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August 2019
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THE Ohio State University Applies For THE Stupidest Trademark In THE World

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We've talked ongoing about how ridiculous and aggressive many universities are becoming on trademark matters. Now colleges and universities do many, many annoying things, but their tendency towards trademark bullying certainly ranks up there near the top of the list. Not as high, of course, as Ohio State's neverending insistence that everyone call it "THE Ohio State University." The school likes to point out that the "the" (sigh) is actually part of the school's legal name, when the reality is that the school is simply being haughty and pedantic.Well, now these two worlds are colliding in what might just be the dumbest trademark application I've ever seen. You'll never guess what single word OSU wants to trademark.

Application No. 88571984, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, was discovered and publicized Tuesday by Josh Gerben, a prominent trademark lawyer in Washington. The application seeks a trademark on the single word "THE" for use on T-shirts and baseball caps and hats.  For years, the university's demand that it be called "THE Ohio State University" has rankled sports fans and journalists, who've called it "pompous and stupid," "ridiculous" and "arrogant."Partisans, including the university, point out that "the" is part of its name under state law. And Chris Davey, a spokesman for the university, told The Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday that it's important to "vigorously protect the university's brand and trademarks."
This, simply, is absurd. Trademark law is written in such a way to be wide open for abuse, but even this is a bridge further than the law will allow. Trademarks require original identifiers that indicate the source of a good or service and the bar for approval by the Trademark Office goes up the shorter and less original the identifier is. The idea that someone might apply for a trademark on the single most commonly used determiner in the English language is the sort of thing reserved for jokes in our comments section. But THE Ohio State University went ahead and did it anyway.Other schools took notice, of course, and some of them are having fun at OSU's expense.
Michigan getting a trademark on the word "of" makes every bit as sense as OSU's application. Fortunately, despite all of the madness we see from the USPTO on a frequent basis, nobody seems to think this application is going to be approved.
Gerben predicted on Tuesday that Ohio State was "likely to receive an initial refusal of the application."For a trademark to be registered for a brand of clothing, the trademark "must be used in a trademarked fashion," he said on Twitter. "In other words, it has to be used on tagging or labeling for the products. In this case, just putting the word 'the' on the front of a hat or on the front of a shirt is not sufficient trademark use," he said.
That careful analysis is almost certainly correct, but I much prefer to simply point out that this is all very, very crazy and be done with it.

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Twitter And Facebook Removing Chinese Disinfo Campaigns Shows That, Contrary To Popular Opinion, They Do Moderate Against Disinfo

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Leaving aside the ridiculous and ignorant suggestions from some that no internet platforms should moderate anything, many, many people seem to believe (incorrectly) that the various internet companies refuse to moderate anything because it goes against their bottom lines. We've heard this from a number of politicians -- especially among those seeking to change Section 230, arguing (again, incorrectly) that because of Section 230 there's somehow no incentive to moderate content on their platforms.This is wrong on multiple levels. There is tremendous business, political, moral, and social pressure to moderate content on these platforms. When they get it wrong, they get criticized. They can lose users. And (importantly) they can lose advertisers, partners, customers and investors. There is demand for "healthy" platforms, and it's Section 230 that allows them to experiment and moderate accordingly. That's why it's notable to me that both Twitter and Facebook announced the removal of what appears to be a coordinated attempt to abuse both platforms to push disinformation against protesters in Hong Kong. Here's Facebook's announcement:

Today, we removed seven Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a small network that originated in China and focused on Hong Kong. The individuals behind this campaign engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts some of which had been already disabled by our automated systems to manage Pages posing as news organizations, post in Groups, disseminate their content, and also drive people to off-platform news sites. They frequently posted about local political news and issues including topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.
And here's Twitter's announcement:
This disclosure consists of 936 accounts originating from within the People's Republic of China (PRC). Overall, these accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground. Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.As Twitter is blocked in PRC, many of these accounts accessed Twitter using VPNs. However, some accounts accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in mainland China. The accounts we are sharing today represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts many created following our initial suspensions were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.
Despite common perception, both companies have put a lot of effort into discovering and stopping these kinds of efforts. Of course, none of it will be perfect, because content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. Mistakes of both false positives and false negatives are inevitable. But, if anyone thinks that modifying Section 230 will magically make companies better at this, they're not paying attention. Adding more liability to companies over their moderation choices won't make these efforts any better or any easier -- they might just bog the companies down in lawsuits.

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