In The News freecycle Being Sued!

In The News (freecycle) Being Sued!
At present freecycle is in a court battle and being sued by FreecycleSunnyvale for damages incurred by freecycle falsely claiming trademark infringement toYahoo. In Deron Beal's (freecycle owner) own words on this page you will see that this could be the end of freecycle should FreecycleSunnyvale win the lawsuit. You can read the legal filing here in Adobe format
Further at present freecycles trademark applications have been extended. But it does not look good for freecycle as the evidence has been collected in this case against freecycle. Just read the .pdf above.
Subject: Important: freecycle trademark opposition & lawsuit Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Hi folks,
As you probably remember, The Freecycle Network (TFN) took issue with Sunnyvale's great freecycling group. Below are some consequences that TFN now faces. FreecycleSunnyvale continues to believe that it is best for freecycle to be free for everyone. The freecycle grassroots movement should stay true to its own freecycling philosophy.
1) On 1/17/2006, The Freecycle Network's (TFN's) proposed trademark registration was published for opposition in the Trademark Official Gazette at: /
2) On 1/18/2006, the unincorporated non-profit association FreecycleSunnyvale filed a formal opposition to TFN's trademark registration with the USPTO. You can read it at:
3) On 1/19/2006, FreecycleSunnyvale also filed a lawsuit against The Freecycle Network in federal court (US District Court, Northern California). We will point you to a copy of this filing as soon as we can.
4) Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP (one of the 10 largest law firms in the world) are the attorneys for FreecycleSunnyvale and are providing their services pro bono. None of the members of FreecycleSunnyvale (which includes Tim Oey) are spending any of their own money for the opposition or the lawsuit. You can read more about the law firm at: and /
5) Anyone else who wishes may now file an opposition to TFN's proposed trademark registration (please note that there is a fee to file such an opposition). If you or your group has been harmed by TFN, you may also file a lawsuit of your own against TFN.
6) Since a lawsuit and an opposition are now underway, the members of FreecycleSunnyvale may be restricted in what they say.
7) If TFN chooses to negotiate, these cases could be settled in a few months. If not, they may take many months.
Sincerely, Tim Oey on behalf of FreecycleSunnyvale
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Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006 17:12:41 -0000
Subject: SPECIAL NOTICE / ADMIN: WANTED: pro bono legal aid in N. California
This special notice is not an easy one to write. It relates to our trademark. But it is also very important for you to have this info.
We have a trademark and have applied for its further registration with the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Registration of a trademark strengthens one's legal right to the use of the name and/or logo. Before a trademark (or TM) becomes an "R," or registered trademark, it is first published for opposition for a period of one month by the USPTO. Our trademark for this nonprofit organization has now been published. As was to be expected, Tim Oey, a former local volunteer mod in Sunnyvale, is opposing our registration.
In a letter from his legal counsel, he demanded from us as an organization that we renounce our trademark and allow Mr. Oey to use it for his own group. If we did not comply with his demands he said he would oppose our trademark registration. This letter was in October. Our trademark registration which has been pending for about 1 years was published for opposition two days ago and he is indeed opposing it. *But* he is also suing us in the US District Court of Appeals of Northern California (more later on this one).
Now, the opposition of our registration is a case which will go before the USPTO to determine. This will cost both sides tens of thousands of dollars. The outcome will either be that the trademark is registered or that it is declared generic. On the most basic level, it would mean that countless local and overlapping Yahoo Groups could then be set up in every community with any methods, rules or purposes which they like. Whether for monetary gain, for-sale, items, fees, for-profit interests: all would be fair game. This would naturally lead to intergroup flaming amongst competing group members, the splintering of groups, and other messy scenarios, etc. You get the picture. This would then also mean that the goodwill that each of you have worked so hard to establish as associated with the name and the free and volunteer community nature would be lost to any commercial concern with the investment capital to invest in a site. It would be a tragic and singular loss of what is a movement of caring and compassionate people.
But, well beyond this loss, Mr. Oey also is suing the organization in the US Federal District Court of Northern California. This is an entirely separate lawsuit. He is suing for damages resulting from "trademark infringement" supposedly by us as a nonprofit using our own name and claiming it as a trademark. This goes well beyond the USPTO opposition. It also enables Mr. Oey to seek monetary damages from The Freecycle Network. In other words, if he should win, he could get anywhere from just legal-related expenses to say a million dollars in damages. It really doesn't matter what the sum, because even the lowest end would lead to our bankruptcy as an organization and, lacking an organization, a legal entity, a right to the name, it would likely be the final blow to this movement as a whole. To be clear this goes well beyond his earlier expressed intent "merely" to oppose our trademark with the USPTO. It is a court case which would not only cause us to lose the trademark but also to have to shut our doors as an organization. This is quite serious.
I just found all of this out yesterday. I'll be meeting with our pro bono lawyers here in Tucson on Monday or Tuesday. But there is little they can do as this will be a case in northern California in the Bay Area, not in Arizona and they don't have a license to practice in California. This means we need to do our darnedest as an organization to find a really good pro bono lawyer in the Bay Area who is a patent and trademark specialist and is a litigator. Mr. Oey has a lawyer with one of the ten largest legal firms in the world which also specializes in this field. If you have any leads on finding such a lawyer, please let me know personally at .
Obviously this situation will dramatically hinder current projects which take time or funding, such as the current website design project. All bets are off until we are able to deal with this legal issue. We'll need every penny we can get. From here forward for the coming months, my time will also be extremely limited as you can imagine.
Sorry about the bad news. I'll let you know as I learn more. This will not be fun, but is extremely critical to our survival to pursue our legal defense as best we possibly can.
What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, right?
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