One might have thought that the rights to the name “Bitcoin” would be owned by… well, Bitcoin. Many believed the name Bitcoin was public domain. However it would seem that a UK company has not only acquired the trademark for “Bitcoin” but has then allegedly threatened a small business making Bitcoin-themed shirts with a lawsuit.
A small T-shirt business owner posting on Reddit has spoken of receiving a letter today (May 25) claiming to be from a company that owns the UK trademark for “Bitcoin.” The letter also stated that the T-shirt business owner should remove all Bitcoin-themed merchandise they were advertising on Etsy.com, recall all Bitcoin-related products that they already sold, and then deliver all of this merchandise to the trademark owner. The letter concluded that failure to as instructed would be classed as trade infringement and result in a lawsuit.
Writing on Reddit, the incredulous business owner said:
“I didn’t believe it at first since I knew that bitcoin and the bitcoin logo are public domain, and even a similar trademark application in the US failed.”
However, it would indeed seem that a company named A.B.C. IPHoldings South West LLC obtained a trademark for “Bitcoin” in April. A.B.C. IPHoldings actually submitted their application to trademark “Bitcoin” on Dec. 27, 2017.
Who Are A.B.C. IPHoldings?
A search for information on A.B.C. IPHoldings South West LLC reveals they are listed as a subsidiary of Monolip LTD. The mailing address for A.B.C. IPHoldings would appear to be a rented mailbox at a London branch of Mail Boxes Etc. Further research reveals that A.B.C. IPHoldings have applied for just one other trademark, and that is for “Westworld.” Most likely, the interest in Westworld is because it is the name of a major TV series produced by HBO. This trademark application has not yet been examined by the IP office.
Bitcoin Trademark Validity Questionable
It is generally believed that the name Bitcoin is part of the public domain, a view held in both the US and Russia. Several years ago a California company attempted to register “Bitcoin” as a trademark , but their application was thrown out by the US Patent and Trademark Office. In 2016, a Moscow-based company also unsuccessfully attempted to obtain what would have been a Russian trademark for Bitcoin.
Therefore, while as of yet it’s not clear how the small business owner intends to respond, should A.B.C. IPHoldings pursue a lawsuit against the T-shirt company, they may find that their claim to the UK trademark of “Bitcoin” might not be worth the paper it is written on.