artists for techno
events and raves. etoy registered its domain name on October 13, 1995, and
eToys registered its own on November 3, 1997. That means that when eToys
chose its domain name, it must have been aware that etoy existed. According
to agent zai, the public affairs representative of etoy, who lives in
Vienna, not only did eToys learn of etoy's existence, the company offered to
buy the url. zai claims that the last offer was 7000 shares (trading at 68
as of press time) and $50,000 in cash. Despite its being an attractive sum
of money, etoy refused. "Our emotions, our artistic integrity, our whole
thing is the domain name. Probably the logical response is to get some money
rather than lose. But our project was always radical, so for us it is better
to risk everything and fight."
These are only two articles in what will be a campaign that will spread
across the internet, to point out the lack of concern and understanding of
the internet, by etoys now and other companies that assume they can use
these tactics to further a commercial agenda. The internet is not just about
buying and selling stuff. It is also about education, understanding, freedom
of speech and expression.
Recently, Ford Motor Company sued a website, BlueOvalNews.com on similar
You can down load the Judgement Here.
I may not personally agree with everything published on the internet, but I
do believe in freedom of speech.
My mouse is no faster than any other, but as such, voting with my mouse is
the same right everyone else on the internet has as well.
I am boycotting etoys as a direct result of their behavior and unfortunately
your company will suffer as well.
This is distressing as many of your brands have been used in my family for
By the way, Your Product Recall Section is an Outstanding show of corporate
Thank you for your time.
As a free gift to the freedom of speech on the web I am also including the
first Three of a series of buttons and banners to show support for the cause.
Steal these Graphics!!
Shop somewhere else this Season!
Doing your Christmas shopping at Etoys is a great way to show your support for censorship.
- Hasbro Customer Support Email
- etoy email
- Village Voice December 1,1999
- Salon Magazine- Toy Story
- No eToys for Christmas - Slashdot.org
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