Retail giant Gap Inc in trademark row with social media start-up

5 Nov 2010

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The scenes are being set for a David and Goliath legal battle between a fledgling social networking site in the US headed by Corkman Greg Murphy and the US$14.5bn clothing retail giant Gap Inc over alleged trademark infringement.

Gapnote.com, of which Murphy is CEO, is a social media site that allows users to create their real life online, past, present and future.

The company, which is in beta mode and about to launch its new services, has received legal correspondence from GAP Inc urging it to cease using the word ‘Gap’ in its trademark.

Gapnote.com aims to be use social media to allow users to chronicle their lives by documenting their past, communicating in the present with their family and friends and create communications to be delivered in the future to family and friends.

Murphy was inspired to create the site after witnessing a female pedestrian’s involvement in a traffic accident and he began to think about all the gaps in the woman’s life that would be left had she died. And this was the reason he called it Gapnote.

GAP Inc’s lawyers say the proximity of the goods and services marketed under GAP Inc and Gapnote is extremely close and their marketing channels identical. They say that the GAP has established an extensive presence on social media and networking websites and various online forums over the last several years.

They say Gapnote’s use of its trademark will dilute the GAP Mark and damage The GAP by trading on the goodwill associated with the trademark.

GAP Inc has demanded that Gapnote disable and transfer to The GAP the domain name www.gapnote.com.

Mind the ‘Gap’ word

“We respect The GAP’s trademarks, but they don’t have exclusive right to use the word ‘gap’ (regardless of how it is used or combined) on the internet with any conceivable business,” Murphy said.

Indeed a quick search on Wikipedia will yield you a Gap football club in France, a G.A.P. Adventures travel firm in Canada, a GAP computer algebra program and an American music group called The Gap Band.

“Our name Gapnote forms a huge enormous part of our identity and what we are offering our users. The Gap has demanded that we give up our name, discontinue, disable and transfer Gapnote.com over to them,” Murphy said.

“We have no intention to use the GAPNOTE trademark in connection with clothing or other goods. We strongly disagree that The GAP would be damaged by allowing Gapnote to as they put it ‘trade on the enormous goodwill associated with the GAP mark and diluting its distinctiveness.’

“Gapnote also strongly disagrees with The GAP’s defence that ‘the proximity of the goods and services marketed under the two marks is extremely close, and their marketing channels are identical’. This could not be further from the truth.

“Gapnote is a social media site thats about creating your real life, a real Facebook alternative. We have no intentions in becoming an apparel store now or anytime in the future,” Murphy promised.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com