There are a number of questions on Meta about whether it is OK to sponsor a competing product and the answer seems to be that this is acceptable. What happens if the owner of a trademarked name finds a competitor is sponsoring the tag for their product using the trademarked name? When this happens with domain names, social networking account names and many other situations online and in meatspace, the owners have recourse to claim the names. Is there any recourse here for that situation?

In particular, if a trademarked name draws a lot of traffic then by definition the trademarked name has value. If the value of that name is then used to generate revenue for SO and/or a competitor of the trademark owner, and to the detriment of the trademark owner, that would seem to be skirting the line of trademark infringement. There is a principle that in order to maintain ownership of a trademark one must defend it against infringing uses so, if in fact this can be seen as infringement, the policy of allowing sponsorship of competitive tags is just trolling for lawsuits.

Presumably, this legal issue will have been reviewed thoroughly and Jeff isn't really "trolling for lawsuits." That'd be just crazy. So I'm guessing there's a policy about trademark owners reclaiming tags sponsored by competitors, but if the answer is posted it's been evading my searches.

Examples:

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I would imagine that common law protections against improper use of trade marks and service marks applies here. I doubt that SE would deny a reasonable request for a correction; it's not like they're obligated to accept anyone's ad revenue. That said, this is hypothetical unless you can point to an actual example. –  Robert Harvey Sep 25 '11 at 2:49
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See also meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/62400/… –  Robert Harvey Sep 25 '11 at 2:50
    
Updated with an egregious example. –  T.Rob Sep 25 '11 at 4:34
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I sincerely doubt that this has ever happened, but team@stackexchange.com and ads@stackoverflow.com would be the appropriate parties to contact. There isn't a policy around this quite simply because that would create pointless bureaucracy.

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The App Dynamics folks sponsored links to JBoss training and assets on three competing web app servers. I've provided links above. –  T.Rob Sep 25 '11 at 4:33
    
Looks like the authoritative response is "no." You get the accept. –  T.Rob Sep 27 '11 at 2:46
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The policy you couldn't find is at Should tags that represent concepts be sponsorable? It says:

Potential tag sponsorship elements:

  1. Sponsored links and brand logo at the top of the "questions/tagged/[tagname]" page (below the navigation bar, but above the tag summary description)

  2. Upper Leaderboard, Mid-Leaderboard and Sidebar static display ad inventory that associates with the questions that are tagged with the sponsored tag. (Note that users with a reputation over 200 don't see the leaderboard ads).

  3. Brand logo on the tag itself throughout the site

Summary of the Tag Sponsorship Policies:

The core of the tag sponsorship product is item #1 and this is what differentiates it from a normal display ad sale. However, as a general condition of tag sponsorship, most especially with tags that don't obviously associated with a single brand, we require a large share of voice of the available static display inventory (#2) in that tag to be purchased in combination with the tag sponsorship piece. In other words, the brand must commit to associating an ad buy with the tag. This will really only make sense for the advertiser if there is an endemic connection between the content associated with the tag and their brand message and/or products. This requirement has proven to strike a nice balance relative to if/how/who the more generic tags can be sponsored. Finally, element #3 is only available to the tag sponsor if they are the owner of the name or trademark associated with the tag name or if no actual owner, an entity clearly highly associated with such tag. Generic tag names that do not associate with any particular brand, company or entity, have no sponsorship icons.

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@T.Rob - Those types of ads are covered by item #1 in the list above. The tag itself is not being sponsored, just the wiki page. –  Dori Sep 25 '11 at 4:46
    
"The policy you couldn't find is at Should tags that represent concepts be sponsorable?" No. I specifically asked about tags that are trademarked names, not generic concepts. Whether it's the tag or the wiki page, the question is essentially the same: does SO provide trademark owners recourse when competitors advertise in their tags? –  T.Rob Sep 25 '11 at 4:49
    
@T.Rob - While that is the title of the question, the answers (particularly the one I copy/pasted above) cover considerably more ground. –  Dori Sep 25 '11 at 4:52
    
Which is what prompted the question. The answers here and to previous questions do not address the issue. The previous discussion (that I've found anyway) all assumes the ad buy is either on a generic concept tag/wiki or the vendor is buying on their own tag/wiki. I haven't found any response, current ones included, that directly addresses predatory ad purchases. For example, if Oracle or IBM didn't like JBoss adds on the WebLogic and WebSphere tags, would SO remove them on request? Allow these vendors to replace the JBoss ads? Thumb their nose at ORacle and IBM? –  T.Rob Sep 25 '11 at 4:56
    
@T.Rob - the policy is what it is, and that's the page with the policy. There's a difference between someone sponsoring a tag and someone buying links on a wiki page, and the policy covers that. –  Dori Sep 25 '11 at 4:58
    
Yeah, I had found that page. It provides protection for trademarks with regard to the tag itself but not for links or wiki page. The policies as described in that page and elsewhere seem to assume ad buys will be from within the ecosystem of a particular product rather than predatory. That would appear to be a rather unfortunate oversight then. Presumably, the answer to the titular question is "no, there is no existing processes to reclaim sponsored links or wiki page ads from squatters." Which I guess really does come down to trolling for lawsuits. –  T.Rob Sep 25 '11 at 5:09
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